Help! I Can’t Stop Thinking! (and other Mindfulness Myths)

In this post, I want to debunk one of the biggest misconceptions about mindfulness meditation, a misunderstanding that is one of the main reasons why so many people quit and never develop the benefits of their practice. Don’t let that happen to you! Watch the video below to find out more.

P.S. If you like this kind of stuff and want to discover how to develop mindfulness effectively and apply it in a simple, straightforward way, then you may be interested in signing up for my weekly blog updates.

I’ll share with you how to cultivate and apply mindfulness to transform your relationship with things like stress, anxiety, anger and other difficult emotions, based on my 20+ years of meditation experience.

I’ll also share a precise, effective, down to earth method for spiritual development (if that’s your thing), without all the fluff and hazy mystical language you’ll often run into with this kind of stuff.

If this sounds interesting to you, click here to find out more.

P.P.S. If you prefer reading to watching videos, I’ve included the full transcript below.

If you’ve ever meditated before, I’m sure you’ve had an experience like the following:

You sit down to meditate, close your eyes and try to focus on your meditation object, such as the breath. Very soon, you notice that your attention has wandered away, so you bring it back to your object. And then it happens again. And again! It feels like, no matter what you do, you just can’t stay focused. Instead, your mind is filled with a train wreck of thoughts! Thoughts that just won’t go away. Thoughts that seem to make it impossible to do something as simple as “follow the breath.”

Do you ever think to yourself, at moments like this, “man, I really suck at this meditation thing! I must be doing something wrong, I just can’t stop thinking. Maybe I’m just not cut out to do this. Maybe I should try something else, like yoga, or tai chi, or running?”

I know I have!

One of the biggest misconceptions about mindfulness meditation, a misunderstanding that is one of the main reasons why so many people quit and never develop the benefits of their practice, is this idea that you’re doing it wrong if you can’t still your mind.

Well, guess what? We have thoughts and emotions and other mental states Having lots of thoughts and emotions or other mental states constantly in our minds and noticing them during meditation is perfectly normal and expected.

You have eyes, and when something moves in front of you, it’s no surprise that you see it.

You have ears, and when a sound occurs, it’s no surprise that you hear it.

Well, you also have a mind, which is where thoughts live. If you pay attention to your mind, it’s no surprise that you will find thoughts! That’s normal. They’re coming and going all the time, but you may not be aware of it until you sit down, be still and observe what’s going on in there.

There is this very pervasive misconception that mindfulness meditation is all about “clearing the mind” or “stopping thoughts”. That’s like trying to stop hearing, or having your eyes open and trying to stop seeing! Good luck on that one!

So, lets put this thing to rest once and for all! If you have thoughts constantly zinging through your mind as you meditate, that’s perfectly normal and expected and not a problem at all. It’s only a problem if you turn it into one.

If you find it difficult to maintain your attention on your chosen meditation object because you keep getting distracted by your thoughts, that only means that you’re still in the early stage of skill development in this practice. You aren’t doing it wrong!

As you gain more skill, the thoughts will still be present, but you won’t get lost in their content.

So, what do you do with all these thoughts during your meditation practice? Stay tuned for a future video where I answer that question in some detail. You can subscribe to my channel to make sure you don’t miss it.

But I don’t want to leave you completely hanging, so here’s a sneak peak. The question is not “how can I get rid of these thoughts, emotions and other mental states” while meditating. The question is, what is the quality of attention that I can bring to these thoughts, emotions and other mental states?

Can I be open to whatever is present in the mind?

Can I just observe them as mental objects, without reacting to them or trying to change them in any way?

Try to take the attitude that everything that arises during your meditation is a support for your practice, a chance to see what’s actually happening in the mind at that moment.

That’s it for this video. Thanks so much for watching and I’ll see you next time.

5 Responses to “Help! I Can’t Stop Thinking! (and other Mindfulness Myths)”

  1. karen jones

    Thanks Nick, I had just been thinking this very thing: I am not very good at this because my mind is constantly wandering, so this e-mail was very timely.

    Reply
  2. Audrey gulson

    Enjoyed the video. Having probs following some instruction with my ipad. Starting my meditation tonight as just back from holiday. Previously thought bringing it back to the breath was about ignoring the thoughts, is it? Otherwise wont we just get carried away with the thought?Looking forward to further instruction.

    Reply
    • Nickolas Grabovac

      It sounds counter intuitive, but if you try to ignore the thoughts and focus harder on your meditation object (such as the breath), what tends to happen is that thoughts still arise but you are less aware of them (because you’re trying to ignore them). And because you are now less aware of the thoughts, they can swoop in “under your radar” and capture your attention more easily. Instead, if you intentionally acknowledge the thoughts (such as mentally labelling them as “thinking”), you don’t get surprised as easily by them and can keep from getting carried away by them for longer periods. The key to making this work is to not be concerned with the content of the thoughts at all, but just to observe them as an impersonal process. “Ah, there’s thinking again” This makes it less likely that you will end up getting lost in the content of the thoughts. Hope this helps clarify things for you =)

      Reply
  3. 9 Ways to Transform Thoughts from an Annoyance to Rocket Fuel for your Meditation Practice - 30 Days of Mindfulness

    […] the past, I’ve posted about some common misconceptions about thinking and meditation and even created a three-part video series about how to be mindful of thoughts: Part 1, Part 2 and […]

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