Students tell me all the time, “I know meditation would be so good for me, but I just can’t do it.” The problem? They can’t stop their minds from wandering.
Newsflash: You don’t need to stop your mind from wandering to reap all of the benefits of meditation. Full stop.
It is the nature of our minds to wander. To get lost in to-do lists, ruminations, worries, fantasies, recriminations. If you slow down, close your eyes and simply notice what is going on in that head of yours, you’re likely to notice at least one of the above, almost like a running tape in your head. The truth is we all have an inner dialogue. Most of the time, our inner dialogue seems like it’s on autopilot. We are not consciously generating the meanderings of the mind; they just happen.
But here’s the good news: when we meditate, we don’t need to stop the dialogue. We just need to notice it. Like a casual, curious observer. And then, we simply return our attention back to our breath. We might get pulled back into a thought right away. And then, we remind ourselves to come back to the breath. This may happen a thousand times during the course of a five-minute meditation.
What’s the point, you may be wondering. It’s simple. Once we see the contents of our minds with a little bit of detachment, which naturally happens when we come into a place of observation, we can be a little but less ruled by our mental meanderings. We can make more deliberate choices about how we respond to things that arise in our daily lives: stressors, annoyances, even old unhelpful self-defeating stories we might be telling ourselves. And that, my friends, is the way to find some peace and zen.