If you’ve ever tried to meditate, you’ve probably asked yourself; what do you think about when you meditate? That’s exactly where I’ve found myself many times before. Over the years I’ve attempted to get into meditation on several occasions but I’ve found it confusing at best. This has resulted in me giving up and feeling frustrated with myself and telling myself – I must just be someone that can’t meditate.
I’ve since learned that for a beginner, it can be confusing for most of us to know what we’re supposed to be doing when we’re successfully meditating. Do we try and clear our minds completely? Do we say mantras? Do we do visualisation techniques?
It’s typical to think that if you can’t sit still and clear your mind you must be doing it wrong. For most people, it can seem impossible to completely quiet our minds. In reality, completely clearing our minds of any thought at all isn’t realistic in actual practice. As soon as you close your eyes you’re tempted to manifest worries or things you need to get done. Or, you may just keep asking yourself over and over; “Am I doing this right?” before jacking it in and turning on Netflix.
The key is to let your thoughts flow, lean into them and they will soon calm. But first, why would you want to start a meditation habit anyway?
Why do people meditate?
To understand what you should think about when you meditate you first have to understand why people meditate in the first place. After all, people meditate for different reasons like focus, concentration, relaxation, general health and even to improve their airways. If you’re trying to improve something very specific there’s usually a specific type of meditation for you that will lead you to think about something specific or do something specific in terms of breathing techniques or visualisations, for example.
That said, most people simply start meditating to find a sense of calm.
Meditation can lower stress, improve your mood, increase your ability to handle stressful situations, lower anxiety and depression levels and much, much more.
Wouldn’t it be nice to use something your mind already is capable of to calm your inner voice? The good news is, as I’ve discovered, everyone is capable of meditating successfully and it doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s more a case of getting past procrastination and endless research and just doing it!
Focus on the breath
Instead of trying to clear your mind of thoughts, try and focus on your breath instead. If you do this for several minutes, you’ll notice that your thoughts will come and go as they usually do but they won’t bother you whilst you’re increasingly focused on something as simple as your breathing.
Take long, slow breaths in and then exhale fully through your belly.
Whilst it’s common to fight against unwanted thoughts during meditations, instead, you need to go with the flow and just let your body and mind guide you. Allow your thoughts to roam freely, no matter what they are. You will become calm by simply focusing your attention on your breathing. What you then think about whilst you’re meditating will come to you naturally.
For example, when I meditate with the aid of meditation music and focus on my breath for several minutes, I find myself picturing myself in a very dark space, almost floating through space. Other times I’ve had images of a warm orb-like light flickering from my core.
My meditations usually begin with busy thoughts but they soon calm down within a short period of time. It can take only 5 to 10 minutes to start to feel the benefits of a basic meditation like following your breath. To know if you’re doing it right, notice, do your limbs feel heavy after you’re finished? Had your heart rate slowed down? Do you feel calmer than you did before you meditated?
Even if you feel slightly calmer than before you began your meditation, you’re on the right path. That’s evidence you’re doing it right. You can then build on that with more practice.
Meditation gets easier through habit
Like anything, the more you meditate the easier it will be. I’ve recently gotten more and more into the practice and benefits of meditation and it’s truly a fascinating subject. The more I meditate, the more I explore my mind and what it’s capable of doing if I just pause.
Making meditation a habit can feel difficult in busy day-to-day life but starting with something simple can make you want to try it again over and over again, especially after you experience the calm that comes from it.
You’re not going to be like a Monk straight away but even 5 or ten minutes of being still here and there can make you a calmer person in time. You probably won’t even notice a difference in yourself for a while. Instead, you may have others noticing how calm you can be in different situations as you’re first clue in whether you’re meditating effectively.
Find something and try it
The first time I noticed how still I could truly be was when I followed along with a Wim Hof breathing exercise. My heart rate slowed, my body felt at ease and I finished feeling refreshed and at peace. There are plenty of free resources out there that are easy to follow.
Things to think about during meditation
If you’d like some ideas of what to think about whilst you meditate, consider the below exercises.
Become a mountain
A mountain meditation is a simple yet effective meditation and is perfect for grounding yourself. All you need to do is find somewhere quiet to sit. Sit up straight with your shoulders back. Put on some meditation music if you like and then picture yourself as a sturdy mountain. Your legs and feet are the wide base of the mountain, your torso is the slopes, and your head is the peak. From the peak, you can see above the clouds and endless space. Above the clouds, it’s calm and still. Keep your spine straight and notice how heavy you become. There’s nothing else you need to think about during this meditation, simply feel how strong and how still you are, just like a mountain.
Mindful meditation is about paying attention to your body or the things around you. A typical mindful meditation is a body scan. This doesn’t require you to think about anything in your meditation other than focusing on each area of your body. Start by noticing how your feet feel, your legs, the sensations in your stomach, arms, shoulders and finally your head. Bring your focus to your pulse and your breathing. Simply observe how your body feels as you scan up and down. It’s a simple meditation that doesn’t require thinking, just non-judgemental observation.
Mantra meditation requires you only to think about one word or phrase. Find somewhere comfy to sit down and close your eyes. Bring your focus to your mantra and repeat it. You can speak it out loud if you’d like to at the same time. This is a great meditation for increasing focus and concentration by bringing the wandering mind towards one theme. Some meditation experts believe that the vibrations in the body from vocalising your manta help to imbed it in your brain. This meditation also works great with meditation music. It’s another simple meditation to practise, all you have to do is choose your own affirming phrase to repeat at your own pace.
Think less and just do
In summary, the key is to simply begin, give it a shot and see how you feel. Meditation isn’t complicated at all. It’s like starting anything new. Try not to overthink it and explore something that has so much to offer. You may just be surprised.
Do you have any suggestions about what you could think about during meditation? Leave a comment below.