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Last updated December, 2017
It's time for another installment of "Question and Answer Tuesdays!"
"I've been meditating for almost two months now, and I think it has actually made matters worse. When I first started, I was able to quiet my mind. Now it seems to be going non-stop, and I can't go 30 seconds without drifting into thought during my meditation sitting. My mind is crazier than ever! Is this normal?"
It is normal. But, your mind hasn't become busier.
You've become more aware of just how busy it is.
Most people don't spend a lot of time watching the compulsive nature of their minds. Meditating changes that - the more you do it, the more you see how pervasive and incessant it is.
Many people start practicing and don't realize this. As a result, they believe they are "failing." They believe the same thing you do:
"I was doing better a few weeks ago - now I can't go 30 seconds without my mind wandering."
The reality is, you are finally seeing what has been happening all along! It takes a bit of time and effort (and practice) just to reach a baseline of awareness that allows this to happen. That's why people believe they are good at meditating at first: they aren't even close to this baseline of awareness yet. In the beginning, they are usually just thinking with their eyes closed, not realizing they are thinking at all!
The best advice is, don't meditate with the goal of calming the mind. Your frustration doesn't come from your mind being "crazy," it comes from you feeling like you can't control it. And, you can't - so give up the attempts to do so.
Instead, meditate with the goal of understanding your mind. As of now, you can see now how compulsive it is - the next step is to develop the skill of noticing it all without getting caught up in it.
Remember that nothing is permanent, including your thoughts, emotions, and urges. Everything comes into being, exists, and ceases (it all comes and goes). Your mind tries to cling to these things and make them permanent. But, meditation and mindfulness teach you to understand the temporary nature of your mind-made activity.
One last point: when you are meditating and you notice that your attention has wandered, that is success. To be more specific, you focus your attention on an anchor (most people choose the breath or a mantra), and when you notice it has wandered and you become aware of thoughts, you return your attention to the anchor. Do this over and over and over again. That's why it is called practice!
And the more you practice, the more you develop the skills you can bring to your daily life when you aren't meditating. If you do this consistently, the calmness you are seeking will come as a result.
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