Last updated December, 2018.
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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's always been.
If you're like most people, you haven't spent a lot of time observing your mind and its compulsive nature. It's hard to understand how pervasive and incessant thoughts and emotions can be - especially when you spend most of your day lost in thoughts and emotions.
Meditating changes that. The more you practice, the more these focused attempts to anchor your attention reveal a startling fact: your mind is always going. As a result of witnessing it first-hand, you might believe you are "failing":
"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 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 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 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. Notice and return, over and over and over again. That's why it's called practice!
The more you practice, the more you develop the skills you can bring to your daily life when you aren't practicing. If you do it consistently, you'll find the calmness you're seeking is there - it's been buried under all that mental noise you've been wrapped up in.
You can't escape your mind...
Life seems to be a roller coaster of ups and downs. All of us are endlessly searching for happiness as we stumble from one problem to the next, trying to cope as best we can.
Are you ready to do something different?
If so, we wrote "An owner's guide to the mind" for you. Click here to read more.