How to Create a Meditation Practice When Your Mind Won’t Stop Spinning

How to Create a Meditation Practice When Your Mind Won’t Stop Spinning: This article includes tools, tips, techniques and ideas for finally starting your meditation practice.

There are articles everywhere about meditation and all its benefits.  It’s the cure to our restlessness, stress and anxiety.  It helps us to be less reactive.  It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.  So why aren’t more people practicing it?  Everyone can think of a list of excuses for not meditating:

  • I don’t have the time.
  • I can’t get my mind to calm down.
  • What’s the point?
  • I’m not the kind of person who meditates.
  • It’s not in accordance with my beliefs.

About fifteen years ago, the crazy busy mind of my Type-A personality wanted desperately to slow down.  I remember asking my therapist at the time about meditation.  How could I sit still and do nothing for more than a few minutes?  Was it humanly possible to slow down the constant barrage of thoughts swimming in my head?

She suggested that I start small with a few breaths.  That, I could do.  Like any new habit, if you want it badly enough, you can make it happen one baby step at a time.

I started with simply sitting still and counting my breaths.  My goal was to count to ten breaths without my mind drifting off.  If it drifted, I started over.  In many (well, most) sittings, I never made it to ten.  I considered it a big win when I did.  Then I challenged myself to repeat it in the same sitting.  That took quite a while longer.

This process of sitting with myself and my breath was my (unknowing) introduction to mindfulness.  Fifteen years ago, no one was talking about mindfulness.  Only a few people were talking about meditation.  Fortunately for us all, these ideas are growing quickly.

Benefits I’ve Seen from My Meditation Practice

The benefits I’ve reaped from a regular meditation practice are subtle yet powerful and continue to evolve.  I never imagined that I could have a calm mind.  Yes, at times it races around, screeching like the monkey mind it is.  But now I can recognize this for what it is – it’s not me.  It’s not who I am.  It’s just a moment of craziness that I watch and patiently wait for it to pass.  And it always does.

I’ve learned to differentiate my True Self from my monkey mind.  My True Self speaks through my body, especially my gut.  The monkey only screeches in my head.  During meditation it’s much easier to tell the difference.

I now use my meditation time to ask my True Self about big decisions that I’m trying to make.  When my body and mind are quiet, I can hear the subtle voices of my body that always know what’s best for me.

In my relationships, I’m much more comfortable with being honest in a compassionate way.  I’m less worried about what others will think of me.  Finding this new level of ease in speaking with others has significantly lowered my overall anxiety levels.  It also allows me to communicate what I’m actually thinking and achieve the results I want more easily.

It may seem impossible that sitting for only ten or fifteen minutes most days could make all this happen.  It didn’t happen overnight.  Like everything else that’s worthwhile in life, it happened in baby steps.  I’ve also noticed that the benefits seem to snowball – hard to detect at first and, later, hard to ignore.  Life just gets easier to navigate, regardless of what’s being thrown at you.

Benefits of meditation

I Don’t Think I Can Meditate

If you think you’ve never meditated before, you may be surprised. Have you ever paused in your day, closed your eyes and taken a few deep breaths?  Bingo! You’ve meditated.  It’s that simple.

If you can breathe, you can meditate.

Think you don’t have time? You don’t have to sit for an hour a day to feel its effects. I started with about 30 seconds (an excruciatingly long time when you’re a beginner with a busy mind).  Sometimes I only have five minutes which is better than nothing.

When I make the time for meditation, I usually sit for about fifteen minutes.  My left foot tells me when it’s been about fifteen minutes because it promptly falls asleep.  I’m currently working through that to move to twenty minutes as I turn my focus from my breath to my foot to notice exactly what’s happening without trying to stop the pain.  At some point, I end up moving my foot to get the blood flowing again.

Have a busy mind?  Then meditation is exactly what you need.  The goal of meditation isn’t to stop the busy mind.  The goal is to notice the endless times that your mind wanders from your breath to the 60,000 thoughts that go through your brain every day.  Your practice improves each time you catch yourself and shift back to your breathing.

After all these years of practicing, it’s a little easier for me to count to ten breaths without being distracted.  I can’t do it every day, but it happens more often.  My mind still wanders, but I judge the wandering less and objectively notice it before bringing it back to my breath.

Recently I’ve incorporated sound in my meditation.  I’m a visual person so I think the sound helps to counter the visual images of my thoughts.  I breathe in and, on the exhale, I hum or “say” Om with my mouth closed.  The sound makes my exhale about three times longer than my inhale (without thinking about it). This action activates the sympathetic nervous system which increases the feelings of relaxation.

At its core, meditation is sitting in a comfortable position in a chair or on the floor with a straight back.  Sit with dignity.  Rest your hands in whatever position is comfortable for you.  You can either close your eyes or maintain a soft gaze at a single object (candle, statue, etc.).  Then simply breathe through your nose, focusing on your breath as the warm air exits your nostrils on the exhale and the cool air comes in and fills your lungs and sends energy throughout your body on the inhale.  Don’t force the breath.  Notice what it does on its own.

How Do I Start?

There are many different types of meditation out there.  You’ll have to experiment to see which methods or combination of methods work for you.

For some beginners, listening to a guided meditation can help to stay focused.  There are tons of these on YouTube and other meditation web sites.

For only $5 per month, you can have a meditation video emailed to you every day by going to Daily Meditation.

Daily Meditation Video

I recently tested a new and very popular app called Simple Habit that has a multitude of five to twenty minute guided meditations that you can use throughout your day.  Just choose what you’re doing, and there’s a meditation for that.  It also includes podcasts and tons of other info on meditation from a variety of teachers.  The company is generously offering a 30% discount to all Simple Mindfulness readers.  Use the discount code meditatewithpaige on the settings page.

There are endless books, videos, courses and other resources out there to help you with your meditation practice.  The choices can be overwhelming.  One I found particularly helpful for all levels is Master Your Mind from LiveAndDare.com, a site devoted to meditation, where you can find answers to all of your questions about meditation.

The Master Your Mind program introduces you to a variety of meditation principles and techniques over the course of 35 days.  The idea is to start you on a daily habit of meditating.

The first few days only ask you to meditate for 2-3 minutes each day.  Anyone can do that.  In addition to the actual meditation practice, the program helps you to establish triggers and other supports for your new habit.  It also helps you manage the inevitable distractions that will come up.

Throughout the 35 days, you’ll be introduced to a variety of techniques as you grow your practice to 20 minutes each day.  Although I’ve been meditating for many years, I learned more about how I can deepen my practice and gain more benefits from it.

There are also online forums and sixty days of email access to the creator of the program.  While I would have expected the program to cost a few hundred dollars, it’s quite accessible at only $59 for lifetime access.  That’s a small investment for a lifetime of returns.

Lately, I’ve been following the Master Your Mind program in the morning.  During the day I use my Pomodoro timer or reminders on my phone to remind me to stop for a five to fifteen minute meditation break at work.  During those breaks I’m using the Simple Habit app to keep my mind from wandering.  It’s surprising how refreshed I feel after taking a meditation break in the middle of a hectic day.

Regardless of the one or many options you choose to help you start and maintain your practice, the key is to start.  Then take the baby steps each day.  Some days will be better than others.  Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day.  It happens.  Each day is a new opportunity to begin again.  It’s never too late.


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12 Responses to How to Create a Meditation Practice When Your Mind Won’t Stop Spinning

    Gavin
    Commented:  06/24/2017 at 1:26 pm

    So many good points in your blog. I love to lie down from time to time when I meditate. Especially if I am having a hard time relaxing. I find that it helps me calm down so I can go further inward with my attention.

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  06/25/2017 at 10:58 am

      Lying down can definitely help, as long as you’re not so tired that you fall asleep. Frequently, I don’t realize how tired I truly am until I lie down for a short meditation. Allowing my body to relax brings me the awareness of my need for more rest. It’s all about tuning in and being mindful of what your body needs and listening to the messages.
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How to Be Happy When Unhappy Is Your NormMy Profile

      Reply
    Robert Bowley
    Commented:  10/21/2016 at 12:32 am

    Loved reading your blog today Paige. The meditation App sounds a great idea and i’m looking forward to trying it out.
    Meditation can be hard at the beginning because of our ‘monkey mind’! I have found Tai Chi to be an excellent way in to mediation rather than starting straight away with a formal sitting practice. Tai Chi is a moving meditation where we get to understand our body and mind. Being more conscious of the body can lead to deeper relaxation. After a while it is often easier to then transition into sitting meditation without being so distracted by that busy mind!

    Reply
    Sandra Pawula
    Commented:  10/13/2016 at 4:09 pm

    I love the idea of starting small. It’s so less intimidating. As a meditation teacher I see again and again how mindfulness benefits people in far reaching ways. It takes a little practice, but it’s so amazing.

    Reply
    Zeenat Merchant Syal
    Commented:  10/12/2016 at 9:32 pm

    Love meditation Paige! Its such a beautiful resource to tap into those depths of ourselves that can lead to miraculous transformations.
    Thank you for that beautiful meditation app. Will check it out.
    xoxo, Z~

    Reply
    Suzie Cheel
    Commented:  10/12/2016 at 7:26 pm

    Wow we are both on the same path writing about meditation – Insight Time a free mobile app is great for people starting out too. Meditation was such a big part of my healing xx

    Reply
    Debbie L Hampton
    Commented:  10/10/2016 at 10:10 pm

    Love this, Paige. Meditation has changed my life too. I think many philosophies make it way too complicated. I agree that anybody can meditate and those that think their minds are too busy need it the most. Thanks for all the new resources for me to check out!

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  10/11/2016 at 5:59 am

      Like yoga, with meditation, when there are too many choices, most people won’t choose. Both are such individual practices that it’s hard to pick just one. I like to mix and match for how I’m feeling each day. It makes the practices more sustainable and fun. Thanks Debbie!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..Unmistakable: The Art of Being YouMy Profile

      Reply

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