A Meditation for Settling Your Busy Mind

Psychiatrist and mindfulness expert Holly Rogers explains why you should not even try to stop your thoughts. Plus, a guided practice on noticing your inner chatter with curiosity rather than judgment.

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Today we are going to practice noticing and working with our busy minds. As we begin this meditation I’m going to share with you the single most important bit of information that I believe will help you as you develop and deepen your meditation practice. 

Are you ready? Here it is. 

When you settle into your meditation practice, bringing your awareness to the sensations of your breath, don’t expect to and don’t even try to stop your thoughts. Trying to stop your thoughts is not really possible and it often leads to a great deal of frustration. Frustration that might make you doubt your ability to develop a mindfulness meditation practice.

Rather than trying to stop your thoughts, work on changing your relationship to your thoughts.

Rather than trying to stop your thoughts, work on changing your relationship to your thoughts. Your minds are thought-producing machines. They’re constantly producing a river of thoughts. This river flows on and on, and sometimes it’s moving really fast, yet sometimes it slows down. Sometimes there are funny little eddies in the river, swirls of thoughts that go round and round. Rather than being in this river of thought, lost in it, carried downstream, maybe even feeling like you’re drowning, with our meditation practice we’re working on getting out of the river. Settling comfortably on the bank. Watching the river go by with curiosity and interest. We use the sensation of our breath as a handhold to pull ourselves out of the river and anchor ourselves in the present moment on the bank.

A Guided Meditation to Settle Your Mind

A Meditation to Settle Your Busy Mind

  • 9:54

Lets get started, keeping in mind that we’re learning to be with and be aware of our thoughts; we’re not trying to stop them.

  1. Find a comfortable position, either seated in a chair or on a cushion on the floor. Allow your posture to be upright and tall, but not stiff or uncomfortable. Notice the sensation of your feet resting against the floor. Notice the feel of your hands resting in your lap. See if you can feel the places where your body makes contact with your chair or cushion. 
  2. Bring your awareness to the sensation of the flow of your breath as it moves in and out of your body. See if you can discover the place in your body where you most clearly experience the sensation of your breath. Perhaps you notice it most clearly at the tip of your nose as the air moves in and out, or perhaps you notice it most clearly in the rise and fall of your chest or belly. It doesn’t really matter. You’re just trying to discover where in this moment you can most clearly make contact with the feel of your breath, as it moves in and out. Let your awareness be open and relaxed, not tight, constricted, or forced. 
  3. Fairly soon you’ll probably notice that your mind has wandered, and other thoughts have intruded. You’re in the river of thought. Planning something, wondering about something. This very moment you notice that your mind has wandered and your attention is no longer on your breath, is a moment of perfect mindfulness, as you see clearly what your mind is doing in that moment. Once you notice, simply turn your attention back to your breath, again anchoring yourself in the present moment by following the flow of the in and out of your breath. 
  4. You may find that you fall into this river, over and over and over. Every time you notice it, and return your attention to your breath, you are building your capacity to be mindful and to be present. 
  5. As you, with curiosity and patience, watch the flow of your thoughts, practice letting go of any judgments or criticisms that might arise. It’s natural for your mind to wander. You’re just practicing noticing it, and climbing back out when you fall into the river. 
  6. See if you can also let go of any judgments about the contents of your river in this moment. Our rivers carry all manners of things. Sometimes there are beautiful artistic shiny objects. Sometimes there is just rubbish. It’s all just thoughts floating by. 
  7. There is no need to judge. No need to try and change it. You’re just settling in on the bank of the river, watching with curiosity and compassion, maybe even humor. If you find it helpful, next time you notice you are caught up in a flow of thought, you can label it silently to yourself as “thinking,” and then let it go, coming back to your breath. 
  8. Where is your mind now? Simply notice, “thinking,” and then rediscover the sensation of your breath.