Meditation Tip: Meditating With a Chattering Head

It's the first day of meditation class. The group is sitting in a circle, and people shuffle and twist in their seats as we prepare to turn out the lights. Finally one person shares his fears. "What if I won't be able to do this-what if I can't make my thoughts stop?" Others look relieved that they're not the only one. "I can't calm my mind--I'm just too distracted!"

My students are not alone. Even the anonymous monk who wrote The Cloud of Unknowing, a 14th century classic on meditation, talks about dealing with intrusive thoughts. The monk (or maybe it was really a nun...I've always wondered...) was a meditation expert. He (or she) meditated every day, all day long. Even so, intrusive thoughts still happened.

Mind chatter. It just is. Our minds buzz and flit, even when we don't want them to. It's how we're made.

But even though you know it will happen, you can still learn to calm your mind. You can learn some steps to help your thoughts quiet. Sure, there will be times when your mind is full of busy-ness. But it can get better. For a few moments, more and more each time you meditate, you can find a place to rest.

Space. Peace.

Your body knows how. You just need to set it free.

Begin by noticing your breathing. When thoughts come, breathe into the muscles in your face. Let your breath gather up tension, and then release. Notice how your breath feels in your sinuses. Let your breath move all the way up your nose and through your mind...gathering up thoughts and releasing them.

And then begin to notice your body.

Notice where you feel warmth...and where you feel cool. Notice where you feel relaxed...and where any muscles feel tense. Breathe through the tense muscles, gathering up tension and releasing it...and notice how it feels now.

And now.

Notice your thoughts going leaves moving down a stream. Notice them from the grassy bank, where you are resting. Notice them moving past overhead, like the clouds moving by...some of them stormy...some soft and small...and notice any blue patches in between.

And begin to pay attention to the clear spaces too.... They're there. Small at first, and then longer-and you forget to notice them, and your thoughts drift, and you watch them go by...

And you're meditating.

This is one way, one path to quieting your thoughts. We'll look at others, in other articles. But this path, of breathing, and releasing, noticing and noticing again-this will be useful to you all thorough your meditation.

Even when you're as experienced as that anonymous monk! (Or nun...I really do wonder...)

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Deborah Kukal, PhD, ABPP is a licensed health psychologist who has been using guided imagery in a hospital setting for more than 15 years. She has engaged patients from virtually every walk of life in the successful and rewarding practice of health focused meditation.

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