Meditation for the Monkey Mind

Meditation had always seemed an obscure practice for me, something the very enlightened did as a part of their highly disciplined lifestyles — run 10 miles before dawn, meditate an hour before the incredibly productive work day, or something like that. And while that sounded amazing, I didn’t see a need to replace my morning ritual, as stumbling to the kitchen, wild haired and bleary eyed to consume a full 24 ounces of Colombian brew worked well for me.  

But as I learned the astounding benefits of meditation (everything from preserving the aging brain to dialing down chaos and forming positive internal connections), I realized the practice was something I desperately needed.

Meditation Misconceptions

Upon studying the benefits of meditation, researcher Madhav Goyal, MD, said, “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing, but that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness.”

So I tried it. Here’s what happened.

Meditation Attempt (Take One)

I assumed the position (cross legged) on the carpet in my bedroom. It was early morning and the house was quiet.

I closed my eyes. I opened my eyes. I closed my eyes again.

I focused on my breath. In. Out. In. Out.

My nose itched.

Thoughts began buzzing — mosquitoes in my mind.

A voice in my head said:

“This is a disaster…

Meditation is for Monks, not monkeys.

Will I see dead people?

Why is that eerie song from the X Files playing?

I can’t do this.   

That picture is crooked. Oh, god, I need to adjust that picture…”

And that was my first failed attempt at meditation. There were many following, and I continued to be frustrated with my lack of focus and inability to tame my unruly thoughts. Then, I realized I had it all wrong. Meditation is not about standing at the shit storm of your mind, staff in hand, and working miracles like Moses to part the Red Sea.  

I started to see myself not fully escaping my whirling thoughts as I attempted to meditate, rather taking a journey within and becoming a peaceful observer of my own musings.

All day long we’re surface thinking. Our hands our probing the textures of our day, our thoughts are consumed with fact finding, problem solving, and formulating answers to questions like, “How’s the budget?” and “Where’s my other black sock?”

When we meditate, we strip the surface layers and allow our souls to undress, our minds to explore the space between our thoughts.

“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” ~ Deepak Chopra

Ready to dive in?

Here are some tips to Meditate for Beginners:

  1. Start with 3-5 minutes daily, assuming a comfortable position in a quiet place  
  2. Focus on your breath, and the sensations it brings to the body
  3. Don’t be concerned with thoughts that arise, experiencing a random barrage of thoughts is normal
  4. Become a spectator in your own mind, watching your thoughts tumble in and out
  5. Redirect your attention back to your breath
  6. Repeat

** Try walking meditation, where you allow nature to fill your mind, stimulate your senses and push out anxious thoughts pertaining to work, obligations, etc.  

Remember: Meditation is a personal journey, so find what works for you. Expect some trial and error.

Mantra: Meditation is not a matter of becoming; rather it’s the act of observing that which already is.

 

 


43 Comments
  • Thomas Ives
    December 17, 2015

    This is wonderful information and tips. Thank you for sharing them 🙂

  • Jane M
    December 17, 2015

    I have a similar experience with meditation, though I am getting better at not making to do lists in my head while I’m trying to meditate.

    I’ve also been wondering if it’s working – and coincidentally also blogged about meditation this week! From the research I did I found out so much I didn’t know before – mainly that there are hundreds of scientific studies about how meditation does everything from reducing stress to making you more focussed to making you happier and helping you make better decisions….

    So I will keep on trying!

    J

    • Rica Lewis
      December 17, 2015

      Awesome, Jane. I definitely feel more empowered and equipped to do life after I spend some time meditating. Keep it up!

  • Katy Kozee
    December 18, 2015

    I’ve tried meditation a few times and it went exactly as you described for me 🙂 But I plan to keep trying again in the new year. I’ve had pretty good look with guided meditations but I’d like to be able to do it on my own, of course. I’ll keep trying!

    • Rica Lewis
      December 18, 2015

      Yes, it’s definitely frustrating at first, Katy. Keep at it! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  • Jessie, FlusteredMom
    December 18, 2015

    Yes!!!! A tire swing in the living room! Brilliant idea…I want one too. Love this post. I felt exactly the same way after my first few attempts.

    • Rica Lewis
      December 18, 2015

      Ha ha, Jessie! It’s a miracle that living room tire swings have not been done before. I’m dumbfounded.

  • Kerin
    December 18, 2015

    Great post! I love the emphasis on observing your thoughts. So many think you need to be blank. That takes crazy amounts of practice.

  • Missy - Getting Fit to Find Myself
    December 18, 2015

    I took up meditation to help with my anxiety and it has been super helpful! I started with walking medication because I struggled with it as well.

    • Rica Lewis
      December 18, 2015

      That’s great, Missy. Walking meditation is wonderful for the nature lover.

  • Jeana
    December 18, 2015

    Yoga Mat Money– Your meditation ritual has allowed you to enhance your writing skills!!! I mean, you’re already an exceptional writer, but I think your imagination has been aroused! 🙂 I love it! You are an inspiration! Keep writing, cause I love to read…….muah! 💋

    • Jeana
      December 18, 2015

      I meant Yoga Mat Monkey!!! Spell checker said money 😮😕

    • Rica Lewis
      December 19, 2015

      Thank you, Jeana. You encourage me. 🙂

  • susannah
    December 18, 2015

    I love meditating on passages of the Bible and using it as time to pray. <3

    • Rica Lewis
      December 19, 2015

      That’s awesome, Susannah! I enjoy the Psalms because they’re written like poetry.

  • Cori
    December 19, 2015

    It’s nice to know my brain isn’t the only one that doesn’t shut up when I’m trying to do something peaceful.

    • Rica Lewis
      December 19, 2015

      Not at all Cori! Ha ha. Thanks for stopping in.

  • Becki S
    December 20, 2015

    I love the honesty of this post! I struggle with meditation but I think your tips will help. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kristina
    December 20, 2015

    I like this, “When we meditate, we strip the surface layers and allow our souls to undress, our minds to explore the space between our thoughts.” 🙂

    • Rica Lewis
      December 20, 2015

      Glad you enjoyed it Kristina. Thanks for reading!

  • Melissa
    December 20, 2015

    I love this, especially this quote.
    “Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” ~ Deepak Chopra
    –Melissa
    http://Www.melissamchee.com

  • Karen
    December 20, 2015

    Awesome tips for meditation. I will be sharing with my tribe. I used to think meditation was to quite the mind, but when an excellent teacher said that really it is just making space, that even if you are able feel 1% calmer, you are successful. The practice of meditation is in itself the benefit. Thank you. Also will share on SU.

  • Sam - Journo and the Joker
    December 20, 2015

    Oh yes, I have all of that happen when I meditate. For me transcendental group meditation is the most effective. I’m not very good on my own. Although short meditations have been very effective at different points. I think the advice to start with a short meditation is a good idea.

    • Rica Lewis
      December 20, 2015

      Yes, starting small is how I managed. Thanks for reading, Sam!

  • Jen
    December 28, 2015

    This is exactly how I felt when I first started meditating. It is so hard to clear my mind of anything at all. I’m still working on it. Good luck!

  • Shirley Corder
    January 21, 2016

    Thanks for your post, Rica. It’s always good to read of others who struggle to shut their minds up! Why can’t they just be quiet? I have that problem in the middle of the night. All the problems I need to figure out – and many I DON’T – come flooding in, nudging me to wake up properly and come to a solution. Most annoying.

    • Rica Lewis
      January 23, 2016

      Yes, Shirley! Hope you find some peace. You’re not the only one with a restless mind.

  • Bethany
    February 25, 2016

    I love to meditate while I do daily chores, it makes them so enjoyable!!

    • Rica Lewis
      February 26, 2016

      I like to zone out with music, too! Thanks for stopping in, Bethany.

  • Katie
    April 5, 2016

    LOVE IT! I’ve been working on meditating more. I always try to get to yoga a few minutes early to get myself in the space and just BE, but I’ve always been doing more on my own. I was introduced to an app that helps and sometimes if I’m feeling anxious, especially before bed, I’ll go through a guided meditation (about 10 minutes long) and usually fall asleep somewhere in there. It may seem kind of counter intuitive but I find that I’m relaxed enough to just drift off to sleep which seems like a good thing to me!

    • Rica Lewis
      April 5, 2016

      That’s awesome, Katie. As you can see by my post, it wasn’t easy for me to get the hang of it. The apps are a cool tool!

  • Julie
    April 5, 2016

    I love your narrative on your failed meditation attempt(s). And I love that you set the record straight on what meditation is. Like you, I thought I was supposed to think of nothing and shut my mind down. Glad to know there is hope for me and meditation after all.

    • Rica Lewis
      April 5, 2016

      Thanks, Julie! There is indeed hope for you. 🙂

  • bee turck
    August 16, 2016

    I just started meditating every morning for 10-12 minutes when I first wake up – sitting in my living room on my blanket folded, cross legged and practicing my breathing – It’s a small thing, but a big step for me – this is a great post that is inspiring me to continue working on my daily rituals and get more involved – great beginner tips -thanks for sharing! Bee

    • Rica Lewis
      August 16, 2016

      So glad you enjoyed it Bee! And what a great way to start your morning!

  • Dominique from Ohbeehave
    August 16, 2016

    Great article! I felt much the same as you about meditation until I tried it too! Now I find it’s actually a little bit addictive and I feel not quite right on the days I don’t do it!

    • Rica Lewis
      August 16, 2016

      Yup! Addictive is right. I feel the same way, Dominique. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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