“My problem is I can’t get my mind to stop.”
“I can’t sit still when I’m thinking about everything I have to do.”
“Focus was never my strong suit.”
I totally get that. When I first started meditating I was a new mom trying to find a moment to unplug. I was following the awful advice to sleep when she slept and that left me a anxious, mentally frantic mess. On the outside I looked fine but in my mind, my thoughts were constantly racing and I craved a moment of mental emptiness but I couldn’t find it while I was awake. I was on autopilot, like so many of us are these days. I found myself increasingly doing things and not remembering how I did them. I was checked out of life, but in a high functioning way. There was no time to sit on the couch and veg out the way I’d done before being a mom. I kept moving but I wasn’t paying any attention to my life. What happens when you’re not paying attention? You make mistakes. Right? Well making baby-connected mistakes meant when I finally did pay attention to things it was frequently connected to a ton of guilt and shame. My mindfulness practice became my refuge but there were still times when I couldn’t slow down mentally to sit and my practice didn’t reach into my hour to hour existence.
If you can relate to finding yourself increasingly on auto pilot even as you’re trying to incorporate mindfulness into your life, here are some suggestions to make things easier.
5 Mindfulness Hacks
- Be Gentle with Yourself ~ When you are sitting in meditation and you notice your mind wandering there’s no need berate yourself. Simply and gently return your awareness to your breath or whatever your anchor is (mantra, bodily sensation etc.). You are literally practicing mindfulness every time you notice where your mind is and direct it back to where you want it to be. This applies to when you notice you haven’t been paying attention to the drive home also. Tip: When you notice your mind has wandered labeling it a word like “thinking” or “planning” is a great way to short circuit a negative inner dialog.
- Act like a 3 year old ~ Part of why we lose interest in some of life’s more routine tasks is because we think we know what’s coming next. We’re jaded.
Have you ever watched a 3 year old taking a walk through their neighborhood? They look at everything like it’s brand new. The notice things that their caregivers never would have. The adults are usually shocked at what the little person “discovered” that was right there all along. Even as you dash through your day you can bring your attention to what’s around you. On your cushion each day will be different as well, notice it. Tip: Choose one of your life’s routine tasks, something you do every single day, to give your full awareness. As you complete the task, practice feeling each and every motion, each second of the experience.
- Practice makes habit~ We are creatures of habit. When we’re upset we go to our default settings. That why we blow our diets when we get sad when we’d been great for weeks. The old habit of grabbing chips rears it’s ugly head because we’re stressed. Thankfully it’s also true for good habits. Practice mindfulness on a regular basis, when you’re not stressed or emotional and the likelihood that you’ll use it when you are under pressure increases. Tip: Set a timer in your phone to remind you to do 5 minutes of mindful breathing a couple of times a day. Try to get in 4 practice sessions each day.
- Know what you’re doing~ Your mind is going to think. Asking it not to think is like asking your stomach not to secrete digestive juices. Getting mad at your mind for thinking is just as ridiculous as being upset with your stomach. The goal of meditation is not to stop your mind from thinking. The goal is to observe your thoughts without getting attached to them or feeling like you have to act on them. Tip: Download the picture below and read it in the morning when you wake up and once before you end your day. Think about what all the words mean to you.
- Choose what’s right for you~ A key component of mindfulness is being nonjudgmental. A main reason people force themselves to a mindfulness practice that is uncomfortable for them is because they have judged one practice to be better than another. The best practice is the one that works for you. Some people love using mantras, others choose mindful walking, some choose chanting. Some sit on cushions, some on the bare floor, others on their knees and some in lotus. The best practice is the one you do. Tip: Try different practices on for size if you are finding your daily meditation to be onerous. Use a mala. Try a mantra. Practice walking meditation. If you’d like help structuring your practice download this free Meditation Basics ebook.
Mindful living shouldn’t be hard. It’s about living a more vibrant, energized and intentional life. There’s no need for you to force the fit. Connect with what feels good and increases your peace. If you take nothing else away from this post getting that could change your life. Move toward your joy and bliss. Connect with your breath and reconnect with the present moment. Your peace, focus and answers all live there.