Maybe the most difficult thing about starting a meditation practice, other than, you know, actually practicing, has to be the fact that when you sit down to do it, your thoughts don't stop. Sometimes, it seems, they even get louder and more intense. So, you'd think that learning how to control your thoughts during meditation is step one, right? But alas, according to metaphysical author and international tarot teacher Sasha Graham, one should not try to control their thoughts at all.
In fact, try the opposite! Especially at first. "The secret of controlling thoughts in meditation is not controlling them," says Graham. "Let your thoughts go crazy. Let your thoughts run amuck. Observe these moments inside meditation."
And you know how in life it seems the minute you really let go of something you're worried about, something good happens? Well, the same goes for meditation.
"The moment to cease to fight against your thoughts is when you will notice them slipping away and a sense of peace prevailing," shares Graham.
She suggests that simply by anchoring yourself in the present moment through breath and stillness in meditation, you begin to become more rooted in who you actually are. You begin to see thoughts as just thoughts, not truth or facts.
"You become the active observer," says the spiritual teacher. "This is when you achieve true power. You become bigger than your thoughts. Your thoughts — and more importantly, your emotions — cease to have power over you."
Can you even imagine? Kedar Nath, yoga expert and founder of The Yogi Press agrees. The main objective of meditation is not stillness of the body, nor is it stillness of the mind, he explains to Elite Daily. "Its primary aim is to extend our awareness so that our actions can be harmonious," Nath says.
"When we sit down for meditation, many of us experience an overwhelming amount of thoughts, which often agitate us and prevent us from reaching the state of meditation," Nath explains. But the best way to control the thoughts, just like Graham said, is to observe them.
"By becoming an objective witness to the mental stream of thoughts, we expand our awareness," says Nath.
With time, the thoughts rise at a slower speed, until we are completely capable of stopping them by will, he promises. Oh, yeah, and try not to judge the process. Because that's really, truly what it is: a process.
But listen, if you even have trouble observing your thoughts, there are other ways to go about a practice that isn't overwhelmed by your racing brain. Rest assured there are other methods to try. As, meditation teacher Ellie Peterson recommends (who in fact developed her own moving meditation practice called Meditative Movements), try to find something to focus on.
"Meditators can focus their attention on something like their breath, a mantra such as OM, a visualization, a part of the body, a candle, guided imagery, picture of a teacher, or sounds," Peterson says. And like her own practice, she recommends moving if that strikes your fancy. "When you practice consciously thinking or focusing on something while moving," the teacher explains, "you release unconscious thoughts."
Regardless of the meditation approach, non-judgment and non-attachment to thoughts are definitely concepts begin practicing. Your thoughts, and the speed at which they come, don't define you or how "good" you are at meditating. Believe it or not, your relationship to them will change over time, especially the more often you practice.
Peterson agrees that practice is the most important part of meditation. As you continue to practice meditation, she says, the meditator becomes present in the moment, so there is no need to control anything — no feelings of struggle. Now that's what I call freedom, amirite?