What Should You Think About When You Meditate? Experts Say It's OK To Let Your Mind Wander
Let’s say you’ve got 99 problems, so you’ve decided to give meditation a try to reflect on some of them. When you finally have a minute to collect your many thoughts, though, not a single one comes to mind. You’d almost compare the frustration to stage fright — you’ve studied the mantras, you know your lines, so what gives? Even the most seasoned meditator’s mind can draw a blank once in awhile, so don’t assume that you have to know what you should think about when you meditate. There’s always a chance that you’ll draw a blank in the moment, so if you do, don’t panic. You still can, and should, make the most of this time.
Meditation is a lot of things. It’s soothing, reflective, thought-provoking, but it can also be extremely awkward and intimidating, especially if you’re just getting started with your practice. The thing is, life is so busy these days that, chances are, between studying for that world history final, picking up extra hours at work, making plans to catch up with your friends, and constantly fiddling with your phone whenever you have a free moment, you’re never genuinely alone with your thoughts. At least, not very often.
And that’s what meditation is all about, right? Reserving a few minutes out of your busy schedule to find a quiet spot, a moment of solitude, that allows you to be present for a little one-on-one time with your thoughts. Now, doesn’t that just sound scary as hell? Probably, if it’s your first time giving silent reflection a fair shot. But the good news is, it gets easier each time you practice, and the pressure you might feel at the beginning wears off, too, once you realize you don’t have to know what to think about when you meditate. You just have to let whatever's flowing, flow.
Kelli Douglas, founder of The Meditation Class, tells Elite Daily that the best way to approach meditation is without an agenda, because meditation is meant to clear your mind and serve as a time when you’re able observe your thoughts. If you sit down to meditate with a specific topic to mull over, then you aren’t actually meditating — you’re contemplating, Douglas says. Instead, she explains that the goal is to sit comfortably and settle into a state of rest, as “being effortless allows the body to release stress and fatigue, allowing us to be more energized and focused when we are done with meditation.”
Of course, there are many different kinds of meditations, including some that are considered “guided,” in which an instructor gives you a prompt, or something to visualize while you meditate. But don’t confuse your teacher’s guidance with restriction, because they aren’t one and the same, especially in this grounding practice.
“Guided meditations are created to help you be ‘guided’ through particular topics and themes, and there are many topics to explore, depending [on] what is on your mind,” Patricia Karpas, co-founder of Meditation Studio and head of content for Muse and Meditation Studio, tells Elite Daily. For example, if you’re having a bad day, you might choose a guided meditation for getting through a bad mood, or if you have trouble finding motivation in the morning, you might try a morning gratitude practice. These kinds of prompts are meant to set the scene, but where your mind wanders off to is up to you.
So, really, first and foremost, your intention going into a meditative practice is to free your mind. Easier said than done, I know, but you know what? Everyone knows. As I mentioned earlier, even someone who’s been meditating every day for years has trouble quieting their mind once in awhile. But with techniques like focusing on your breath, or repeating a mantra by whispering it aloud, or saying it silently to yourself, yoga teacher and founder of Yoga IS, Suzanne Bryant-Cunha, tells Elite Daily you can reach that relaxed state. Once you do, your brain will reset, any tension or stress you're feeling will start to dissipate, and you’ll be able to reconnect with that level of of the mind that is “already calm with infinite intelligence, focus, and clarity,” Bryant-Cunha says.
As soon as you achieve this meditative state, that’s when you can start to implement prompts into your practice. Overall, though, the most important thing is to make your meditation yours. As Marc Champagne, podcast host and co-founder of the daily reflection app, KYO, tells Elite Daily, the most important topics to explore are the ones that are most important to you in that moment. But, he says, be kind to yourself, and know that your mind is bound to wander, so there's no need to feel like you’re “failing” at meditation. The human mind thinks — it’s natural, and it’s OK.
Bottom line: Meditation is not a one-size-fits-all practice. Everyone approaches this time in their own unique way, taking advantage of it however they’d like. But for beginners who are looking for some kind of direction, Andrea Dinnick, a wellness and beauty expert and founder/CEO of Desavery, says the middle ground between thinking of something and thinking of nothing, is focusing on your breath.
“Focusing on your inhalation and exhalation is very grounding and occupies your mind just enough to keep you centered in your practice,” she tells Elite Daily. “Count ‘one’ as you inhale and ‘two’ as you exhale with the goal of getting to ’20.’ It’s OK if your mind wanders because it’s easy to recalibrate and start again."