Mindfulness meditation (the breath-focused type) can occasionally be frustrating for me, even though it’s supposed to be a path to well-being. During a session, you focus on an aspect of your breathing. The in, the out, the air rushing by, skimming the skin at your nostril edges, the sound of breath in motion, the cooler air in, warmer air out, peace, contentedness…cool air, warm air, in, out and….wait, why are you thinking of your grocery list? What the heck just happened, you’re now on a line of thought that is thirty thoughts away from the current thought but what thought started this and who just drove past the house and you’re angry about how the guy cut you off on your way to work and you planned a nice bicycle ride to get some exercise but there’s thunder and lightning and you’re not sure if you started the dishwasher and you have to remember to pay that electric bill and…you somehow stopped concentrating on your breath without realizing it. Did you just fail at meditation?
Absolutely not. The noticing that you noticed the chaotic rush of thought is the purpose of meditation. The observation that you had been concentrating hard and somehow you stopped concentrating without consciously stopping concentrating is what you want to have happen during meditation. That’s the point. If you can get yourself to realize that your mind got hijacked by your brain’s “involuntary” thoughts during a time when you told it to be concentrating on one thing, you did what you’re supposed to do. For that moment, you became mindful. Great job!
My greatest challenge is when my mind is too chaotic to even start the focus on my breath. I want to give up and quit the session soon after starting because it seems pointless to try. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does happen, it’s really bothersome. The disorganized, reflexive neuro-electrical processes we call “thoughts” become irritating, which derails my focus on the breath.
However, the sessions where I start with a frustrated mess of thoughts are probably the BEST times for me to meditate and try to be mindful. If my brain is generating thoughts at Niagara Falls flow instead of garden hose flow, I should stop, relax, and try my best to be mindful. Those are probably the most valuable meditation periods to have.
So if you’re at the start of your mindfulness practice, and you just can’t seem to settle down, don’t be discouraged! You’re right where you are supposed to be. Observe your water fall of thoughts with wonderment.