It was the morning meditation on the second day of my retreat, and honestly, I was feeling restless and frustrated. My mind wouldn’t settle and my body was itching to move. To make things worse, I was becoming self-critical, scolding myself for struggling.
Our teacher, Joseph Goldstein (one of my personal heroes), was leading the meditation. At one point Joseph advised, “When you notice you have become distracted, simply begin again.”
When you notice you have become distracted, simply begin again.
“Oh right, this is simple,” I remembered. So I let go of the criticisms, and relaxed into beginning anew, bringing my attention back to the feel of my breath. It was helpful to be reminded that meditation doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be a struggle.
Slipping into the present moment is as easy as noticing the feel of your breath.
In the midst of your meditation session, your mind will inevitably strike out on its own. Something compelling will hook it, and it will be off and running. But here’s the thing: No matter how deep you are into organizing your day, or writing that explanatory email, or finally winning that argument with your partner, at some point you will recognize that you have become lost in your thoughts.
That moment of recognition, is perfect mindfulness. You are seeing exactly what your mind is doing. And in that moment, without drama or recriminations, you can simply begin again.
Feel your body sitting. Feel your body breathing. Begin to gently count the slow in and out of your breath. When you get to ten, begin counting backwards back down to one. Don’t try to force concentration. Rather, cultivate interest in the ever-changing nature of your breathing. If you cultivate curiosity, concentration will follow in time.
You will likely end up in another mental argument or vast planning session before you get back to one. And when you notice that, simply begin again.
Do you have a great simple strategy for getting back on track when you get derailed during meditation? If so, please share it in the comments below .