You’ve switched on your meditation app. You’re getting zen. Next minute: did I turn the iron off? Have I run out of milk? Did I text my sister back? Yep, if you find your mind wandering during meditation, you’re not alone.
When your shopping list floats into your morning meditation, there are simple ways to get back on track. Mandy Millan, founder of corporate wellbeing company FLO Wellbeing, says the first step is to be kind to yourself. “It’s great that you’ve noticed your mind wandering during meditation,” says Mandy. “It means you are mindfully awake and you will only get better at this. Keep observing your thoughts and noticing if your mind wanders.”
It’s important not to view your mind wandering during meditation as a ‘mistake’. “When first starting, most people feel that they are making mistakes because their mind is constantly wandering,” says Mandy. “However, this is where the real magic lies. You are your own observer,” she says. “Gradually those thoughts will slow down through meditation. This will then play out in your daily life and you will have control over choosing your thoughts day to day. It’s very powerful!”
Breathe - Firstly, focus back in on your breath. “Connect with your deep breath,” advises Mandy. “Notice how it fills up the body. Try to switch your mind to this slow, steady pace of the breath flow.”
Feel - “Notice your body sitting or lying. Recognise any contact the skin has with its surrounding area. Feel any physical sensations. Notice any tension and breathe into these areas."
Listen - “Connect with sounds that bring you into the present moment,” advises Mandy. Yep, even if that is the construction noise outside. Whatever helps you connect with the present.
More generally, there are a few common stumbling blocks that people come across when practicing meditation. “Make sure you set realistic expectations,” says Mandy. “Getting to know yourself better and acquiring mastery over your own mind can take some time. It’s just like a new sport! Be patient with yourself.”
It’s also important that, like a new sport, you’re consistent with your practice. “The brain is like any other muscle in the body, in that you do need to train it to strengthen it. You really need to train your mind to become disciplined.” More practice means you won’t find your mind wandering during meditation so often – and you’ll notice it more when it does.
Try this short meditation
If you want a simple way to reset during a stressful workday, a short meditation can do the trick. “Leave the office and sit outside in nature,” says Mandy. “Sit quietly for several minutes and bring your attention to your breath. Focus on where the breath is the most prominent, perhaps in your nose, chest or belly. Notice the sounds around you drawing you into the present moment. Each time the mind wanders, simply notice that and patiently return your attention to the breath. This practice strengthens our muscle of attention as well as our ability to notice, but helps us not get caught up in our wandering mind. You only need to do five minutes per day to start to feel some benefits.”
Want to get started? You can listen to one of the FLO Wellbeing meditations here. It’ll give you as much focus as your morning double shot latte.
Keen to strengthen your body as well as your mind? Find out why you shouldn’t be scared of strength training here
Mandy is the founder of FLO Wellbeing and has been practicing and teaching pilates and meditation for fifteen years. FLO Wellbeing is an Australian corporate wellbeing company that brings movement and mindfulness into the workplace through group pilates, yoga and mindfulness sessions, as well as education through tailored workshops and retreats.