5 Meditation Tips For An Overactive Mind

Many gurus, spiritual teachers, and psychologists talk about how meditation is easy, relaxing, and soothing.

This may be true for some people.

However, for those of you, like myself, who have an overactive mind, meditation never really has come easy to me and sometimes it is not exactly relaxing for me either.

In fact, about a couple years ago, my mind was so preoccupied with some difficult circumstances I was going through, that I couldn’t even meditate. This surprised me because I had been practicing meditation and breathing exercises for over 10 years.

I remember I spoke to a spiritual life coach about my difficulty meditating and she told me that I probably was not able to actually meditate now; and that it likely was difficult for me to meditate because I had an overactive mind.

Meditation was supposed to be something I could use to soothe and quiet my mind.  However, it eventually had become a chore for me and even somewhat stressful at times.

I asked my life coach for advice and she gave some specific tips to help me with my meditation practice that actually worked and helped me quiet my mind.

I believe these strategies will help anyone who has an overactive mind or has found it difficult to meditate….

5 best strategies to tame an overactive mind

1. In order to help quiet my mind, I began to listen to guided relaxation before I began to meditate. I searched for guided relaxation and guided meditation on YouTube and iTunes and found some that I particularly liked. I found Davidji and really liked his guided meditations.  I would listen to that and others immediately before my meditation.

2.  Another strategy I found helpful to quiet my mind is to start my meditation immediately after I had done yoga.  Yoga seems to help me release some tension and makes it easier to focus my mind. So, I would start my meditation immediately after I did some yoga.

Additionally, while I meditated, I tried two different techniques that I previously had not tried that also helped me quiet my mind more.

3. I focused on a candle rather than my breath or a mantra.  I don’t know why, maybe because I am more of a visual person, but looking at a candle did seem to give my mind something to concentrate on rather than my breath or a mantra.

4. Sometimes, I also would close my eyes but focus on placing my awareness or looking at my third eye or the space where my third eye is. Again, this gave me something to visually focus on, which seemed to help my overactive mind quiet down a bit.

5. I also changed my attitude about meditation.  Some of the spiritual gurus talk about how meditation should result in enlightenment, quieting your mind, or finding the “gap” between your thoughts.  I have been meditating now for over 10 years and I have never been able to fully quiet my mind for a long period of time or get into the “gap” between my thoughts; let alone enlightenment.

What I have found, though, is the conscious act of coming back to placing my attention on my third eye or a candle while my mind starts to drift during meditation does provide me with some moments of peace and solitude.

I believe the conscious act of coming back to what you are focusing your attention on while meditating when you become distracted is as equally important as the moments of quiet you experience.

I also believe this has helped me become more discipline with my thinking and behavior throughout the day, which tends to help me generate more peace, purpose, and gratitude as I go about my daily tasks and responsibilities.

This is something that I am truly grateful for and one of the reasons why I continue to make meditation a daily practice in my life.
This post was written by Matthew Welsh, Founder of Spiritual Media Blog, a place for psychology, spirituality, and inspirational entertainment.

Bible Passage of the Week – “A Time for Everything”

Today’s passage comes from the lesser-known Testament in the Bible – the Old Testament. Despite having some confusing or difficult to understand passages, the Old Testament is actually a great storehouse of ancient wisdom and Truth.

See here, from Ecclesiastes 3:

A Time for Everything

“3 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.”

A Short Commentary

  • I just wanted to share a few thoughts on this famous passage:
  • The writer attributed to this passage is Solomon, a character in the Bible noted for his wisdom.
  • I think the main point Solomon is seeking to make here is about taking the long view in life, the big picture. That everything has a time, a season, under Heaven and we shouldn’t be perturbed when many things (good and bad) happen to us as they do. There is a plan at work.
  • Timing is so important in life – a well timed joke can go down a storm; a badly timed one can dive like a lead balloon. Getting the timing right in life, can be equally important.
  • By giving us this big picture view of life, Solomon is indicating that there is not only a time for these things to happen, but that they also have a higher purpose.
  • The point is that yes bad things happen (killing, war), but there is somehow a great benevolent plan at work with these things, that things will all work out for good in the end.
  • The book of Ecclesiastes is noted for its bleakness – a recurring theme is the vanity of life, the meaningless of suffering, of all things. This theme is touched upon here too: Solomon seems to be saying that we are prisoners to our fate. That we are destined to all live out our lives in this reciprocal manner, with good and bad equally in measure. There seems to be little hope of changing our fate, Solomon seems to be saying. I think we all feel like that sometimes!
  • Yes, we have free will, but ultimately the grand sweep of events in our lives are in God’s hands. We’d  do well to commit these things to Him, where they are already.

Reflection of the Week – From Barack Obama, on the Spiritual Hunger in Every Human Heart

Today’s reflection of the week comes courtesy of none other than former President of the US, Barack Obama. In his book Audacity of Hope, the ex-President describes on his own conversion to Christianity. Obama lyrically goes on to describes the spiritual hunger that is present in modern day-America:

“Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily rounds dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office, flying to a business meeting, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets – and coming to the realization that something is missing.

They are deciding that their work, their possessions,
their diversions, their sheer busyness are not enough. They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives, something that will relieve a chronic loneliness or lift them above the exhausting, relentless toll of daily life.

They need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them – that they are not just destined to travel down along highway toward nothingness.”

Barack Obama – From “The Audacity of Hope”

Russell Brand and Sam Harris in Conversation on Topics Such as Faith, Islam and Meditation

  • V interesting recent debate taken from Brand’s “Under the Skin” podcast.
  • Issues debated include the nature of religious faith, militant Islam, consciousness and secularism. Brand is coming from the spiritual viewpoint, whereas Harris is an avowed atheist.
  • They do get bogged down slightly in minor philosophical points (especially in the first half), but after that there is a real honest and frank exchanging of views.
  • Being an academic, Harris is, I feel, the intellectual superior to Brand’s autodidact learning. Still, he does have a lot of interesting things to say.
  • Will be interesting to see what the Reddit community have to say on this video!

 

Meditation in the News – “Does Meditation Make You A Better Person?”

The Dalai Lama famously said once that “if every 8 year old on earth was given instruction in meditation, there would soon be no violence on earth.”

Every regular practitioner reading this would be inclined to agree. But is this just anecdotal evidence? Does meditation rest on a firmer scientific basis? Is such a basis possible?

Read on to find out.

I read a story in The Telegraph yesterday titled, “Meditation does not make you a better person, study finds“. The story refers to a recent meta-study on the effects of meditation towards kindness and compassion.

The study was conducted jointly by researchers in the Netherlands, UK and New Zealand. 1685 people were covered by it; it looked into the evidence of 22 other studies.

They found that contrary to the scientific findings of many other studies over decades, meditation does not significantly increase compassion, or social cohesion, in the practitioner or their community.

The researchers found real bias in the previous studies they looked at, such as the positive effect of the practice was only seen when the leader of the meditation group was also the study leader.

Dr Miguel Farias, leader of the study, also likened the positive effect of mindfulness to a placebo. The study participants expected to feel better and kinder after a course of meditation – and did. They got what they expected; which sounds quite like a placebo.

So what does Satori Mind make of all this?

Well, I think a few initial points can be made –

  • This study is a single review of a relatively small subset of the available studies. More quality research is needed before we can draw any firm conclusions from this data.
  • The personal testimony of millions of people all over the world of the positive effects of meditation cannot be discounted. Lives have been changed by it.
  • Every major religious tradition – Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist  – has some form of contemplative practice at its heart. The wisdom of thousands of years cannot be discounted, surely?
  • For anyone doubting the transformative efficacy of mindfulness, I would say: try it! Try it for 30 days, then come back and say it hasn’t changed you. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say.
  • Can you even measure true compassion in a lab? I mean, its a very subtle concept.

While I acknowledge that some of the previous scientific study of meditation has been methodologically unsound, I would say that more, better research is needed.

If only to back up what meditators have known by experience, for centuries.

I think that long term, meditation may well escape the siren call of scientific evidence.  Instead, it will continue to forge a silent spiritual path through today’s hectic culture, by word of mouth and personal experience.

Because that’s the way that the best ideas spread, and change the world. Not through academic studies, which so often come and go.

What do you think? Do you think meditation is a force for good?

Comment and share and get involved!

What is Enlightenment?

Facts and Interpretations

Thought for the day: one of the key mistakes we all make is not realising that what we sometimes take to be a fact is in fact an interpretation we have made. Remember that neuroscientists and psychologists tell us that we can never know reality directly, only the interpretations that we have made about reality. The implications for this fact of nature are potentially vast.

Some would say that actually there are such things as facts in life – that the rule “life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% what you make of it” applies. That death, loss, disability and bereavement are facts of life. Even if this is true, there is still the great majority of life – 90% – to play with!

The Buddha and Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation gives us the space to see our interpretations for what they are: opinions, that can be changed, if we so wish. 2500 years ago the Buddha taught that when we realise that what we take to be reality is in fact a set of meanings we have created in our own head, we have made a discovery that he called Enlightenment.

What is Satori/Enlightenment?

Remember that Enlightenment is not (usually) a sudden flash of a light turning on, but the gradually ever increasing brightness of that light. Some people live in the relative darkness of depression, while others struggle on, blindly reacting to circumstances, not understanding the consequences of their actions, and that what they take to be reality is actually the interpretations that their brain has made.

Are you living your life or is your life living you?

For those willing to make the step into higher awareness, mindfulness is key. But so is courage – once you accept that just about the whole of your reality is within your choice, it is a daunting view. While on this road, we shall know great fear, but we shall also know great wisdom, joy and delight.

And these moment shall make the whole journey worthwhile

Where Does Evil Come From?

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. 
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. 
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? 
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

Epicurus – Ancient Greek philosopher

Thought for the day: where does evil and suffering come from? Does God cause it?

The first thing to be said here is that this question has plagued some of the world’s finest minds for millennia (including the Greeks, who were the first organised askers of most pertinent questions).  An agreed straightforward answer has not been forthcoming.

No Saint, Mystic or World scripture has ever been written that clearly answers the question. Believe me I’ve looked. The Bible itself doesn’t give a definitive answer.

Why would an all good, all powerful God allow such evil and suffering into the world? Well, the first thing to say is that most suffering in the world is caused by humans, not God. It has been thus since Adam and Eve rebelled back in the day.

But what about the suffering not caused by humans, the cancers, natural disasters?

Good question. The only real honest answer here is that it’s a mystery. We must have faith in the silence, and believe that things will turn out for good in the end.

I’m sure God’s got a good reason for allowing evil. As the saying goes, just because you can’t think of a good reason why God would allow evil and suffering, doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

To finish this (v short) exploration of the topic: I’d like to leave you with my favourite quote on the mystery of evil:

“Any God small enough to be understood wouldn’t be big enough to be worshipped.” – Evelyn Underhill

Amen.

“Waking Up” podcast with Sam Harris – The latest findings of science re meditation

This episode of the excellent Sam Harris podcast features Daniel Goleman, author of “one of the best selling non-fiction books of the 90’s” “Emotional Intelligence”. Goleman has a new book out out on the latest findings of science with regard to meditation.

One of his key findings is that the brains of advanced meditators, monks and yogis, are actually constructed differently than those of regular people. More research is needed to actually find out how this happens.

Harris, despite being an ardent atheist, actually has a bit of a soft spot for Buddhism. He is also a long time practitioner of meditation, having spent long periods in silent retreat.

Check and this podcast and hear the cutting edge scientific research on meditation.

Proverb of the Week – “If you have time…”

“If you have time to meditate, you should meditate for half an hour. If you don’t have time to meditate, you should meditate for an hour.” – Zen Proverb

A sense of humour

This funny proverb first of all shows the great comical streak there is in Zen.

The old Zen masters held great sway by humour as an agent that can bring about Satori, sudden Enlightenment. Indeed, one could see humour as a mini-enlightenment. After all, what is the “getting” of a joke, if not a sudden, immediate intuitive grasp of a situation?

Sounds a lot like Enlightenment to me!

What do we think this proverb is trying to say?

One view could be that the proverb is reinforcing the importance of finding time for meditation, no matter how busy your life is. Many Zen teachers see a regular, daily practice of Zazen (sitting meditation) as an essential component of the good life.

What I think that this proverb is trying to say is that if you are struggling to find time to fit Zazen in your daily schedule, that proved just how much you do actually need it.

A Proverb for our times?

I think this proverb here is a proverb for our times; it is gently mocking the attitude of modern busy westerners who complain that they simply “can’t find the time” for meditation.

It is teaching us moderns from this ancient wisdom tradition that if you can’t find time to sit still for 10 minutes a day, then your priorities are skewed.

And if your priorities are skewed in this way, then what you need is not a little meditation, but a lot!

 

 

 

 

Fascinating interview with Russell Brand and “Headspace” meditation app founder

A great interview here between Brand and Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace. Puddicombe has had a fascinating life, spending 10 years as a Buddhist monk in Asia, before joining the Moscow State Circus, and then moving on to set up one of the leading start ups to come out of Silicon Valley in recent years.

Puddicombe is a great populariser of mindfulness; I can see why he has over 2 million users on his app. Worth a listen.