When you meditate and try to keep your attention on your breath … your mind will notice things.

When you notice things going on in your mind, these are things you can work with. They are things that are actually occurring all day long, in your head, but you notice them more when you’re meditating. You’re giving yourself space to notice, and this is space where you can work with what you notice.

Some examples of things to notice and work with:

  1. Thoughts keep coming up. That’s good! That means you’re human. Instead of fretting about having thoughts come up, try to just observe them, and practice not being judgmental with them. This is good practice. Just see them, as an observer, not a judge. Now watch them come into your head, unbidden, and then go away if you don’t hold on to them too tightly.
  2. You’re worrying about something. If you’re trying to meditate, and you keep worrying about a problem in your life, you might think this is getting in the way of your meditation. But actually, it’s a good example of something that might come up during your meditation. Turn your attention to this worry, and see why it’s bothering you so much. You probably have some expectation that you think won’t be met, and you fear that it won’t. So there’s fear and expectations to pay attention to. See these without judgment, just notice. Now see if you can turn from these ideals or expectations to the moment, the breath and the things around you right now. This is good practice too.
  3. You’re frustrated. You might not be doing as well at meditation as you’d hoped, and this can lead to frustration. Again, there’s an ideal or expectation that you have about your meditation, or yourself … and this ideal isn’t being met, which is why you’re frustrated. Notice this ideal, see if it is grounded in anything real and important, or if it’s just an ideal that popped into your head like all the other thoughts that pop into your head. These thoughts go away, and so can the ideals, if you don’t hold onto them too tightly. Loosen your grip on the ideal, and the frustration won’t be as strong.
  4. You’re in a rush. You have things you want to get to — your email, your phone, a work task — and so you are tempted to skip the meditation. Or maybe you want to cut it short because of this feeling of rushedness. Instead, pause and turn to this feeling of rushedness. Where is it coming from? What fear do you have? How rational is this fear — will the world end if you don’t get on your email right now? This feeling of wanting to rush online or to your next work task … it actually happens all day. You don’t always notice it, but you can notice it now, and see whether you can hold less tightly to the ideals that are causing the fear.

This is a unique opportunity to pay attention to all the crazy things that happen in our head, all the time. Right now even. And meditation is the perfect space to pay attention and practice the noticing, non-judgmental acceptance, and holding loosely to whatever you find.