If you are like most people, you might find meditating difficult and so miss out on its payoffs. But, there are meditation techniques that practised meditators use and which can help with this ‘how can I meditate without thinking’ hurdle. Read on for the tricks and steps to forming a sound meditation practice.
How can I meditate without thoughts popping into my head?
For one thing, avoid being overly concerned with rules and guidelines of what to think or not to think or whether to think at all when meditating. Just allow yourself to relax. Rather than resisting it, one trick is to acknowledge each thought as it happens and visualise it fading away, before returning your focus to your breath.
The word meditate comes from the Latin root meditari – to concentrate.
It’s a practice of being in a highly relaxed state of mind, an alpha level, which is beneficial in a holistic way and gained by mindlessly concentrating a focus.
Reasons to meditate daily
Reasons to meditate range from headache relief to stress relief to connecting with your intuition.
Evidence suggests that meditation practiced daily, engages the vagus nerve, which helps to combat inflammation.
An increasing number of people use meditation for stress relief, as a way to unwind, let go and relax. The US National Health Interview Survey, for instance, showed that meditation was used by 14.2% of adults and 5.4% of children in the USA in 2017, up from 4.1% and 0.6% in 2012, respectively.
Just as the body physically needs sleep, so too does the mind (and soul) need meditation (or deep reflection and relaxation).
Meditation is good for a number of reasons.
Whatever you focus your mind on you become.~ Earl Nightingale, American radio speaker and author
Research published in psychology and science journals tells us that this has to do with the vagus nerve.
This nerve sends messages from the body to the brain and is instrumental in regulating the body’s unconscious actions (as part of the parasympathetic nervous system).
The stimulation releases hormones, some of which affect emotions and well-being, e.g., serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), endorphins, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and melatonin in the brain.1
While serotonin enhances mood, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) yields a feeling of calm. Also, endorphins promote happiness, melatonin restful sleep, and DHEA fights aging.
Hence, meditation provides significant benefits from nature’s ‘feel good’ chemicals — one of the reasons more people are appreciating meditation today.
Reasons to meditate in a nutshell
✔ Reduce tension in muscles (body)
✔ Reducechronic pain (body)
✔ Increased focus and concentration (mind)
✔ Lessen worry, stress, fear, and impulsiveness (mind)
✔ Enhance self-esteem and self-acceptance (mind)
✔ Increase optimism and awareness (mind/spirit)
✔ Improve mood and emotional intelligence (mind)
✔ Heighten creativity (spirit/purpose)
✔ Greater sense of purpose and meaning to life (spirit/purpose)
Regular meditation practice can produce profound physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits. These are natural gifts from a regular practice.
For a selection of meditation gear, including the best meditation cushion, see my post here.
More tips on how can I meditate without thinking
There are many meditation strategies.
A simple strategy: Stop. Breathe. Let go.
So simple. Do it a few times.
Our monkey minds is our internal monologue that pops into our heads whenever there’s a chance.
Meditation seems to take effort practice partly because of this chattering monkey mind. Thoughts fly in and so do urges to go and ‘do’ something.
But there are ways of overcoming that if you stick with it.
I gain insight in this regard from a long-time practitioner and teacher of meditation teacher and author of Practical Meditation.
Some practical steps to help with meditating
- Have a clear intention – Yes I want to do this! Ditch the excuses
- Get into a comfy seated position in a quiet spot. Sit tall.
- Breathe in, roll shoulders up, breathe out, roll shoulders down. Ease your eyes closed
- Maintain simple breathing and focus on the breath. Acknowledge wandering thoughts and return to focus. Don’t wonder why how or where. Just be.
- Let your thoughts come and go. Don’t react. Let go of feelings of failing. Just breathe.
Move slightly if you must. It takes time to sit at length without moving.
Find a meditation teacher
It is much easier to be guided. That was my experience when starting out.
And, it’s best to be guided by someone with years of experience.
Meditation classes for beginners are best to learn the basics so that you aren’t forming and reinforcing any bad habits.
You don’t need to travel miles to attend training in person. You can do it in your own home with online tutoring.
One registered meditation teacher and author that I recommend is Giovanni Dienstmann. He has over 18 years, and more than 9,000 hours, of meditation experience.
His Master Your Mind for Beginners is an online course with simple step-by-step instructions that will help you form a strong practice. The course provides 35 days of guidance with ongoing access. So you will always have it to use no matter when or where you are. Check out more details and the price here.
How can I meditate longer?
If you are a beginner, start off with just a few minutes and progressively add extra minutes each day. That’s how you’ll get to meditate longer.
How long is ‘longer’? This will depend on you and what stage you are at with your practice.
There are some people who meditate for hours. A 24-hour meditation is not uncommon for Yogis and monks.
The best meditation for wellness is a daily one.
If you can watch Netflix or be on Facebook for five mins you can spend time on a 5-minute meditation a day.
Try aiming for a 15-minute meditation. You might like to then work up to a 30-minute meditation routine each day.
When is the best time to meditate?
What is the best time of day to meditate for you?
Early morning meditation
There are reasons why early morning meditations are good habits.
It can be the best time is to sharpen your intuition because everything is in harmony as society’s ‘busyness’ has not yet filled your day. Intuitiveness happens when we are in tune with nature and the early morning is when nature is doing its stuff. The birds are chirping, and the sun is rising. Mediation is a good way to start the day. It’s a time when your mind is more ‘in the moment’, and not racing with things that needed doing.
Meditate before work
The same can be said here as written above for early morning meditation. The deadlines of the day have yet to clog your mind. Meditating before work can be a way of setting the scene for a productive and happy day ahead.
Meditate at work
Use meditation at work to refresh and recharge. Mindfulness is an ideal form here to bring clarity to tricky issues.
An idea to practice at your desk: Try Dzogchen, a form of meditation where you are aware of everything with eyes open without labeling thoughts, feelings, or sensations.
Meditate at night
A fine way to end the day and prepare for a good night’s sleep is to meditate. Meditation before bed using breath to relax is your power to calm, restore, and center yourself after a full day and to prepare for a restful sleep.
Best meditation posture
Common positions for meditation include sitting, supine, and standing.
Meditation laying down is also possible.
Even so, according to Giovanni Dienstmann of Live and Dare, good meditation posture needs to be:
- Stable — so that you feel safe and your mind can turn inward without distractions
- Straight — so that your body helps you to be more present, focused, and alert
- Comfortable — so you can sit for extended periods of time, in a relaxed manner, without needing to move and without it being painful.
Five main sitting positions for meditation
- Full Lotus (require a lot of flexibility, and tend to be uncomfortable)
- Half Lotus (require a lot of flexibility, and tend to be uncomfortable)
- Burmese (simple cross-legged – the one I tend to use the most)
- Seiza (sitting back on a stool – more gentle on the knees)
- In a chair (most comfortable)
For other traditional meditation postures and the expanded detail of the above positions, check out Swami Satyananda’s excellent systematic yoga manual, available at Amazon – See details
Hands during meditation
Meditation hand positions are known as mudras. While in meditation, hand gestures are symbolic gestures for the flow of energy.
There are many mudras (aka seels, gestures, or marks) – 10 are illustrated here.
The three most common meditation hand signs:
- Gyan Mudra (index finger and thumb are touching)
- Venus Hands (hands are clasped on lap)
- Prayer Mudra (hands together in prayer still)
Eyes during meditation
Eye gazing meditation can involve looking at the floor with eyes in a half open position.
When you prefer an eyes-open meditation style (or not), the idea is to have a mental gaze up at the spiritual eye (the point midway between the eyes).
Location for meditation
You can do meditation anywhere, from meditation in bed to meditation on the beach.
It’s best to have a special place to meditate each day. Add things that help you relax. You might like to keep a journal handy and have a couple of small effigies that have special meaning.
The Two Keys to a Strong Meditation
For the best results of meditation…
#1 Accept that there are levels of meditation
Many once thought meditation was some mystical act. This can be your meditation block.
It will stop you from benefiting from the world of meditation.
So don’t expect to go to the deepest highest level straight off.
Here’s our 4-P equation: Patience + Persistence + Positivity = Pays off.
#2 Practice daily
One of the principles of meditation for realizing results is to practice daily.
The most important thing is meditating everyday – Jon Kabat-Zian
As Jon Kabat-Zinn once said: “A lot of people think meditation doesn’t amount to anything as if you’re being idle”. That might be you.
Some see it as a weekend retreat only.
You should understand that to reap the ultimate benefits of meditation your practice needs to be daily.
More meditation tips for beginners
Knowing what to expect does help. Here’s one account.
The early stages in the cycle of meditating:
Resting > Relaxing > Releasing tension > Letting go of the stress in the body
You will be processing emotions and thought and letting go.
Your mind will be wanting to make lists, sort through details, and rehearse conversations. Funny that!
You will get urges to go and attend to things. Don’t.
It’s absolutely normal to experience these fluctuations of the mind.
In the meditative state:
- You remember you are meditating
- You use your chosen technique to draw yourself back
- You continue this cycle until you’ve meditated for the time set aside
Will you feel tired after meditation?
You should feel refreshed. Never have I felt tired after meditating.
The progressive stages of meditation
Stages of meditation according to Yoga philosophy:
|Dharana||1st||Training the mind to move beyond distraction Object / technique chosen for focus|
|Dhyana||2nd||Thoughts stop fluctuating Awareness begins to flow Intellect falls away Pure presence arises|
|Samadhi||3rd||Highest state of perception and mental clarity Personal sense of ‘I’ is obliterated Pulsing awareness of ocean of infinite energy|
Meditation While Driving
Can you really practice driving meditation?
Yes and No.
Playing relaxation or meditative type music while driving can be dangerous where it reduces your alertness.
The concept concerning meditating while driving is more about in the now or rather about practical, mindful driving.
Author, Solan McClean, has written about Learning to Drive into the Now. Her book is available at Amazon — See details
There are really no tricks.
I realize the best way to get benefits of meditation is through daily practice.
Another tip is to have a trigger that automates your to do your practice.
For example, cleaning your teeth might be the memory peg for this.
You can find more tips in this article on how to commit to meditating: advice from a long-term practitioner.
Meditation for Children
You can empower your child’s potential.
You give every kid happiness when you give them meditation ~ Russell Simmons, American music producer and entrepreneur
Did you know: Mindfulness is being added to school curricula in places.3
By learning mindfulness:
- Children develop empathy and caring for others
- They receive life skills for stress management and ways of resilience and creativity
- It also helps with their decision making and to reach their full potential.
The following is a sample of how you can teach your child mindfulness.
- Sit in a quiet spot
- Tell your child to close their eyes and take a big breath into their tummy and then a big breath out. Repeat this 3 times
- Say: “Notice how your mind is. Is it busy with lots of thoughts or is it quiet?” “Is your mind saying positive things or negative things?”
- Let them know that what they feel or think is perfectly normal. Explain that the mind wanders around from thought to thought and ideas to ideas.
Step two (stilling the mind):
- Say: “Imagine all your thoughts being placed in a balloon and this balloon drifting away out the window until it is no more, in your mind your space is completely empty of balloons.”
- Continue this for a few moments, treating each thought that comes in as being carried away from your space in a balloon.
Step three (seeding the positive thoughts)
- Say: “Think of a word for how you would like to feel or be for the day and repeat that word 3 times.”
- Where there is some worry, get them to think of a positive outcome or a word for that.
Meditation with babies or toddlers
Here are three information sources:
Meditation and aging
There is scientific evidence to suggest that meditation improves longevity.
Reducing stress and increasing positive states of mind and hormonal factors appear necessary in maintaining our telomeres, the bits that protect the ends of our chromosomes from deterioration.
The five main benefits of meditation for seniors:
- Stimulated memory storage hubs, which help with memory
- Deep breathing exercises help the digestive system through improving circulation
- Feel-good chemicals released with meditation help with depression
- Sharpness and clarity of mind
- Reduced stress which has long-term health advantages
Read more about How meditation helps with senior health.
Christianity and meditation
Do Christians meditate?
Yes. There are thousands, if not millions of Christians who meditate.
Also, the Christian practice of contemplation is a form of meditation.
As told by several scholars, the term ‘meditation’ in use today corresponds to the term ‘contemplation’ in Christianity.
In a Christian focus, meditation or contemplation is about increasing the personal relationship with God, who is seen as the almighty power.
There are numerous similarities between Eastern and Western religions, and meditation is one.
Is meditation bad? Are there dangers of meditation?
The truth about meditation is there are thousands of different ways to do it. Some people resonate with certain styles more so than others, and thus one form will work better for them than another.
I have never had negative experiences as a result of meditation.
Neither have I heard of any negative experiences from meditation affecting people that I know.
Nevertheless, it is good to be informed of what has been reported:
- Rare cases where some people feel like they are watching themselves and have feelings of ennui and emptiness, disconnection and even fear
- Changes in the sense of self, affecting social relationships
- Mindfulness in calming and focusing might be disempowering or keeping you passive, contained, and compliant, when you need to be angry, distressed, and determined.
You will also find skeptic sites on meditation pretty as much as you find them for anything. Just be aware of the spreading of wrongful and exaggerated rumors from ill-informed presenters.
Can you ever do too much meditation?
Yogis and monks meditate for hours on end.
This is not for everyone.
Buddha, himself, meditated continuously for seven daysunder the Bodhi tree.
This was phenomenal.
As a beginner, you should start at a small duration and build it up over the weeks.
Start with 4 mins and increase it 1 min a week. You are more likely to develop a strong practice this way.
Meditating for 15-30 min a day is probably a good place to be for the average person.
Final thoughts on meditation
Meditation connects Self to a life force energy that abounds naturally but is mostly drowned in an ever more structured and materialistic world. It is one way to strengthen your intuition.
So what is a good meditator? The one who meditates. ~ Allan Lokos
Note: There are various ways to meditate. Some may appeal to you more than others. You can even create your own version to suit you. The most important part, in my opinion, is reaching that deep relaxation.
This is universal. You sit and observe your breath. You can’t say this is a Hindu breath or a Christian breath or a Muslim breath. –Charles Johnson
- Mohandas E. (2008). Neurobiology of spirituality. Mens sana monographs, 6(1), 63–80. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-1229.33001
- Felver, J.C., Jennings, P.A. Applications of Mindfulness-Based Interventions in School Settings: an Introduction. Mindfulness 7, 1–4 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-015-0478-4
| 2017 NHIS Report |