Earlier today I was scrolling through the meditation subreddit when I came across a wonderful thread about the struggles of meditating as a beginner and being unable to focus.
User AndreeSmoothers had asked, “Ive been trying to meditate for a while now and I can never seem to keep my concentration”.
This is a common problem that I often hear myself as a meditation teacher here on The Daily Meditation. Many novice meditators tend to think that the mind should be 100% focused all the time during meditation. However, as any experienced meditator will tell you, that is rarely if ever the case. Indeed, most of the meditation Reddit community replied that they always experience mind wandering when they meditate. This is normal. The mind will inevitably wander at times during meditation. That’s just the nature of the mind.
However, there are some ways we can help ourselves to focus, and there are certain attitudes we can adopt to help us get through those difficult meditation sessions…
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Can’t focus? Tips For When Meditation Is Hard
I was delighted to see that the Reddit community came up with some stellar tips to help beginner meditators with this common problem. Some of the best tips include:
-Get off social media (ironic for a comment on Reddit, but there we are). By stopping using social media we can massively reduce information overload, and when the mind is not so overloaded it becomes much easier to meditate.
-Accept that you will inevitably get distracted from time to time, and simply practice bringing your mind back to the present moment. Redditor FMetals said, “If you get distracted 100 times, just bring your attention back 100 times. That’s it. That’s perfect”.
-Meditate at the quietest times of day so there are less sources of distraction. Reddit user ThrivingAtLife says, “For me it’s midnight, when the neighborhood is asleep and all is quiet.”
Another member of the community recommended actually allowing your mind to wander when it wants to. “Focus on breathing [but] let your mind stretch its legs. Then, when you find a good moment, bring your attention back to your breath”.
Practice with one-word mantras such as “flow” because this gives your mind something to focus on.
Don’t judge yourself for not being able to focus enough. It’s not a competition.
Instead of believing that you failed because you momentarily lost focus, believe that you succeeded because you gained it back again.
Not everyone is suited to seated meditation. If that’s you, practice walking meditation instead.
Remember to be now. One of the main comments I hear from new meditators is that they cant meditate because they lose their concentration. But the word “Mindfulness” does not mean to concentrate. Translated from Pali the word mindfulness means “To remember”. If you lose your focus but then you REMEMBER to bring it back again, that is what matters.
BellaJade said, “When I cant focus, I’ll count my breaths from one to ten and then start back up again”.
“Let the non focus be”. Instead of forcing yourself to meditate, just allow that unfocused state to exist for a few moments, take the pressure off, and then return to meditating when you’re ready.
Try focusing on something other than the breath, such as a mantra, candle flame, Tibetan Singing Bowl, walking, the sky, and so on.
Do what they do in traditional Zazen (zen meditation): Meditate with your eyes open facing a blank wall. This will reduce mental noise but also avoid the daydream state we sometimes enter into when our eyes are closed.
Consult our guide to the common meditation questions and answers.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison