Many people have judgement about their busy minds when they notice all the thoughts that come up in yoga or meditation. This borage of mind stuff can definitely be overwhelming, but it is absolutely normal. It is almost like you never knew you were trapped inside a movie and once you wake up and notice, the noise of it can be overwhelming. Yoga and meditation practitioners in western media are often pictured either looking very “peaceful” in a meditation posture or in an extreme asana that is physically unavailable to most of the population. This can lead to unrealistic expectations that may cause unnecessary pressure to achieve a state of perfect peace or perfect posture very quickly. This is not likely to happen.
So, what to do? Firstly, know that a “busy mind” is just the nature of the mind. Secondly, and you may not want to hear this one: practice patience. In some cultures, it is readily accepted that peace is a quality that will take a lifetime to achieve. In the West, we have an idea that change should happen quickly. But peace takes patience, so back to the mat we go.
It is helpful to remember that attention to the breath creates space between fluctuating thoughts and results in more frequent experiences of peace within. A highly motivating outcome! It is from this experience of large gaps between thoughts that people use the term “quiet mind”, but it is a misunderstanding to think that it is a lasting state. Your attention on the breath has slowed the momentum of the mind, yet your mind is a mechanism ready to be re-activated and recurring thoughts will certainly return.
So ultimately, don’t be concerned about lots of thoughts in your yoga or meditation practice; if you’re noticing them, you’re on the right path! What I’ve found most helpful is to keep up the practice, continue watching the breath and do your best to refrain from judging yourself. The pace of the thoughts will change day to day given what environment you’ve been in, who you’ve been hanging around, where your attention has been, what you’ve eaten or drank, and what emotional or thought patterns from the past may have been triggered recently. So whether this happens in your asana practice or off the mat, don’t fault yourself and label your “busy mind” as another problem! Simply watch it, continuing to cultivate the observer, and practice being loving and compassionate towards yourself.
Many blessings on your path.
Alexandra Ricard, MA, RCC, is a registered clinical counselor, mindfulness educator and yoga teacher. She has used mindfulness and other mind-body approaches to work with youth and adults in the child welfare system, the addiction services system and in private practice. Alexandra has delivered numerous yoga and meditation workshops as well as integrating mind-body approaches into counselor training as an instructor at Rhodes Career College. Alexandra currently specializes in using mindfulness-based approaches to help youth, adults, and families manage stress and increase wellbeing.