Many people come to us for therapy believing they cannot meditate.
They have tried a few simple mindfulness and breath awareness techniques; however, they tell us they couldn’t meditate because they couldn’t stop thinking. They either feel bored looking at their thoughts, which they had hoped would stop, or they become nervous because they could not stop the anxious feelings, emotions, and memories that accompany these thoughts.
It is a common misconception that you have to stop thinking to meditate. Rather the opposite is true. When you start off in meditation, the mind will be full of thoughts. This is a sign of success. The attainment of the thoughtless state, the state of Inner Silence, comes later on down the path.
The tragedy is, that because of this initial experience with pure mindfulness techniques, many people close the door on meditation and say that it is not for them. The real problem is that they have experienced only one technique, have not had access to theory, and are unaware that there are many other techniques that can give them a peaceful experience of meditation, even if they are thinking.
Mindfulness is one of the most popular forms of meditation. However, mindfulness, which is really the simple act of paying attention to the present moment and not being lost in thinking and rumination, is only a small part of meditation. It has gained popularity because it has been integrated into mental health programs where it is part of a larger approach to mental health. Mindfulness is not a standalone technique. It supports the clinical psychologists’ treatment of mental illness.
For most people, and especially in a clinical setting, mindfulness needs to be combined with other techniques that enable you to reduce negative feelings attached to thoughts. You need to combine mindfulness with techniques that enable you to cultivate positive feelings so that you develop a positive sense of self-control.
Much more is possible if you understand the theory behind meditation. This includes learning about the structure of the mind, and how to apply meditation to the thinking, feeling, and knowing aspects of the mind.