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I’ve been meditating every day for a couple of weeks now, but I still find it really hard to stay focused. For example, I’m supposed to be focusing on my breath, but I find myself thinking about dinner, or what I need from the shop, etc. What am I doing wrong, or how can I stay focused? It’s really frustrating! ~ Jenny W.

Hi Jenny.

That’s a great question. And you should know, losing focus is something that even the Buddhist monks do sometimes.

In fact, losing your focus isn’t a problem, providing when you notice you’ve drifted off, you bring your focus back again.

Mindfulness isn’t necessarily about being mindful the whole time. Your mind is a complex organism, with its own set of rules. sometimes it’ll go off on it’s own. Your only job, is that when you notice you’re not paying attention any more, you stop the rogue thoughts and start to focus again.

The definition of mindfulness posed by Jon Kabat-Zinn is

“paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally”.

 

So, don’t judge yourself when it happens. Just notice that it has happened, then bring your focus back to your breathing, etc.

Mindfulness is all about accepting ‘what is’, not being frustrated when things aren’t what you’d like them to be. Give yourself a break. Accept that no one is perfect and continue on.

In fact, again quoting from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Mindfulness for Beginners‘   he describes the following, about thoughts that interrupt you during meditation…

… On some occasions your thoughts might tell you how boring meditation is, how silly you were for thinking that this non-doing approach might be of any value, given that it seems to bring up a good deal of discomfort, tension, boredom, and impatience.

You might find yourself questioning the value of awareness, wondering, for instance, how awareness of how uncomfortable you are could possibly “liberate” you, or reduce your stress and anxiety, or help you in any way at all above and beyond just wasting time and succumbing to endless tedium.

This is what the thought-stream does, and that is precisely why we need to become intimate with our minds through careful observation. Otherwise, thinking completely dominates our lives and colors everything we feel and do and care about. And you are not special in this regard. Everybody has a similar thought-stream running 24/7, often without realizing it at all.

Incidentally, if you have a some time to spare, I’ve been told there may, or may-not be a YouTube version of the audiobook. But, even if you did have a couple of hours spare to listen to it, why would you? Just go buy the book, it’s worth it 🙂

There are a few bits of advice though. Each of these worked for me, but they may not all work for you specifically. Try them and see how you get on 🙂

  • If you’re using ‘silent meditation’ (guiding yourself through the process), it will probably be worth using a ‘guided’ meditation practice, at least for a while longer.  – I know they’re pretty generic, but I’ve noticed, if I’m listening to someone else’s voice, it’s a bit harder for my mind to wander. (I’m a man though, so I find it difficult to concentrate on more than one thing at a time 🙂 ) There are some recommendations at the end.

 

  • Begin small – It’s recommended that you meditate everyday, if possible. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it for 30 minutes each day. Start with 2 minutes, then increase it when you feel you can hold your focus throughout.

 

  • If it’s still a struggle, try this short, ‘Go-To 3-Minute Meditation To Stay Focused’ with Deepak Chopra in the following video.

Recommendations:

Best Free/Paid Meditation App –

Insight Timer

insight Timer App logo

 App store Google Paly

This app is the top rated meditation app on both the Apple App Store and the Play Store.

from the developers blurb……

With 100+ new free guided meditations added daily, more meditation is practiced on Insight Timer than anywhere else. Great for both beginners and experienced practitioners.

FREE FEATURES:
* 40,000+ guided meditations
* Select by time for short meditations when on the go, helping you to build a simple daily habit
* Thousands of music tracks and ambient sounds to calm the mind, focus, sleep better and relax
* The world’s most popular meditation Timer
* Follow your favourite teachers
* Thousands of discussion groups and community features
* Stats and milestones for tracking your progress

 

Best FREE Meditation app –

UCLA Mindful  App

UCLA Mindful App Logo

 I regularly use the Android version. It’s free to download and use.

App store Google Paly

from the developer’s blurb…

This app offers:

– Basic Meditations for getting started, in both English and Spanish
– Wellness Meditations for people suffering from challenging health conditions
– Informative videos exploring how to get started, supportive meditation postures, and the science of mindfulness
– Weekly podcasts from UCLA’s Hammer Museum– a 30 minute meditation on different themes you can search for and bookmark
– A timer to meditate on your own

If you don’t want to use your phone, you can stream, or download the meditations directly from the UCLA website.

If I can be of any more help, let me know. Or if you’re someone reading this, who can add their tips, etc., please drop them into the comments.

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