Clearing My Mind Before Meditation

I’ve tried on and off for years to meditate. There are a number of benefits to meditation including decreasing the effects of stress and improving focus. Some days when I’ve meditated I find that I’m getting closer to successfully reaping these benefits. Other days, I’ve felt myself unable to even focus and feel less stressed during meditation, let alone the rest of the day.

Meditation in a yoga asana
CC-BY Amilia Tennakoon
I’ve tried a few different apps for meditation including the free sessions available through Calm and the always free Smiling Mind. I enjoy both, but haven’t seen enough of a benefit from using Calm to get me to pay for the subscription. That might change in the future, but for now, I’m not there yet.

When using these apps my mind often wanders, which, as the person leading these meditation practices notes, is perfectly normal. My mind is doing what it does. My problem has been how hard it is for me to bring my focus back to my practice. I inevitably thing of something I need to take care of and end up repeatedly thing that I need to remember to do that thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s not an important thing, it’s still there. I generally meditate for short periods, maybe 10-15 minutes and I’ve been spending far too much of that time with “to-dos” bouncing around my head.

As part of my weekly review that I do (it’s a GTD thing) I do a “brain dump”. I spend several minutes writing down everything that’s on my mind, every to-do, every idea, everything to make sure that nothing slips through and I can get to-dos into Omnifocus and ideas into my notebook. Last week I had the idea of doing this before my meditation practice. Sure enough, while my brain might still go to-do or idea, I’m finding it much easier to pull myself back to the meditation because I’ve likely already written down what I’m thinking about. I think this might even lead to me trying to mediate longer.

Doing the “brain dump” before meditating has not only improved my practice, but also reminded me that something that works well in one part of my life, might also work well in others. I’ll need to keep that in mind.

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