Have you ever said to yourself, "I can't possibly meditate. My mind is always running. It just won't stop!" It may surprise you that you're not alone! All of us suffer from some level of running mind syndrome. It's been noted that humans can have between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. That's a lot of thinking! Unfortunately, much of the time our minds are wandering on autopilot. A recent study by Harvard psychologists found that nearly half (46.9%) of our waking time is spent thinking about what's not happening in the present moment. The brain is masterfully designed to learn a task, like drive a car or ride a bike, and switch to autopilot mode where it is free to wander. Have you ever driven somewhere and wondered how you got there? Or forgot where you parked you car? That's your brain in autopilot mode.
The brain is trained to constantly pump out thoughts, thoughts and more thoughts! Thoughts about what we need to do or didn't do. Thoughts about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future. Thoughts about ourselves, our relationships and on and on. These running thoughts can cause stress and anxiety.
The good news is mindfulness meditation can help slow down the constant chatter. Not by clearing the mind, but by helping you notice when your mind has wandered. The goal of meditation is not to completely empty your mind but rather to notice when your mind has wandered, and bring yourself back to the present moment. When you can notice that your mind has wandered, you are able to redirect yourself back to the present moment. Through this noticing, mindfulness practice helps create space between your thoughts, how you feel and, ultimately, how you experience the moments of your life. As you do this, over and over in meditation practice, you build a capacity for sustained attention in the present moment. Mindfulness practice gives us back the gift of the present moment; which, after all, is the only moment we really have to live.
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