How to Handle a Restless Mind in Meditation


Dear Sir,

I've been practicing meditation for the last 7 years but of late I can't concentrate, let alone meditate. I can't control my thoughts and am restless. This is very disturbing because the whole day I feel very bad about it and gradually I'm getting disconnected with my self. Please help me to regain my composure and be able to meditate again.

Thanks & regards,

—shraboni pathak, india


Dear Shraboni,

Meditation fluctuates in ups and downs, in cycles, for all of us: there are wonderful times and others where we don’t seem to get anywhere. It’s good that you write that “of late” you can’t meditate, meaning that at other times it worked for you.

So the first practical step is working with your reaction to this unsuccessful meditation period: learning not to feel bad about it “the whole day,” not even for a minute, as this only increases your restlessness, creating tension. Meditate, do your best, and give the results to God. Relax. Smile anyway. Be patient with yourself like with a child. Patience is the quickest way to God.

Even Swami Kriyananda tells about a period of 1.5 years in which meditation didn’t work well for him. Then the tide changed. So be assured that after some time a better cycle will once again start for you.

Apart from that attitude, of course there are things you can try to control your inner restlessness:

Pranayama before meditation calms and concentrates the mind. Try even breathing for 12 cycles: inhale 8, hold 8, exhale 8. Try to make the counts longer after some time.

– Analyze if it is your daily life which causes you the inner vortexes and restlessness. If so, work on changing that cause. Not rarely the solution to restless meditations lies in our outer life. A good training during the day is to try to remain “even-minded and cheerful at all times.” Daily life and meditation simply can’t be separated.

-During the day, also insert a few silent meditative moments. This will have a positive impact on your meditations.

– Meditate for shorter periods, and make quality be your guide, not quantity. Enter meditation with high energy, give it your best, but then stop earlier than usual, when you see that your concentration is fading. Fill the remaining time with chanting, prayer, or visualization, with whatever inspires you most.

– Personally I have found that some yoga postures before meditation help my mind to concentrate. You may try it, with deep conscious breathing. As a last asana practice Savasana, deep relaxation. Physical tension results in a restless mind, muscular relaxation induces a calm mind.

– Here is something I am experimenting with: if the mind doesn’t want to concentrate, give it a difficult job, for example try with closed eyes to visualize an apple at the spiritual eye. Focus as much as you can, to see it inwardly as clearly as you do with open eyes (this is a technique taught by Yogananda for concentration). That visualization focuses the restless mind. When you are focused again, go back to your meditation technique.

– Do you have a meditation group nearby where you can go weekly? It acts like a “castle,” Yogananda explains, protecting all meditators.

“Go with slow speed,” Yogananda once told Kriyananda, who was so eager in his meditations that it created tension. “In meditation, you should place more emphasis on relaxation.” Maybe he would tell you something similar? Try it.

In divine friendship, jayadev