Calming your thoughts: The counting technique

A mind that just won’t calm down can be really disturbing. Today, we’ll explore the counting technique to help you focus during meditation.

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It is common for beginners to be startled by just how much they get lost in thought during meditation. For many people, this may be the first time they’ve ever paid attention to the way their mind is working, and it can be a little disturbing to discover how quickly and frantically the thoughts can fly around. In particular, an active mind makes it tough to settle into a meditation and many people give up at this point. I don’t want you to give up.

I want you to understand three things:

1. Your busy mind is normal. There’s nothing wrong with it or with you. And, you are perfectly capable of learning how to meditate and be mindful.

2. Learning to meditate is a process no different from learning any new skill. It begins with noticing the noisy mind and proceeds to practice learning how to calm it. You won’t be very good at calming your mind in the beginning, but with practice, your mind will settle down more quickly each time you meditate.

3. You will never shut off your thoughts completely. The human brain is built to think. Meditation isn’t about turning off the brain. It’s about observing the mind without judging it or its thoughts.

Thankfully, there are some techniques you can use to help keep your focus. Today, I want to introduce the counting technique. Next week, we’ll cover the labeling technique.

Counting Technique Instructions

This method is simple. It involves silently counting your breaths as a way to keep your focus.

As you breathe in, silently count “1.” As you breath out, silently count “1.”

On the next in-breath, silently count “2,” and on the next out-breath, silently count “2.”

Keep counting until you reach “10.” Then, if you feel more settled, you can let go of the counting. Or, if you’d like to continue, start counting at “1,” again. It’s best not to go higher than “10,” because if you go to high, you can start getting lost in thoughts about keeping count.

If you lose count, don’t let that concern you. Just start again at “1.” Remember, meditation is the practice of returning to the breath as many times as necessary. Losing count is not a problem and, if you lose count, you haven’t done anything incorrectly. So, don’t chastise yourself. Just calmly start the count at “1.”

Let’s give the counting technique a try:

The following is a 10-minute guided meditation including the counting technique.

Tell me about your busy-mind experiences in the comments, below.


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