Health / Expert Advice

What Should I Think About When I Meditate?

Meditation isn’t about turning off your thoughts. It’s about becoming more aware of them.

There’s a common misconception that meditation is about “turning off” your mind. This is not true at all, but it can be discouraging when your mind goes rouge while you’re trying to unwind. The point of meditation, though, is to become more aware of your thoughts so that you can better control and focus them. Here, Ceasar F. Barajas, an Aaptiv trainer and a certified meditation and breathing techniques teacher, tells us what meditation is really about and how think while meditating.

The Intention of Meditating

“The idea behind meditation is to slow down the thought process, all while you’re focusing on deep and controlled patterns of breathing and physical awareness,” Barajas explains. Meditation helps you reach a state of consciousness where you’re focused on your inner state. This is why “meditation can happen anywhere, at any time,” Barajas says. “As long as you’re aware of your breathing cycles, it can be done sitting, commuting, traveling, walking, etc.”

What should I think while meditating?

The reason people find meditation so difficult is because they believe that they shouldn’t be thinking at all. However, as you’ve probably realized if you’ve tried it yourself, it’s impossible to be completely clear of any thoughts. The mind tends to wander toward various tasks we need to complete, general worries, or just in random directions based on our moods. “The key is awareness of the thoughts and allowing them to exist without having to take action right then and there,” Barajas says. “You don’t have to think about anything. There is no ‘should.’ The thought process is whatever you’d like it to be.”

Tips to Find Your Meditative State

Meditation seems simple, but some people have trouble really achieving that meditative state. Because we live such an on-the-go lifestyle, stopping is more challenging than taking action.

Barajas shares a great tip on how to achieve that state of consciousness during meditation. “Concentrate on the following breathing techniques (choose to do one or a combination of both). First, fully inhale for three to six seconds, pause for a moment, then fully exhale three to six seconds, and repeat that process. Second, fully inhale three to six seconds, pause, then double the amount of time to exhale at six to 12 seconds, and repeat. As you breathe in and out, simply concentrate on counting the breath. Allow the body to relax as best as possible, and allow the senses to take note of what surrounds you. Sit anywhere from a few minutes up to ten to begin. You can increase the number of minutes as you get more comfortable and as time allows.”

By counting your breaths, you have a focal point to concentrate on while finding that state of consciousness. Yes, you may find yourself still drifting off in your mind. You may subconsciously start running through your to-do list, thinking about what to make for dinner or the errands you have to complete. As soon as you become aware that your mind has drifted off, acknowledge those thoughts. Then, gently bring the focus back to your breathing.

Remember: “Meditation in its simplest form is intentional thinking,” Barajas notes. “It’s taking all of the thoughts that run through your mind and becoming aware and mindful of them but not silencing them.” More than anything, don’t try to overcomplicate meditation. Barajas says, “It doesn’t matter who you are or your background—if you can take one conscious deep breath in and out, then you’re meditating.”

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