Meditation: how to train a wandering mind

woman holding her head - train your wandering mind

Meditation: how to train a wandering mind

To learn to meditate while you move, see the “Steps to Make Any Move a Meditation. In a different post I explained that the fifth step in this process of making any movement form a meditation is to gently bring your mind back when it wanders. You can train your wandering mind.

When your mind wanders, pay attention to two things:

First: remembering.

Ah! I was meditating. Ah! I forgot. Ah! I was distracted. Give yourself a little mental pat on the back for noticing. The mind often hops from left foot to bluebird to our neighbor singing to the dog panting to our grocery list to the local news scene to the fate of the nation to the futility of existence without remembering we were meditating. Some days, that will be the full experience. Give yourself credit when you remember. That’s tremendous.

Second: gentleness.

Notice the tone you take with yourself when you remember. Is it harsh or callous? Are you yelling? Be aware of that. Don’t try to change it. Become awake to the fact that this is how you treat yourself. Let any feeling state that arises from that tone become part of your practice. Open to that harshness.

Do your best to let it transform on its own, into compassion for yourself. It is enough to notice when that mind state arises. Attention to it will “love” it into change.

The most apt metaphor, especially appropriate for a dog-lover like me, is to think of your mind like a puppy you are trying to train to walk on a leash. The puppy has no idea what you want. It wants to please, but it also wants to play. It does not yet know the joy of making you happy. How would you treat this puppy? Would you  yell at it or kick it or yank the leash so hard it was lifted off its little paws? Only a monster would do that, or someone with a temper too short to be trusted with a puppy.

Sadly, that’s how many people treat their minds.

They punish the puppy, or they give up, saying the puppy is not trainable. They don’t have the patience. The owner who loves the puppy into behavior takes the gentle approach. She coaxes the puppy with gentle nudges and reminds the puppy of the way to go. She might redirect  and tug on the leash to get the puppy’s attention.

But she will use positive reinforcement, lots of “atta-girl” and “way to go” cheering on every little step. This is how I trained first Morgan and later Scarlet to run at  my side: gentle nudges with lots of praise.

Work with this attitude. It will take time.

You are learning skills few do. You are teaching your baby puppy mind something new. At first, your mind will not understand the benefit of what you are trying to  teach it. It may resist and throw a little tantrum. Or, it may tell you to quit or try to convince you this is a waste of time. I promise you it is not. You will find benefit,  but only if you give it a chance.


How about another walk? As you move, notice your breath. Find the place in your chest or belly where the sensation of breathing is most readily apparent. Place  your attention there. Let your awareness sink into that as your object of meditation. Continue to attend to the breath until your mind wanders. When you realize your mind has wandered, give yourself a little mental pat on the back for remembering. Then, with equanimity, gently bring your attention back to the sensation of  your breath. If you find any part of this difficult, thank your mind for those thoughts, and again, gently redirect your focus back to your breath. Continue for whatever interval of time you like.

I have included more than twenty exercises in the book Make Every Move a Meditation.

This excerpt is from Make Every Move a Meditation by Nita Sweeney which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.