What To Think While Meditating

Have you ever sat down to meditate and found yourself wondering, What should I be thinking about? If so, you’re not alone. I remember my early days of meditation when my mind would wander endlessly, making me question if I was doing it right. Many people struggle with understanding what to think while meditating, often feeling frustrated or distracted by their thoughts.

In this post, I will clear up any confusion and share practical tips to help you guide your thoughts while meditating. You’ll learn how to use your breath, mantras, and visualization to keep your mind focused, deal with distracting or negative thoughts, and create a positive mental space. By the end, you’ll feel more confident and ready to make the most of your meditation practice.

The Role of Thoughts in Meditation

Natural Process

  • Many people mistakenly believe that meditation is about completely clearing the mind of all thoughts. This can lead to frustration when thoughts naturally arise, making you feel like you’re not meditating correctly.
  • However, thinking is a natural part of meditation. Our minds are built to think, and trying to force them to be blank can actually be counterproductive. Instead, it’s important to understand that thoughts will come and go.
  • Meditation is not about stopping thoughts but about changing how we relate to them.


  • Rather than fighting against thoughts or trying to push them away, the key is to accept them. When you notice a thought, acknowledge it without judgment. This acceptance can be freeing.
  • Instead of viewing thoughts as interruptions, see them as part of the meditation experience. Accepting thoughts helps create a calm and compassionate mind.
  • By not resisting, you reduce internal struggle, making your meditation practice more peaceful and effective.


  • The goal in meditation isn’t to get rid of thoughts but to become aware of them. Awareness means observing thoughts without getting caught up in them. It’s like noticing a thought without being swept away by it.
  • This mindfulness lets you see thoughts as passing events in the mind rather than truths you need to act on. By cultivating awareness, you develop a sense of detachment from your thoughts, leading to greater clarity and calmness.
  • This skill is valuable both during meditation and in everyday life, helping you respond rather than react to your thoughts.

By understanding these aspects—the natural process of thinking, the importance of acceptance, and the role of awareness—you can approach meditation with a more realistic and compassionate mindset.

Techniques for Guiding Your Thoughts During Meditation

Focusing on Your Breath

  • A simple and effective way to guide your thoughts during meditation is to focus on your breath. Your breath is always with you, making it a natural and constant anchor.
  • To start, sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths to relax. Then, pay attention to how your breath feels. Notice the air entering and leaving your nostrils, the rise and fall of your chest, or the gentle movement of your belly.
  • When your mind starts to wander, gently bring your focus back to your breath without judging yourself. This practice helps you concentrate and stay mindful, grounding you in the present moment.

Using Mantras

  • Another powerful technique is using mantras. A mantra is a word, phrase, or sound that you repeat to help focus your mind.
  • Traditional mantras like “Om” or “So Hum” have been used for a long time, but you can also create your own mantra that feels meaningful to you.
  • Sit comfortably and start repeating your chosen mantra, either silently or out loud. This repetition keeps your mind occupied, reducing distractions.
  • If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the mantra. Over time, your mantra becomes a mental anchor, helping you reach a deeper state of meditation and calm.


  • Visualization involves creating mental images to help guide your thoughts and enhance your meditation. This is especially useful if you find it hard to focus on your breath or a mantra.
  • Close your eyes and picture a peaceful scene, like a beach, forest, or quiet mountain. Engage all your senses—imagine the sounds, smells, and feelings of being there. As you immerse yourself in this mental image, let your mind settle and your thoughts quiet down.
  • You can also visualize positive outcomes or intentions, which can help you feel calm and purposeful. If distractions come up, gently return to your mental image, reinforcing your focus and deepening your meditation.

By using these techniques—focusing on your breath, using mantras, and visualization—you can effectively guide your thoughts during meditation.

Handling Distracting Thoughts

What To Think While Meditating - Handling Distracting Thoughts

Acknowledge the Thoughts

  • One key step in managing distracting thoughts during meditation is to acknowledge them. When a thought pops up, don’t try to ignore it or push it away. Instead, simply notice it. Recognize the thought for what it is—a temporary mental event.
  • For example, if you’re thinking about a task you need to do, acknowledge it by silently saying, “thinking about work.” Then, gently bring your focus back to your meditation anchor, like your breath, a mantra, or a visualization. This way, you avoid getting caught up in the thought and can continue your meditation more easily.

Practice Non-Judgment

  • It’s important to handle distracting thoughts without judgment. Often, we feel frustrated or disappointed when thoughts arise, thinking we’re failing at meditation. But having thoughts is a natural part of meditation and the human experience.
  • Instead of labeling thoughts as “good” or “bad,” just observe them neutrally. By letting go of judgment, you create a more compassionate and patient mental space, making it easier to return to your focus without extra stress or negativity.

Techniques for Managing Distractions

To handle distractions effectively, try these practical techniques:

  • Labeling Thoughts: When a thought arises, mentally label it as “thinking,” “planning,” “worrying,” or whatever best describes it. This simple act of labeling helps create a mental pause, bringing awareness to the thought without engaging with it further. Once labeled, gently return your attention to your meditation anchor.
  • Creating Mental Distance: Imagine your thoughts as clouds passing in the sky or leaves floating down a stream. This visualization helps create a sense of distance from your thoughts, reinforcing the idea that they are temporary and not inherently part of you. By visualizing thoughts this way, you can observe them without getting entangled in them.
  • Breathing Through Distractions: When a distracting thought arises, take a deep breath and use the exhale to release the thought. This physical act of breathing through the distraction can help you refocus and maintain a calm, steady meditation practice.

By acknowledging distracting thoughts, practicing non-judgment, and using practical techniques like labeling and creating mental distance, you can handle distractions more effectively.

Dealing with Negative Thoughts

What To Think While Meditating - Dealing with Negative Thoughts

Observe Without Attachment

  • When negative thoughts arise during meditation, start by observing them without attachment. This means noticing the thought without identifying with it or letting it control your emotions.
  • Imagine you are watching a parade—thoughts pass by like floats, and you simply observe them without jumping on one. For instance, if you think, “I’m not good enough,” recognize it as just a thought, not a truth.
  • By observing negative thoughts in this detached way, you create space between you and the thoughts, which lessens their power over your emotions.

Reframe Negative Thoughts

  • Reframing helps transform negative thoughts into more constructive ones. When a negative thought surfaces, try to see it from a more positive or realistic perspective.
  • For example, if you think, “I always fail at this,” reframe it to, “I’m learning and improving with each try.” This doesn’t mean ignoring reality but rather shifting your perspective to encourage growth and self-compassion.
  • You can practice this by keeping a journal where you write down negative thoughts and then actively reframe them. Over time, this habit can help you develop a more positive mindset and reduce the impact of negative thoughts.

Let Go of Negative Thoughts

  • Letting go of negative thoughts is crucial for maintaining mental clarity and emotional balance during meditation. One way to do this is by using your breath.
  • When a negative thought arises, take a deep breath in and, as you exhale, imagine the thought leaving your mind with the breath.
  • Another technique is to visualize the negative thought in a bubble and watch it float away until it disappears.
  • These visualizations can help you detach from and release negativity. Also, practice self-compassion by reminding yourself that it’s okay to have negative thoughts and that they do not define you. This makes letting go easier.

By observing negative thoughts without attachment, reframing them to find a positive perspective, and practicing techniques for letting go, you can manage and reduce the impact of negativity during meditation.

Cultivating Positive Thoughts

Gratitude Practice

  • Practicing gratitude during meditation can greatly improve your overall well-being. Start by sitting comfortably and taking a few deep breaths to center yourself. Once settled, think of things you are grateful for.
  • These can be simple things like a warm cup of tea, a kind word from a friend, or the beauty of nature. Focus on each item and fully experience the feelings of gratitude. Let these feelings fill your mind and heart, creating a positive and uplifting atmosphere.
  • Practicing gratitude shifts your focus from negative to positive and helps you appreciate more in your daily life.


  • Using positive affirmations is a powerful way to guide your mind during meditation. Affirmations are positive statements that reflect the qualities or outcomes you want to achieve.
  • Choose a few statements that resonate with you, such as “I am calm and centered,” “I am worthy of love and respect,” or “I trust in the process of life.”
  • During meditation, silently repeat these affirmations to yourself, letting their meaning sink in deeply.
  • By focusing on positive affirmations regularly, you can change your thought patterns and develop a more positive and empowered mindset. Over time, these affirmations become ingrained in your subconscious, positively influencing your thoughts and behaviors.


  • Fostering self-compassion and compassion for others is crucial for cultivating positive thoughts during meditation.
  • Start by directing compassion towards yourself. Acknowledge any areas of struggle or pain and offer yourself kindness and understanding.
  • Use phrases like “May I be kind to myself,” “May I accept myself as I am,” or “May I find peace.” After focusing on self-compassion, extend these feelings to others.
  • Picture loved ones, friends, or even people you have difficulty with, and silently offer them compassion with phrases like “May you be happy,” “May you be healthy,” or “May you be at peace.” This practice, known as loving-kindness meditation, helps break down barriers of judgment and resentment, fostering a sense of connection and empathy.

By incorporating gratitude, affirmations, and compassion into your meditation practice, you can actively cultivate positive thoughts and emotions.

Final Thoughts

Meditation is a journey where you learn to understand and guide your thoughts rather than trying to eliminate them. By recognizing that thinking is a natural part of meditation and practicing acceptance and awareness, you can improve your practice. Techniques like focusing on your breath, using mantras, and visualization can help you stay focused.

When distracting or negative thoughts arise, strategies like acknowledgment, non-judgment, observation, reframing, and letting go can help you maintain focus and emotional balance. Cultivating positive thoughts through gratitude, affirmations, and compassion fosters a more positive mindset and deeper connection to yourself and others.

Remember, meditation is a skill that takes time to develop. Be patient with yourself and enjoy the process. Keep an open mind and heart, and let your meditation practice grow naturally.

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