I used to not know how to respond when someone would say to me “I can’t sit still” or “I can’t focus” when speaking about meditation. The passing thoughts, the sounds in the background, the itch on the tip of your nose, and all of the distractions that come up during meditation are all invitations to presence.
This is a universal knowing - our mind was designed to think, to keep us alive and at times even to entertain us. I find myself coming back to my meditation practice when these default primal mechanisms start to run my life. Entertaining thoughts become boring, protective thoughts become anxiety and intellectual thoughts become uninspired.
So how do we resolve this? I have found that it is helpful to first acknowledge the limitations of our primal brain. This can be done through a kind of observation in our meditation practice. For example, Imagine the passing thoughts or distractions as though you were watching a movie on the big screen. You are simply in the audience observing the coming and goings of the scene playing out in front of You. Next you may notice the mind starting to play tricks on you, It might bring up deep insecurities, drama from the past or future, You might all the sudden find yourself completely lost in Imaginationland. This is the moment of grace in which we can choose to accept the invitation to “come back” to the breath.
Our breath is a function that is both voluntary and involuntary. When our mind is focused on the depth and sensation of our breathing we call that “Mindful Breathing”. We use this mindful breathing as a path back from La La Land back to the present moment. This kind of practice is a literal reprogramming of our mind & body and in how we interact with our primal brain. The mind may very well continue to do what it is made for - Wandering off or bringing up brilliantly distracting thoughts. But gently remind yourself that we are here to observe, not interact. Over time the mind and body begin to settle and the entire practice deepens. The practice is always evolving, be with the breath and everything changes.
Like a stone that has been dropped into a calm body of water, the steady ripples of the mind become less and less until it is moves toward complete peace.