Synopsis & Links
You may think that meditation isn’t an option for you based on what you’ve tried in the past, but if you have a growth mindset about it, most people can find a meditation style that works for them. If you want to, you can meditate too.
https://journals.aom.org/doi/full/10.5465/amd.2017.0033 “individuals with a high learning goal orientation (LGO), high need for cognition (NOC), high openness to experience, and high internal locus of control (LOC) showed a significant increase in creativity when feeling bored”
Topic: A mind that is too loud to enjoy meditation
For ADHDers and the rest of my chaos-brain friends, when the world gets quiet is usually when our brains get loudest. There is no greater distraction than my own brain when nothing else is going on.
What we can do about it:
If you’ve always wished that meditation could work for you, there are plenty of alternatives to the stereotypical sit-in-silence type portrayed in popular culture. Some of them are probably things that you already do without even realizing.
- Guided Meditation
- Walking Meditation
- Focused or mindful journaling
- Focused or mindful action
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Kawai Kitsune by Kevin MacLeod
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If you have ever had your eyes roll all the way back in your head when someone asked you “Have you ever tried meditating?” like it was gonna solve all of your problems, then this is the show for you. This is ex gifted.
Imagine that it’s nighttime. The sky is dark. You turn off all the lights, and put away all of your devices. It’s quiet and peaceful, and you’ve finished up a nice calming nighttime routine. You lay down in the bed, your head resting on a soft pillow. Close your eyes, then what do you experience? Calm relaxing serenity, right?
Or how about a brain that just won’t shut the fuck up?
Okay, chaos brains this episode is for everyone, but my ADHDers especially I’m calling you in. Let’s have a talk, because I know so many of you relate to that experience of being in the calm, quiet, presumably distraction free environment and realizing that your brain is even more distracting in the quiet.
So to start, I want to note that it’s actually been shown that meditation isn’t always beneficial, in particular for certain people who are living with trauma. For other people, though meditation can be part of the toolkit for learning to heal from trauma. All this is to say that I am not a mental health professional and this is not medical advice. Meditation is not right for everyone, and if you suspect you may fall into that category but you still want to try it, I recommend doing it in a safe environment such as with your therapist.
And some other people just aren’t interested in meditation and that’s cool too! But if you’ve ever wanted to bury your head in that soft pillow and scream when someone told you to “just try meditation!” as though you didn’t desperately wish that meditation worked for you, then listen up.
Because by the end of this episode I hope to have planted the tiniest seed of a growth mindset for meditation with these two possibilities: 1. Maybe I really can learn to meditate. And 2. maybe there’s a type of meditation out there that can actually work for me
You hear meditation advice – maybe you’ve even tried it, sitting quietly and uselessly attempting to empty your mind of all thoughts – and then you think that it just doesn’t apply to you because of how your brain works. When you’re in a quiet comfortable space that most people think of as the prime meditation zone, that’s actually when your brain turns up the loudest and starts going 100 miles a minute.
So of course meditation isn’t working for you – but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with your brain, or that your experience is unique or unexpected.
It’s okay if it’s hard. Sometimes people think meditation is supposed to be easy because all you have to do is sit there, and so if it’s hard then that must be a problem. It’s not a problem. It’s supposed to be difficult. It’s hard for everyone when they start.
Another thing that people seem to think is unexpected is being bored. But it’s okay to be bored. It’s actually good for your mind to be bored – boredom boosts creativity, and studies have shown this is particularly true for the gifted folks.
If you feel bored. That’s okay. If you feel REALLY bored, that’s okay. If you feel so bored you think all the cells in your body might vibrate so fast that you’ll spontaneously combust if you don’t jump up or check your phone – that’s okay too. Nothing has gone wrong. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. And it’s worth it to get used to certain kinds of discomfort because they’re actually just growing pains.
Sometimes people think meditation is supposed to work right away. That meditation should make you feel calm as soon as you start it, or at least that you should feel relazed by the end of the session. But that’s just not how it works for most people. Not even for neurotypical people. Sitting still and quiet is uncomfortable for many people, and meditation is a practice. that’s meant literally here. Give it a chance and another chance.
And the final misconception I want to clear up about meditation is that it’s supposed to “work” right away. Like that a ten minute meditation session is supposed to make you into a zen master. It won’t obviously. You might not even feel better after you finish. That’s okay. Meditation is a practice and that is meant literally here.
But don’t worry, I’ve got some ways to make it much less boring and much less difficult.
So to start, I wouldn’t recommend the sitting still and clearing your mind version to begin with, especially for someone with ADHD or any difficulty with racing thoughts. That is only one single kind of meditation, and there’s so, so many kinds available to you. And since we live in a digital world now there are thousands of people at your fingertips who can guide you through how to meditate. I am not one such person, but there’s an unlimited number of high quality guided meditations available for free through apps such as insight timer, or even just on youtube.
There are guided meditations to improve focus, reduce anxiety, and probably just about anything you can imagine. A guided meditation is just what it says on the tin.
Instead of sitting in silence and being expected to know what to do, and actually notice when your mind has wandered away from your breathing and onto whatever thing it is your procrastinating or perseverating currently, you listen to an audio track that tells you what to do, when to breath, what to visualize, if anything, and gives you reminders to release any thoughts that come to you. Some also include progressive muscle relaxation which takes you through tightening and releasing the muscles in each part of your body in a sequence, so you always know exactly what you’re suppose to be focused on.
What was most helpful for me though is that often they also remind you that it’s okay if your mind wanders. I actually didn’t realize that until the first time I did a guided meditation. I thought the goal was supposed to be zero stray thoughts for the time I was sitting there, and that each time my mind wandered I lost a point.
Instead, guided meditation taught me to allow my thoughts, but to not become attached to them. I visualize my thoughts as clouds in the breeze, floating past, or sometimes I imagine tying each thought to a helium balloon as I become aware of it, and letting go of the string so it drifts up and away out of sight (it’s okay – it’s only an imaginary balloon)
Walking meditation is another great choice, and there are guided meditations that are specifically meant to be walking meditations. They’re about taking careful conscious steps. I’ve tried them before and don’t love them, but that’s an option if you’re interested. What I do like, however, is listening to any regular guided meditation track and just walking while I do the practice.
So let me preface this by saying that there are probably some of you listening who are like “yes! I can do this without having to sit in one place? That’s the best” and there are others who are probably on the opposite side of the spectrum, thinking “no I don’t want to do it if I have to stand up from the couch.” I’m one of the latter.
I’m a very sedentary person, and I’ve always been what you might call one of the indoor kids. Like when it was time for recess I wanted to just stay inside with a book while the other kids ran around and played tag or climbed on the monkey bars. I was the same as a teenager and in college and even now they say I’m a full on adult I’d rather stay inside on the couch or cuddle up in bed than have to actually move my body.
So when I have seen people talk about how great exercise is to break through brain fog and gain mental clarity, I’m like yeah I’m totally sure that’s true for people who actually like moving and enjoy exercise, but I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel good for me during, after, or long term.
BUT….y’all… that was before I discovered the walk and talk. I go out by myself on a walk around the neighborhood and just record myself talking. And there is absolutely no better way for me to focus my thoughts on something. It’s how I write the script for every single podcast episode. And it’s also perfect for doing meditation. Open up just about any guided meditation session – although do stay away from something with progressive muscle relaxation because you can’t really do that while walking. And just go through it while you walk.
It still hasn’t made me like exercising or moving my body, but it has definitely changed how I view walks. Taking a walk is one of my first go-tos now when I need to clear my mind or the brain fog has gotten really bad.
10 out of 10 DO recommend
On the other hand, if you need an option for sitting still – I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again – journaling can also be a meditative experience.
It works largely the same way as the walk and talk, but each option has advantages. Where walking helps me to clear the brain fog, it’s hard to actually organize your thoughts unless you can really see them in front of you. That’s why I’m always saying to write everything down.
Journaling in general is by necessity a mindful process. It requires you to reflect and be present with your experiences. But you know I like to use it to dig deeper into a single thought or idea I’ve been working on. I’ve explained before, I like to write out a topic at the top of a sheet of paper and then just write literally anything and everything I can think of about that thought. Call it a brain dump or a thought download or whatever you want, just get every single thought into your head onto your paper.
Meditation doesn’t have to be about a quiet mind. Sometimes it’s about a mind that is talking plenty, but about a specific topic that you want. This is of course also true for the walking and talking that I mentioned earlier. It’s using a meditative practice not to avoid thinking at all, but to guide your focus in the direction you want it to go.
Either of these choices is perfect for anyone whose minds just won’t slow down. In fact, it works in your favor. Your mind won’t show up? That’s great! Write it down! If it goes too fast to write it all down that’s fine, just get as much of it as you can.
But here’s the thing. Meditation doesn’t have to even look like any of the things we just talked about. You don’t even have to adopt any new practices at all, but you may need to tweak your technique. Because meditation can look like washing the dishes, or like gardening, or like woodworking.
Focused or mindful journaling is great for diving deeper into a specific topic, but mindful action is amazing for clearing your mind or gaining clarity. Mindful action really just refers to doing something simple that doesn’t require a lot of mental effort. Most of the time many of us distract ourselves from these things with TV or audio books or cough podcasts or whatever we can to just get through the task. I not only do that myself, but I often recommend it. If you find you just can’t seem to get started on dishes, then yeah turn on a podcast and pay attention to that instead of the dishes. I stand by that as a productivity tip.
However, if you take these simple tasks and actually just put all of your focus on them, on the physical sensations and on the motions of your hands, then it grounds you in the here and now. That’s when it can actually help to settle and clear your mind. What works particularly well here is simple repetitive motions – something like knitting, or even fidgeting. I love a rubik’s cube or one of those wooden puzzles for meditating. But any kind of mindful action can act as meditation to help clear your brain and keep you in the present moment.
Just pay attention to the action and movements of your hands, and just like with any other meditation, be kind to yourself when your mind wanders -because it will!- and just carefully and quietly bring your focus back to your five senses.
So remember that meditation is a practice. It’s not supposed to work immediately, and it’s not supposed to be easy. But the more you work on it the easier it will come, and the more you’ll gain from it. Because in the end that’s what this is really about. You deserve to benefit from your own focus, and I hope I’ve planted a seed today from which a meditative practice of some sort might sprout.
Whatever you do, keep growing.
Before I go, I’m sorry I didn’t have an episode up last week! I’ve been sick since my last episode came out, and although I tried to get this one out in time, I realized I was just working myself sicker. I’m still not back to 100% but I’m feeling much better and taking things slower so the extra week really helped a ton. Thanks for being so understanding!
The last thing is to let you know that there’s still spots in the quest for chaos so go sign up at ko-fi.com/reneliza It’s completely free with purchase of the roleplanning system, but only until the group fills up.
If you don’t know, the Quest for Chaos is an adventuring party I’m putting together in order to slay some goals in 2022. The first group runs from January through the end of March and our quest will be the Search for the Perfect Planner Habit. You’ll work with me one-on-one and in our private group on Discord in order to build a planner habit that works with your needs and of course we’ll talk about how to vary it when you need to inject some novelty.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to use a planner every day and you think having your own real-life GM could help with that, Then go visit my shop at ko-fi.com/reneliza and buy the roleplanning system and get the quest for chaos free for three months, but remember that because of all the individual attention I’m only taking 13 people total in the quest so go claim your spot now.
And umm… One final thing, just for those of you who stuck it out til the end. While I was writing up the script for this episode I came to realize that the reason my mind always talks so loud and fast at me is that when all the distractions are gone, that I’ll have to actually feel something again.
Just something to think about.
Join me again in 2 weeks to have some more discussion about your growth mindset. Until then, byeeee…