I see you, I hear you and I feel you. I used to be this person, too. I used to think it would be impossible to meditate or to even know how to calm my thoughts or my mind. I was so used to being in a constant switched-on mode, my natural pace was rushing from one thing to the next, fitting as many things in as possible, multi-tasking, achieving and succeeding by being so busy in my work and life, and I thought that I thrived on doing a hundred things at once, and living this way. Until my body, and life circumstances, told me otherwise. These days, my pace is very different, but I've also really learnt and understood just how difficult it can feel to switch off, and to even believe it's possible to - and I wanted to share just a few thoughts of mine, here, with support for you.
I know how it feels to be a highly driven person, who finds it very difficult to slow down. I know how it feels to place a lot of pressure and expectation on myself - I still find myself doing this a lot, these days and think it's part of my personality - but I know the exhaustion this can often create. Or the feeling of wanting to keep up with others, or even just this internal battle we have with ourselves, within. The voice that tells us we can 'keep on going' and that to slow is not easy or it's not possible, or perhaps it's not even wise, when there's so much to do.
And amongst all the things to do, our minds are busy, we have so many thoughts we juggle and sift through, and it feel like - how can I take some breathing space, or just pause or stop for a moment? How it even possible to sit still and meditate, where do I find the time to do this, and where do I start - how can I possibly still and calm my busy mind?
One of the very first things I often say, if you're feeling this way, is that you don't need to switch off your mind to meditate. Often, it's just another expectation we place on ourselves - we think that we need to achieve a 'zen like state' of no thoughts, no thinking - to experience any benefits of meditation - when, that's not true at all. I don't believe it to be so, and I know it hasn't been this way for me. We can't possibly switch off our thoughts, BUT we can bring more awareness and calm to the meaning we give to them, or how much we allow them to take over and feel overwhelmed or stressed - and instead, with practice, allow our thoughts to flow, but to find and feel more ease and calm within it. Even just by allowing ourselves to sit for a while - this permission slip and allowance to just 'be' with ourselves - can be the most significant and powerful shift, that opens so much change.
This honesty and willingness to say 'I really desire to feel more calm, and I'm going to create this time and space of myself, and for my whole wellbeing, and everyone else in my life, too'.
I remember days of sitting down to meditate and I had so many thoughts going on, my mind was full of chaos and clutter, my heart was full of sadness of life circumstances I was moving through, and all I wished I could do was literally run and escape it all. Running was my way to ease any overwhelm, stress or anxiety in my life. I would 'run' away from it all, or I would use exercise as my only way to 'cope'. And it wasn't sustainable for me, and it's possibly no surprise looking back, after years of training and pushing myself, that my body just couldn't keep up with this high level of functioning and expectation I was placing on myself. And I carried this through all areas of my life - family, friends, work- everything. I was constantly pushing and striving and 'trying so hard' to do so many things, all the time.
It was so hard to switch off. I found it impossible to even imagine that I could ever switch off, and meditate, or find other ways to feel ease and calm. And I look back now, and just acknowledge the shifts and healing that have come, through being able to choose this, to allow this and to deeply surrender into this. Saying 'yes' to creating this space for stillness within, was the first shift and opening for so much peace to flow in.
We can often, as meditation teachers and passionate meditators - forget after years of being devoted to our own practice, that others find it difficult to get started. But I am always reminded of how it felt years ago for me. When I hear and speak to others who tell me how hard they find it to switch off, to slow down, to hit the 'pause' button, or to even imagine it's possible to calm their minds (and their whole beings) - I place myself into their shoes and life, and I take myself back to how it first felt for me, and what helped initially.
Take the pressure of yourself around meditating - what it should look like, feel like, how it should be, and even how much time you should be creating, or how you see others doing it too.
Take away any expectations you have of a meditation practice, and just gift yourself this initial space, to just simply be. There is no right or wrong with meditation. There is no one way that's going to be right for everyone (this my personal belief, with my passion for holistic support). It's why there are so many meditation practice and ways to practice too - and if you're new to all of this - experiment and try new ways and things, and find what it is, that you can enjoy and commit to. Try it for 30 days and see the benefits it brings.
Learning with someone can be very helpful, so do reach out if having one on one support is something you know you'd benefit from, as I love to support my clients with meditation, and you can learn more about working together here. There are also some wonderful apps that can be a great place to start with finding your own pace and flow - and just gifting yourself 10 minutes of time a day, initially. Download an app like Insight Timer, or others, such as Smiling Mind, or 1 Giant Mind.
There is no expectation or pressure to calm the mind, or to need to switch off our thoughts. What we can learn to do, is to simply allow ourselves just to sit, somewhere removed from the busyness of the day - away from our computer and desk, with headphones if others are around, or in another room if we can - and to just be. As we sit, just notice and become aware of thoughts as they come and go and allow them to be there. Take gentle breaths in and out, slowly, with no effort or force - and just naturally, allowing ourselves to be in this space of stillness and quiet, and to simply allow ourselves just to be. To be present in this moment, here, now. To feel the gift of this time for ourselves. This space to breathe. This space of quiet. This space where the is no expectation or pressure, or the hustle or busyness of everyday. This present moment, where we are giving ourselves permission to pause, to slow down, to rest. If we notice thoughts that come, just let them be there, and then gently bring yourself back to your breath, or to the music you might be listening to, or the mantra you might have (if you learn this style of meditation), and if it feels too much, you can open your eyes and focus on something in front of you, and allow yourself to be present in that and when your thoughts come, bring your focus gently back to that. This is mindfulness technique which can be a beautiful way to start. And if you are choosing a guided meditation, as a way for you to begin, then you might enjoy this 'Soothing Calm Meditation' to begin.
If people say to me 'I can't meditate because I can't switch off' - in all honesty, I say 'well, this is the reason that it would be most supportive to learn'. And most people will often smile or laugh at themselves, because they know within, just how true this is. They're so desiring to feel ease and calm, they are wanting to find and create this space for themselves - and even to be acknowledging that 'switching off' is feeling impossible, is the first step towards opening and choosing this shift and change for yourself, and your whole wellbeing.
If people say to me 'I can't meditate because I have no time', and 'where would I even start'? I begin with what I wrote above - those simple suggestions to try. And I'm often reminded of one of my favourite quotes -
"You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day - unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour" - Sukhraj S. Dhillon
If we are so busy, and we are finding it so difficult to switch off - then isn't that, honestly and truthfully, a calling from ourselves to really listen?
If we are honestly knowing this within ourselves, and we are feeling we can't find any calm, we always have so much going on, we're feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, we're noticing stress and even anxiety, we're not sleeping, or we're needing to sleep too much - or we're noticing other health issues like digestive issues, headaches, pain - the list goes on. It's truly a sign from ourselves and our bodies, to really start to care and tend to ourselves with self compassion. And if I'm truly honest, creating space for ease and calm, to just simply be 'with' ourselves - perhaps is the only 'must' and 'should' and 'need', as our wellbeing is everything and really must be our priority.
If we can find ease and calm within ourselves, we can feel the best we possibly can, and we can also support others to feel this way too. Our energy is connected. If we are stressed, then those around us will feel it.
So, if you are working with others, and you're really struggling to switch off - most likely they will be too - and everyone starts to feel it. If you are running a business and you have a team to support, when you're stressed and anxious, your team will feel it too.
We owe it to ourselves, and to others in our lives -and collectively even more so, I believe - to make meditation, slowing down and knowing ways to switch off - a priority and a 'non negotiable' in our days and lives. Everything improves when we do. We feel the benefits in every way.
We live in a very switched on and busy, 'hustle' culture. BUT it's up to us to choose if we engage with that, or if we take that on, or if we know truly and honestly within ourselves that there is a healthier, sustainable and better way.
If you are finding it hard to switch off, and if you're feeling meditation or other ways to pause and rest, are impossible or difficult for you - now is truly the time to look at that, and to change things for yourself. You will feel so grateful that you made the decision and choice to do so. And I would love to support you in every way.
Katie Jane is a Holistic Therapist, Life Coach, Health Coach, Nutritionist, Naturopath, Meditation teacher, writer and author. Katie has been working in the wellness industry for over 15 years, in private practice and online, and brings all of these qualifications and skills, along with her own lived experiences through challenges, changes and transitions. Her approach to life and wellbeing is truly holistic and unique for each individual. She supports and coaches clients to make powerful changes, to feel calm through uncertainty and change, to embrace self care as a way of being, and to thrive through life transitions.