What happens to you when you sit for a few moments of peace and quiet or when you rest in meditation? Thoughts, emotions, sensations, urges pass through our mind within a few minutes of quiet, especially if we are just getting accustomed to a mindfulness practice.
One technique to combat this constant stream of distractions is labeling emotions and thoughts as you bring your attention to them. Labeling reminds us to make note of the interference and then to let it go. This technique is also known as mental noting for meditation practitioners.
Here’s how to start the practice of labeling emotions and thoughts:
- Sit in a comfortable position on a chair, the couch, or even on the floor.
- Breathe naturally and fix your eyes before you so that you can draw your attention to within yourself.
- If you feel an urge to scratch your nose or get up, label it in your mind or with a whisper: an urge.
- As thoughts arise in your mind, instead jumping on that train of thought, label it: a thought.
- If you feel any body sensations, like a foot tingling or a body ache, label it: sensation.
- A feeling of worry comes over you after the intrusive thought so label the feeling: worry. Repeat the word as necessary and notice how many times you need to say it.
- You can get as specific as you like with your labels or keep them general. For instance, if you hear a noise, you can label it: hearing. Or, if you are wanting to get up, you can label the feeling: wanting.
Begin a practice of labeling your thoughts and feelings so that you can resist the temptation of attaching to them during your practice of mindfulness. Labeling helps us detach and draws our attention back to the present moment.
The point is not to judge the feelings or ourselves for having these thoughts and emotions but to learn to allow ourselves some time for peace. If this is a struggle, practice some self-compassion.