How To Meditate When You Can’t Meditate

Sit down, stay still and think of nothing.


This is asking the impossible. I can’t meditate worth a damn.

I get distracted within the first three minutes of my 5-minute guided meditation. I can’t sit still. I want to do things. But I also want to meditate! Because I happen to like inner peace, being self aware and feeling calm and centered.

Meditation is something that we know is beneficial, something we know we maybe should get into for the sake of our inner peace and mental health, but GOOD GOD SO BORING.

I get you and I gotchu, boo. I have some things I do to sort of meditate but in a slightly easier way.

This article is for all my fellow scatterbrained Deedees who do want to meditate but just need a little extra help: Here’s how to meditate when you can’t meditate.

First of all, anyone can meditate. There is passive meditation and active meditation. Passive is harder for the impulsive, easily distracted bouncy ball-babes (but even this can be trained!). Active meditation is something that anyone can do.

The following things are meditation-like exercises that help you meditate, and most importantly: Give you the benefits.

Darling, sitting still for a couple minutes is neither an accomplishment nor the benefit in itself. What you’re looking for here is calmth. Focus. Inner peace. Feeling good. Being in the present moment. That’s the goal. And here’s how to get it by meditating, but making it a little easier on your busy brain.


I started using Mirror Meditation when I was feeling particularly restless, unable focus and prioritise, which resulted in me not getting work done that needed to be done.

I walked up the flight of stairs, sat down in front of the mirror in my bedroom and forced myself to sit there for 5 minutes. I just sat there, looked myself in the eye occasionally frowning when I was thinking about something, but overall just focusing on one point in front of me (my reflection) and breathing. Sitting like this brought me back to myself, helped me refocus and made self aware enough to do exactly what I needed to do.

There’s three reasons this might work for you too. One, you have an interesting stimuli to focus on while meditating. Two, when you are sitting in front of the mirror, literally no escape from yourself, you might come to insights about the things you need to change/fix/do in order to comfortably in the eye. Three, seeing your own reflection increases self awareness, indirectly increasing your awareness of the present moment.

(Pro tip: Don’t hate your face. Don’t judge your face. Your face is your face, and someone out probably loves your stupid face.)


You may go “but Lianne, isn’t this just exercising, come on” and I understand where you coming from, but no. No it definitely is not.

Work-outs are great, clearing your head, giving you endorphins and energy, but it is not necessarily mindful.

I for one can be miiiiiiiiles away mentally while running.  Sometimes literally, thinking of my last half mile and how I’m gonna blast Thunderstruck (as always). Sometimes, mentally compiling grocery lists, imagining myself in various apocalyptics scenarios or going over work-stuff.

Lately, I’ve been trying to run mindfully. I breath more rhythmically, I bring myself back to the present every time my thoughts take a gander with me, I try to really focus on myself and my environment.

Consciously adding more deep breathing technique, bringing your mind back to the Now while you exercise, can help you get that in the moment mind that you’re looking for.

I encourage you to give it a try. Next work-out, really breathe. Really feel. Really look around. Continuously reapplying conscious attention to your activity, your breath, your surroundings, your body. Keep bringing your mind back if it wanders. See what happens.


The trick for most of these slightly-different-meditation exercises is that you add something. Something that is not so big it consumes your entire mind, but interesting enough to focus on while the rest of you tries to really relax, breathe and meditate.

Just passively sitting is too passive for me. I need a little extra.

I have always loved poetry (fuck me and my pretentious ways, right?). The words do something to my mind; sometimes things suddenly click when I read a certain phrase or a line…They make me realise things about my self, my life, my relationships, my philosophy.

And that relaxes me. What I do is I read poetry and sometimes I will find a line that just resonates with me, for whatever reason. I then close my eyes, focus on that sentence completely, take a few breaths, let my thoughts do whatever, no judgement. Then when I feel I’m done, I open my eyes and continue reading.

I sometimes do this for 10-15 minutes when I have a break from work or before I go to bed.

In the past 6 five years, I’ve worked my way through Penguin’s Poems for Love (faaaavorite), Poems for Life and A Poem For Every Day, I’m currently reading all the works by Rumi, and on my Poetry Wishlist (which I have decided is a thing) after that it’s Maya Angelou, Bukowski and Walt Whitman.

It’s not for everyone, I understand that. But if you sometimes have that ‘oh God yes, this’-feeling when you read an inspirational quote? Poetry-meditation might work for you too.

These are the ways I meditate, as they relax me, help me focus and bring me back to the Present, with less of my judgmental bitchiness I carry naturally.

Little other things I also try to do:

  • Put on music and then put my phone away for the entire commute. I often fail, but by breathing and focusing on the music I get more chill too.
  • Put on music first thing when I wake up, without looking at my messages, and do my morning routine listening to my favorite music without anything else already going on in my head.

Here too, I use music as something to occupy parts of my brain with while the rest relaxes and focuses.

Maybe these tricks can help you learn how to meditate when you can’t meditate either. Extra tricks (and poet recommendations*) are more than welcome in the comments.

Later babes.

*My more modern favorite poets are: Rudy Fransisco, Warsan Shire, Rawr I’m Derek (if he’s not doing extreme I-love-you-no-wait-you’re-the-worst 180s with his (now ex) girlfriend, Tyler Knott Gregson, Madisen Kuhn (M.K.) and Zachary Cabellero.

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  1. I just wanted to recommend the mindfulness meditation app that I’m using. It’s called Buddhify and it has lots of short guidet meditations, some of them are even meant to be done while you’re doing stuff like walking, cooking or doing chores! Works really well for me

  2. Also want to recommend an app. I really love Headspace. It’s a great way to start meditating if you have no idea where to start, or if your monkey-mind just won’t shut up :).

  3. –> ‘imagining myself in various apocalyptics scenarios’ <–

    Love the poetry tip! Definitely with you on the Poetry Wishlist thingy.

  4. Just started yoga bitch 🙂
    Guess i should do more mindfulness activities so that I can “get it”. You know like seriously “get it” :p

  5. Ik zat te lezen in de self help columns van Oliver Burkeman in the Guardian en kwam deze tegen: ‘in meditation, many teachers will tell you, the crucial bit isn’t concentrating on your breath. Rather, it’s the bit where you realise you’ve stopped concentrating on your breath, and drag yourself back to it’ –
    Wel toepasselijk, toch? Dan ben je zelfs in het voordeel met je monkey brain: extra kansen om je bewust te worden van het afdwalen, waar de waarde van de oefening in zit. Ikzelf houd het ook geen vol uur vol op een meditatiekussen, maar vind een korte sessie ook al heel nuttig.