What do I do if I’m restless while I meditate?

Most meditators get restless sometimes. If you happens to you, try getting curious about what's going on in your head when you feel that way. When we get restless while meditating and just reactively act on it, as opposed to observing it and allowing it to move through our bodies, then we're fueling the energy of the restlessness and as a result, it grows. Instead, see if you can pause and notice the sensations in your body that correlate with the feeling of restlessness and acknowledge them. 

If you feel restless, you can also try changing the focus of your meditation to the feeling of the whole body sitting and the sounds that are in your environment. When you do that, there's a bigger 'space'. Imagine trying to hold a whale in a small aquarium. The movements of the whale would cause quite a lot of stirring in the small container. But if the whale was in the ocean, the movements of the whale would be much less noticeable. Similarly, if you expand your field of attention, uncomfortable feelings will be less dominant in your awareness.

You can work with restlessness in a variety of ways when doing concentration practice. You can use the mental note "restlessness" and keep coming back to your anchor, treating the sensation like any other kind of distraction or hindrance. It's also important to check the attitude in your mind. If you're feeling resistance or aversion to the restlessness and you wish it wasn't there, you might strengthen or feed the restlessness. If you notice you're pushing it away, switch it up and turn your attention towards the aversion you feel, instead of the restlessness. Get curious about how it feels to experience something unpleasant like this. There’s no need to get rid of it — you can practice bringing your curiosity and mindfulness to this particular quality and that practice can help you deal with other things in the future that get annoying or which you're resisting. Restless can be a good thing to practice on!

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