People often believe they've failed at meditation if their thoughts wander.
In reality, it's this type of judgment that keeps you from reaping the benefits, says Jessica Willis, a yoga and meditation instructor at Equinox Williamsburg in New York City.
Distracted thoughts are pretty much a mid-meditation guarantee, even for the most experienced people, Willis says. The key is to notice the distraction without dwelling on it.
One way to do this is to visualize writing the thought on a post-it note, tell yourself it's something you should revisit later, then return your focus to your breath or mantra.
The bottom line:
The worst thing you can do for your practice is be overcritical, which increases the chances that you'll give it up. By sticking it out for a whole session—even if your thoughts wander throughout—you make meditating a habit. That's the only way you'll get long-term benefits like increased patience and self control.
Willis recommends beginners start with 10 minutes every day, using a guided program like one of Equinox’s HeadStrong meditations.