One of the many, many hurdles on the meditation path is speed. People want to rush things. They want results now. They want to enter an altered state of consciousness now. Hurry it up with the inner peace, would you?
Here's the truth: you do not get results by rushing. The only way to succeed is to take it slow. I mean that it takes time to build up your skills. No one is great at turning their attention in on itself in an instant.
I also mean something else by that remark.
You can think about meditation at the macro level. You develop this ability through skilful practice. This process takes time, no question.
Just like any other talent.
It's also true at the micro level, in the moment.
If you can not clear your mind of thoughts, that's okay. Here's a technique for meditating anyway.
What's the difference between the mind of a monk and the mind of your typical, cubicle-dwelling office worker? The one in the robes is in a state of perfect calm, stillness and tranquility. The corporate drone is balancing a million thoughts. Some are related to work and office politics, others are not.
Really consider it. What's the difference?
Suppose a thought does enter the monk's mind. Is it the same kind of thought that floats through the corporate lackey's mind?
No. You're probably realizing that the monk's thought is slower.
What does it mean for a thought to be slow? Think about your own thinking. A lot of it comes in loops. Maybe you have an unfulfilled dream that makes you unhappy, which makes you want the dream even more. Maybe you're simply noticing something that reminds you of something else, which makes you notice even more of the first thing.
A slow thought is one that moves through the loop slower. You become more conscious of the nature of the loop and how one thought leads to another.
Another way to think about it is having a song stuck in your head. Your thoughts will synchronize to the tempo of the music. If the music slows down, so do the rate of your thoughts.
By the way, this literally happens to me. Any song in my head tend to slow down so much it will become unrerecognizable.
How do you do this? I'll give you a hint: if you start to think “yes! It's working! Look how slow those thoughts are going! Amazing!” then you're doing it wrong. All of your thoughts have to slow down, including those that observe other thoughts.
It's like taking energy out of the system. Everything calms and settles.