When I first started meditating, I found it incredibly difficult. I was doing a mindfulness practice and I was told not to think. If a thought came up, I should "push it aside". I tried this nonsense off and on for six years. The more I focused, the more I tried, the worse it would become. My mind seemed intent on proving that any effort on my part to NOT THINK would lead to more thinking. Several years later I was initiated into Vedic Meditation. It was pure nectar compared to what I had been doing. Instead of trying not to think, all I did was gently favor a simple little sound and effortlessly listen to it. Bingo! I started transcending and fell in love. Finally something worked!
Then the honeymoon ended. For a brief time I struggled with thoughts. But everything changed when I stopped struggling.
Once we transcend, we quickly get a preference for it over our "stress release" meditation. Fair enough. It feels better. It's more cosmic, and there's proof something happened. Yay! But then we have another meditation where we squirm, check the time, count our money in the back, win the argument we're planning on having with so-and-so next week. But mainly that other meditation is marked by lots of thoughts. It's helpful to remember that this is okay. Thoughts are a part of meditation. In fact, they're welcome! It's my hope that all my students meet their thought-filled meditation with two things: 1) An attitude of non-chalance and, 2) Non-resistance. This will end the struggle.
First, an attitude of nonchalance is helpful because we don't want to train our emotions and nervous systems to reject stress release. When we're having thoughts (an inevitability), we're releasing loads of stress. Stress release causes the mind to think. It may not feel as yummy and cosmic as transcending but the results will change you forever. You'll get rid of fear, agitation, anger, grief, mania, illness, fatigue. Nonchalance is is the attitude that will get us through the 20 minutes. Don't resist thoughts. Why resist them? It won't help at all. Resisting takes effort, and effort (and focus or concentration) excites the nervous system which creates MORE THINKING. Better to relax, don't resist, and just take it as it comes.
Don't resist. "Resistance is futile" says every Hollywood alien overlord and every Vedic Initiator. Instead of resisting thoughts, go with them. Allow yourself to forget the mantra and let your mind wander. It's not about the mantra anyway. It's about LETTING GO of the mantra. When we practice non-resistance in meditation we get better at it in life. Just allow thoughts during your meditation. Content doesn't matter. Just think whatever you're thinking and very easily we return to the mantra. We're always easy and effortless whether we're thinking the mantra or other thoughts.
Be easy. Be effortless. Don't resist thoughts. Go ahead and enjoy them.