Ask a Zen Teacher: How Can I Calm My Mind?



By Daniel Scharpenburg

This is  a regular column where I answer questions that are sent to me. As a spiritual teacher, I am often asked many questions and I’d love to have an opportunity to answer them all.

So, send me some questions. You can send them to:



Q: I want to meditate but I’ve never been able to. My mind just will not settle down. Every time I try to meditate I am really distracted. Is it possible that meditation is just not for me?

A: I get this kind of comment a lot. “I want to meditate, but I can’t.” or “I think it’s great that people meditate, but I just can’t do it.”

I know some people have a lot of trouble with it. I did too, at first. And that’s okay. It’s not easy for us to sit still. We have been taught to always either be active doing things or passive and entertained. Meditation is neither of these things.

Are there some people that just can’t do it? I’m not sure. There are certainly other options available for expanding awareness, such as: chanting, yoga, etc.

Having too much trouble meditating shouldn’t prevent us from being spiritual, or even from being Buddhist if we choose that path. But, I would urge anyone who thinks they ‘just can’t do it’ to try a little more. A lot of people start meditating, but they give up after only a few days.

Does your mind calm down as soon as you start meditating? Probably not. It’s like anything else—a skill to be developed.

I compare it to working out. If I decide I want to be able to life 100 pounds, I can go to the gym and start working out.

Will I be able to life 100 pounds on the first day? No.

In the first week? No.

In the first month?  No.

But if I am very diligent, there will be progress. My muscles will get a little stronger over time. I will see myself able to lift more and more. And after a lot of practice, I probably will gain the ability to lift 100 pounds.

Meditation is the same way. We aren’t building muscles in our brains, but we are strengthening neural pathways when we meditate. The more we do it, the easier it becomes. Our minds slowly gain more clarity and insight. We aren’t able to enter a meditative state on the first try, or the 10th try. But we slowly get better.

So don’t give up. I think you can do it.


Photo: (source)

Editor: Dana Gornall




Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project, the largest virtual mindfulness community in the world.

He was trained and certified as a meditation teacher at the Rime Buddhist Center, where he also spent four years teaching kids about Buddhism and meditation practice. He received additional training in the Zen tradition, both as a Monk in the Korean Zen tradition and as a lay teacher in the Caodong Chan tradition.

He has taken Bodhisattva Vows and the precepts of a lay zen teacher.

His work is dedicated to both sharing his own story and presenting a variety of Buddhist teachings in a way that shows how they are applicable to real life.

Find out more about Daniel on his blog and connect with him on Facebook, Youtube,andTwitter

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By | 2016-10-14T07:50:54+00:00 July 3rd, 2015|Ask a Zen Teacher, blog, Buddhism, Featured|0 Comments

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