When I first started practicing yoga, many things came easily to me. Certain poses reminded me of gymnastics classes from childhood, and the instructor’s firm yet gentle guidance was similar to martial arts classes. But meditation was difficult. I struggled to empty my mind, and I grew quickly frustrated as I mentally reprimanded myself for my impatience, and then reprimanded myself for reprimanding myself. It was a vicious cycle.
The best meditation advice I’ve ever received is to accept the thoughts that come. Instead of trying to push away my thoughts, I now try to acknowledge them and move on. Instead of reprimanding myself, I try to recognize that this is a thought I may later return to, and then let it go. While it doesn’t always work, it’s certainly better than the pit of mental anguish I used to fight to escape.
Yet it took me even longer to realized I was putting clients in this same difficult position when I recommended they hold their questions to the end, or focus on the topic at hand. In essence, I was saying “put that out of your mind,” when I should have realized how impossible that can be.
I’ve recently been introduced to the idea of a “Parking Lot”; a place to park ideas for later conversations. I now take a moment before beginning an activity to ask participants to write down as many “Parking Lot” ideas as they can. It frees up their brains to focus on the activity at hand. By the end of the meeting, many of our parked questions or thoughts will have been shared and addressed, and any that haven’t are saved for follow up.
I find parking lots particularly helpful when asking workshop participants to brainstorm on one idea, when they may have 4-5 ideas fighting for attention in their heads. The benefit to a parking lot is that it’s not quite as final as letting go of an idea. Instead, it’s just a place to hold the unnecessary thoughts for the moment.