How “Reverse Meditation” Tricked Me Into Being More Productive and Mindful

Taking a tried and true method of relaxation and turning it on its head

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash

Regular Meditation Works, but…

There’s no doubt that disconnecting from the barrage of thoughts and feelings for a bit is healthy and helpful. But that’s only one end of the spectrum of how we can handle our overactive minds. That is, classical mediation handles the overactive nature of the mind by refusing to engage with what’s going on in it.

…so Does Meditation…in Reverse

Anyone who has tried meditation probably remembers the simple instructions you get. And they remember how frustrating those simple instructions can be.

How to Do It

Find a place that’s somewhat quiet, where you probably won’t be interrupted for 10 minutes or so. Sit quietly and still, don’t try to think of anything at all. When things pop up in your head, it’s your job to engage with them. Follow them where they take you. But there’s one rule: each thought you engage with, you need to make a decision. There’s a helpful process to help you do that. Which I’ll lay out below.

  • Sit in a comfortable position and be as still as possible.
  • Let your mind wander however it wishes to, without trying to think about anything in particular.
  • Write down anything that you start thinking about that seems like you need or want to take action on it. Basically, anything you feel pulling on you. This could be an idea for something new to try, or something you had previously forgotten you needed to do.
  • Do this for 5 minutes at first, but 10 minutes would be better. Even 2 minutes is better than nothing.
  1. Put a little light bulb symbol next to things you’re not going to do anything about now, but perhaps later.

Why This Works

The reason this practice works is related to the reason why we come up with our best ideas in the shower. It’s when we’re not trying to think of something or when we’re actively trying not to think of something that we often think about a bunch of things.

3 Sneaky Benefits

First, doing reverse meditation helps your become better at mindfulness and regular meditation. I’ve found that by setting aside time to record those ideas that keep popping up in my mind, I get better at leaving them alone when I’m trying to be mindful. I know I’ll take care of them another time, so I’m less likely to get pulled away by them — which helps me be more mindful in general. I’m more present during other parts of the day, which means I’m more likely to do traditional meditation for longer, and not get so frustrated.


Traditional meditation provides benefits by calming the mind and allowing you to observe what’s on it without acting. Reverse meditation is a method for sitting and waiting for things to pop up in your mind, then recording them and committing to doing something about them, or letting them go.

Written by

Author of “The Wabi-Sabi Way” and “Be, Think, Do”. Subscribe to my newsletter “Woolgathering”:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store