When meditating, stray thoughts are like stray cats. A pack of them will wander up to your mind’s doorstep and mewl for attention. There you are, dutifully focused on your breathing and then

I wonder if this will help with my memory

a thought out of left field will insert itself directly onto the blank canvas of your attention. At first you will dismiss it easily because you’re still having fun and excited about telling your friends that you began a meditation routine. Besides,

Joey could never concentrate enough to do this

they say that regular meditation leads to a host of useful benefits like improved focus and the ability

That clock is pretty loud

to work under stress. So you shoo away the random visitors and get yourself back to a place of calm. You are a zen warrior, breathing in and breathing out without so much as a dent in your mental armor. As you settle into your relaxation, the cats get hungrier and more insistent. They can sense halfhearted resolve and they gather for a group attack. You swat them down, one

Might rain tomorrow

by one

That checkout girl was a bitch

as soon as they appear but to no avail. Now that you’ve shown that you can be riled there is no stopping them

I can stop them

Damn it

even if you run at them waving a broomstick and yelling “scat!”

The whole process is infuriating to be sure. Practice brings steady improvement and repeated failure is the only way to build that muscle. The trick is to find your own breath infinitely more interesting than any idea that stalks around outside, vying for your attention. You are here and you are alive, doing the most important thing you can do: being you. There will be distractions

I miss my family

but the ripples in the pool only get in the way of the beautiful reflection staring back at you. Don’t follow the ripples and don’t feed the strays.