Ever feel like you have blender brain?

Thoughts and emotions swirling inside of you and no relief from the manic energy?

Here is one of my favorite tools to calm your nervous system. It is called the Mind in a Jar meditation and it is great for people of all ages. The best part… you can do it with supplies from your pantry!

How to do Mind in a Jar Meditation*

Materials: clear vase or jar of water, stirrer, different kinds of beans and whole grains that will slowly sink in water, like rice, millet, or steel-cut oats. (Different colors of sand work as well.)

1. Set the vase or jar before you. Consider that the vase of water is our mind and the different grains are our thoughts and feelings. 

2. Sprinkle a pinch of grains into the jar—selecting a color or texture that feels right for your current thoughts or feelings. Begin to stir slowly so the water swirls around.

3.  Continue adding grains representing different recurrent thoughts. What kind of thoughts do you wake up with normally? Is there a fear or anxiety which troubles you? Or emotions which frequently disturb your peace? Add grains representing each thought or feeling.

4. Begin to stir faster. This is how our minds are when we are in a hurry, stressed, or upset. Often toxic thoughts accumulate over the course of a day.

5. Lay down the stirrer and begin to breathe deeply while you watch the jar. What happens to our minds when we meditate, breathe and ground ourselves? The thoughts or feelings can still be there but rest peacefully at the bottom, because we know how to calm them.

This weekend I taught Mind in a Jar at the Dallas Museum of Art. I was invited to participate in the Oil and Cotton Project Room and loved the chance to teach this tool to curious folks out in the world. Turns out that thinking thoughts is a very common experience… and part of being human.

Mind in a Jar at DMA

Mind in a Jar at DMA (2)

Mind in a Jar at DMA (3)

Many of us have the idea that to meditate successfully we must somehow transcend these thoughts and enter into a blissful alternative state.

Truthfully this is impossible and a frustrating goal.

Meditation can be very effective in helping us disconnect from the thoughts rather than identifying with them. The disconnect itself offers relief and breathing slowly and quietly is a detox for the nervous system. As is the case with all forms of meditation there is no wrong way to do mind in a jar and the benefits will continue long after the meditation is over.

This is a wonderful practice to incorporate into bedtime with children as it allows them to process and digest any fears or troubling thoughts from the day. It is surprisingly soothing for teens and grownups too. Try it! And/or visualize the mind in a jar the next time you find yourself distracted by unhelpful thoughts or feelings. I’d love to hear how it goes in the comments section below.



*Mind in a Jar Meditation adopted from Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community (2011) and Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee MacLean (2004).

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Photo Oct 01, 12 56 17 PMCourtney Pinkerton is the owner of Bird in Hand Coaching and helps busy women create work and lives they love. She completed dual Masters degrees from Harvard DivinitySchool and Harvard Kennedy School in 2008 and writes a popular weekly blog on meditation and other mind/body practices. In addition to one on one coaching, Courtney creates custom-designed retreats and workshops. She lives with her husband and one-time Peace Corps companion, Richard Amory, in Oak Cliff where they try to keep up with their three young children and water their garden boxes. She can be reached at cp@courtneypinkerton.com.