In the beginning it is not easy to still the restless mind. As soon as it feels the leash, it often rebels by dragging up every possible thought from the depths of memory to the what ifs of the future. Even after all these years, there are times I can not still my mind and reach deep within. Particularly if I am worrying away at an idea or project, my mind like a bulldog will simply not let go. Those times, I console myself that benefit is being accrued even when I do not think I have earned it. Should I give up and not meditate at those times, the ego would feel it has won and be that much harder to quiet the next time.
If a mantra meditation is not working, perhaps one could try a breathing meditation. When comfortable, simply put all of your awareness at the tip of your nose and pay attention to the sensation of the breath going in and out. When the mind drifts, simply bring it back to the breath entering and leaving the nose. If you are a mouth breather like me, you may need to pay attention to the air moving through the mouth as well.
I believe the trick is not to think in a linear fashion but to not think at all. I discovered that when it comes to the computer, I am a power user. I always have a number of things on the go at the same time, but I do that in life as well. Once having successfully emptied my mind the first time, I was hooked. The level of refreshment was on a par with a good night's sleep. I came back from meditation with a clear and highly functioning mind for the rest of the day.
So maybe the trick is to persevere until success comes the first time. It is easily recognized and leaves one wanting more. As with bio-feedback, the benefits to the mind and body are felt very quickly. Had I never progressed beyond that point, I would have continued meditating for the stress release and physical balance alone.
When I began meditating all those years ago, I had to take it on faith that I would succeed in quieting my mind and achieve that still pool surface that I was aiming for. Since I learned to meditate at first directly from another meditator, he was able to keep me from being discouraged as time after time, I felt I had achieved nothing. He kept reassuring me that even when I felt that I had failed, I had in fact not failed at all. He said I was training my mind, and like with a small child, the training must be both gentle and consistent. Just when I was sure it would never happen, it did!!!!!!!!!!!!!
When you spend time in a garden, weeding and caring for plants, what is your mind doing? When we were able to plant a garden for the first time since I was a child, I leaned something I had never suspected. As a child I saw gardening as a chore that I had to do because my mother told me to. As an adult, sitting between the rows of carrots, weeding, I found my conscious mind saying "carrot, not carrot" as I pulled each weed and admired each little carrot top. Meanwhile, I was in a state of such total relation that I looked forward to the next weeding trip. Beets were a bit more difficult to incorporate into a meditation as the beet seeds sprout two or more little plants and all but the strongest one has to be sacrificed so the one will grow big and strong. Since then I have found other repetitive tasks that perform the same function.