Trying to stop your mind from wandering during meditation is nigh-on impossible. I know, as it happens to me literally every time I meditate. It's like my mind races to fill the space I'm trying to create with to-do lists, weekend plans, and reminders. But over the years, I've developed some techniques to help bring my attention back to the present. I've learned these from Buddhist nuns and monks, friends, and the good ole' internet. Here are three of the most useful ways to gently catch hold of your wandering mind and lead it back to concentration.
In the breathing meditation I first learned when I started my meditation journey, the focus was on the nose. My Buddhist nun teacher used to regularly remind us all to "focus on the subtle sensation of breath, at the tip of the nostrils." More than 10 years on, I still remember the exact phrase she used to help guide us back to the breath. By paying such close attention to such a tiny physical feeling, your mind has something visceral to concentrate on.
It's inevitable that many thoughts will come into your mind when you try to meditate. When we free up some space in our minds, we unconsciously rush to fill it with thoughts. When this happens, don't try to ignore them. That will only make them shout all the louder! Instead, acknowledge them, and then let them pass. A useful bit of imagery I was told about in my classes was to imagine them as clouds floating by. Picture your mind as a blank blue sky and your thoughts as white clouds. Observe them pass through your consciousness and then exit stage right.
Bringing your attention to your body can get your focus back to the present moment. Try to feel your connection to the surface you're sitting or laying on. Sweep your attention up your body, starting at the toes and noticing how each part feels and where it is placed. Refine your position by sinking deeper into your chair, bed, or the floor.