It doesn’t matter whether you are new at meditation or a seasoned practitioner, sometimes, for one reason or another, practicing can become, well, challenging. When things just aren’t flowing, wanting to meditate turns into “should meditate” or even the dreaded “have to meditate”. What was once a life tool for raising consciousness, improving our lives, and reducing stress can turn into another item on the to do list. Why does this happen?
1) You are unsure why you are meditating
Why is a meditation practice important to you in your life? Does it help you remain focused and calm? Has it helped you raise your level of consciousness on your personal spiritual path? Maybe it has relieved the stress you feel at work.
Making sure you never lose sight of your reason will keep you motivated to continue. Write it down and put it somewhere you can see it. Think or write about the progress you have made. What does a successful meditation practice look like for you?
Lastly, never do anything simply because someone else thinks it’s a good idea. Do it because it’s important to you. Get motivated and prioritize the way you want to live your life.
2) Doing too much too soon
It’s important to meditate at a length of time that is realistic for where you are currently at. If you’re a beginner, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend an hour a day right away.
It’s advisable to begin moderately at a length of time that’s comfortable for you and progress from there so that you are actually enjoying what you are doing.
When trying to create a new habit, it’s easier to make it doable so that you are more likely to feel good about what you are creating in your life and be excited to continue.
Take it at your own pace and practice a little self-compassion. If you tend to overwork and push yourself in daily life, consciously try to take it slow and allow yourself the freedom to progress at a comfortable rate.
Progress, whatever that means to you, will manifest itself in due time.
3) Expecting to be “good” at it
I have heard many people say that they have tried “the meditation thing”, but weren’t any good at it. The thing is, when we set out to do anything with a clear expectation in mind and focus on outcomes, we will almost always be disappointed.
When we sit down to meditate, we have an experience. Sometimes our mind is incessant; sometimes all we do is bring our minds back only to have them run off again. Does that mean we should give up?
Approaching meditation in the hopes of being “successful” will lead one to feel discouraged. We live in a world where hard work and a “go getter” attitude will give us what we want, yet this mindset will only leave us frustrated when it comes to an inner practice.
Cultivate the mindset of acceptance, curiosity and awareness when you sit down. Being alone with your thoughts isn’t an easy thing to do and it can often bring up feelings of agitation, confusion, aggravation and annoyance. This is normal.
Again, being an impartial observer to these feelings can be a life altering activity. Through this practice we can become aware that likes, dislikes, and thoughts are not our true selves.
The point is to accept, with humor and lightness, if possible, where we are without judgment or labels.
After your meditation practice, no matter how “great” or “badly” you did, get up and let it go. Accept and acknowledge the experience you had. This act can teach us to avoid attachment to outcomes.
4) Too much mind and not enough heart
We tend to live in our heads a lot. We overanalyze and think all day long. We are asked what we think and what we believe in, however we are hardly asked what we feel to be true or what we have experienced at a deep level.
Meditation can be an invitation to think less, feel more and approach the practice with the heart. We can use the breath as a means to silence the mind. Then start to feel and perceive in the heart.
The mind can only take us so far. Once we feel comfortable with the science of techniques, we can start to explore the art of meditation – perceiving with the heart.
I recommend after you are finished with your meditation technique, (watching the breath, use of mantra, etc.) that you sit for at least a few minutes in silence, allowing yourself to start to feel with the heart. This in turn will help you cultivate intuition, pure awareness and subtle perception.
5) Restlessness of the mind and body
Restlessness, both of body and mind is quite common and is something I experience myself. When the mind is scattered and full of thoughts, use the tool of awareness and curiosity without judgment, however try not to engage those thoughts.
When practicing a technique and you notice you have wandered, simply bring yourself back to the point of concentration. Over time, you will notice, it will take less and less time to notice that your mind has wandered off. This is greater awareness.
I am a person who likes to write to-do lists, both on paper and in my head. I have found it helpful before sitting down to meditate that I dump my lists and ideas on paper so that I have a clear mind, yet I know my ideas are safe.
Once they are down on paper, I consciously allow myself to forget about things for a little while. This can be difficult at first, but again, start small.
Restlessness of the body can be helped by an energization or yoga practice. The activity should be energizing, especially to the spine, however should not be overly stimulating.
A Hatha Yoga practice or a meditative walk are both perfect precursors to seated meditation.
Meditation does not always come naturally to many of us, however facing these challenges head on will help us move past them and learn valuable lessons about ourselves In the process. As Paramhansa Yogananda once said:
“Don’t feel badly if you find yourself too restless to meditate deeply. Calmness will come in time, if you practice regularly. Just never accept the thought that meditation is not for you. Remember, calmness is your eternal, true nature.”