You’re convinced of all of the benefits of meditation and really believe it can improve your life. You’ve listened to some guided meditations, perhaps attended a group meditation session, and you understand the basics. However, when you make the intention to sit at home and practice, either it doesn’t happen at all or it is so difficult that you give up. You don’t have time. Your mind is too busy. It’s too uncomfortable. You just can’t do it.
These are extremely common thoughts at the beginning stages of establishing a meditation practice. All of these difficulties happen to almost everyone, so know that you are not alone! I felt this way when I started too and it took me years to get past some of these obstacles and really commit to meditating daily. And now that I’ve (mostly!) passed these initial challenges, I can share how you too can get past these hurdles.
Below are the most common issues that people I teach raise with me and some suggestions on how to deal with them.
1) Not enough time
Not having enough time is the most common complaint I receive. Your days are so busy – how are you supposed to stop doing everything for 10 minutes? It’s impractical.
Except that it’s the best thing you can do for yourself to allow the rest of your day to flow with ease. Putting this time aside for yourself allows you to restore, re-balance, and gives you mental space so that all of the thousands of thoughts swirling around in your head can organize themselves more efficiently. Most people come out of their meditation feeling refreshed, with more clarity, patience and focus to tackle the rest of the day’s tasks. Once you start meditating every day, your productivity will increase and you will find that you have even more time throughout the day than you did before!
2) Feeling restless or impatient
As you sit, it is common to feel impatient or restless, as thoughts of what else you could or should be doing arise. This is completely natural, as we are so used to constantly “doing” that just sitting and “being” can be extremely uncomfortable. But it is exactly because it is uncomfortable that it is so helpful, as we need to re-train our minds and bodies to rest and be present.
It takes practice to be able to sit through these urges to stand up and get back to our to-do list, and it is this practice that is the basis of meditation.
3) So many thoughts!
“My mind won’t settle.” “I can’t do it.” “I have too many thoughts.” This is so common that I think every single person who begins a meditation practice feels this way. Our minds are intended to have thoughts, and have never stopped having thoughts our entire lives. How can we expect our thoughts to just magically disappear the first few times we sit quietly? It’s impossible and it’s not expected whatsoever in meditation.
What you are trying to do as you meditate is OBSERVE your thoughts, without getting caught up in their story, and then come back to your point of focus. THIS is the practice of meditation - coming back to your point of focus over and over again. Eventually, the space between getting distracted and realizing you’re distracted will decrease, and your thoughts will begin to settle on their own. There is nothing you can do to speed up this process except practice.
Treat yourself as gently as you would treat that puppy: with patience and kindness. It is your mind’s purpose to think - you can't blame it for doing its job! Gently bringing your focus back over and over again will eventually train it to remain focused for longer and longer periods of time.
4) Feeling as though you’re doing it wrong
No you’re not. I promise. If you are sitting quietly and trying to focus on your breath or the present moment, you are doing it right. If you end up thinking the entire time you are sitting and notice that you spent the entire time thinking, then you are doing it right. It is the noticing part that is meditation. Being aware of what is going on is the key. So no matter how distracted you feel, how uncomfortable you are or how little focus you have, as long as you are aware of this occurring, you are meditating correctly. Focus and a quiet mind will come with practice and time, so don’t expect it to come right away. If our minds were already quiet, we wouldn’t need to meditate.
Meditation is not easy. But it is the effort and dedication that we put into it that makes it so rewarding. Ultimately, once you feel the peace and sense of ease that begins to infiltrate your life, any doubts that you ever had about how worthwhile this practice is will vanish and you will be forever grateful to yourself. So stick with it!
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