As a meditation teacher, people approach me to talk about why they cannot meditate. For the last months I gathered those comments, and I’ve made a list with the most common reasons. Meditation can still raise a lot of doubts and misconception.
See if you can relate to one of these:
1. “I cannot stop thinking when I’m meditating.”
Let me start by saying this: it’s not possible to stop thinking. This is an illusion. Our mind doesn’t stop and neither our thoughts, the same way that our heart doesn’t stop beating. During meditation thoughts are not the enemy, they are a sign of a normal and healthy meditation practice. We shouldn´t expect during a meditation practice our thoughts to just vanish. They will diminish, they will calm down, but they don´t stop.
Actually thoughs are not the enemy. We all have monkey minds and thoughts keep coming through our mind when we meditate. And that's normal, but every time a thought comes to mind, you can softly dismiss it, you can acknowledge it, and then let it go and then continue with your meditation. And what happens is that you become better and you become more focused each and every time you do it.
You are working out your mind and you’re acknowledging the thoughts. This is just like lifting the weights in the gym for your mind. You are building up the muscle of awareness and presence.
Thoughts are not the enemy during meditation.
2. “I tried, but I didn´t felt anything special.”
Having a lot of expectations: during and after meditation. Spoiler alert: you will (probably) not get enlightenment through meditation. You will get a clear vision over your life, your mind will get calmer and more balanced, but you will still be the same person. More relaxed, with more self-awareness, more focused, kinder, but still the same person. It’s good to approach meditation practice with lightness. The benefits of meditation come after the practice and with time.
3. “I cannot relax when I meditate”
Forcing yourself to concentrate or relax during meditation. Forcing, criticizing, comparing, judging… Meditation is our natural state, if we are forcing it, we are not meditating. When we are connected and relaxed, we are in a meditation flow. Do you know when you go outside, and you feel the sun and a light breeze in your skin? You close your eyes, and everything just stops- you are totally there and in peace. You don’t have to force this feeling of presence. This is a meditation state.
Forcing to concentrate builds up muscle tension in our body, together with this feeling of wanting to achieve something. When this happens, we can just stop. We can take a deep breath, relax our muscles, smile and restart the mediation practice with curiosity. Meditation is about serenity and kindness.
4. “How do you do it? I cannot handle that much time in silence.”
To stop meditate because you feel bored. When was the last time you felt bored?... You probably don´t remember because we avoid boredom. We live in this society with overstimulation, we move from one thing to another, always doing something, going somewhere, looking for the next distraction. We are not used to feel bored. But science says that for us to be creative, boredom is necessary. Pausing and silence are necessary. It's amazing how tuned out we become to the motor of the air-conditioner and refrigerator, but when they stop, we feel surprisingly relieved. Likewise, we become numb to the buzz of our technology saturated world.
During a meditation practice it´s normal to feel boredom, we allow it, we work with it. Eventually it disappears, and when this happens, we go deeper on ourselves.
5. “I cannot meditate because I cannot stand still”
Restlessness. During a meditation practice to feel restless is normal. It´s a reflection of our lives and it will happen. Our body will get restless, our minds too. We are not used to stop and sit in silence with “nothing to do “, it´s not our normal state, and we fight it.
The trick is to not allow that restlessness to stop us from meditate. We take a deep breath and we stay with it. We can observe it, it will pass. When we sit to meditate, we need some time just to settle down, we cannot expect everything to get quiet straight away. The first part of the practice is to create a sense of calm in the nervous system and in the body, and only after we can focus the mind.
Here is a simple thing you can do to reduce restlessness during meditation: before starting your practice do some stretching exercises, listen to smoothing music and/or do some deep breaths. This will start calming your nervous system down.
6. “I would love to do it, but I don’t have the time.”
Not having the time to meditate. This only means that having a meditation practice is not a priority for you at this moment. If you want to develop a solid practice, the only way to do it is making the commitment of making your practice a priority.
We have busy lives. I’m sure you know the feeling of having your attention fractured by job and family, social life or the distraction of electronic diversions. It can be challenging, and it can be hard for all of us to find the extra time. But it is extremely important to plan. After, you just must show up consistently as best you can.
You will start seeing results and that will be all the motivation you need to continue.
When you have a meditation practice, and you set aside that space, it can create more freedom; as you become more focused, have more clarity, feel more grounded and productive throughout the rest of your day. Understanding the importance of it, and to realize it’s not a waist of your time but instead it can make you gain, not only time, but energy and joy, is crucial for your commitment to the practice.
My advice: start small and realistic, this will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. 10 minutes of daily practice will have a profound impact in your life and when you start feeling the benefits of it, rather than just reading and hearing about it, the more you will want to continue doing it and your practice will naturally grow. This will also make it joyful and something to look forward to, instead of something you must do.
7. “Well, I start doing it, but after a few days I give up. I cannot maintain a meditation practice.”
Giving up easily. Your meditation practice doesn´t need to be forced but it must be done for you to feel the benefits. Meditation is a skill: that means you do get better at it with practice. It’s like learning to play an instrument. And therefore, there is a difference between practicing 10 minutes a day and not practicing at all.
When you are trying to develop a new habit, or when you start to do something new in a consistent way, this is one of the most important things to consider: Why do you want to do it? Especially when establishing a meditation practice, otherwise you will feel you have no reason to do it and you end up finding excuses not to do it. The interesting thing here is, often that reason goes deeper than the initial why that brought you to meditate for the first time. Most people start a meditation practice because they need a pause or as a stress relief tool, but with time they discover some other benefits like deeper levels of awareness available within, longer lasting health benefits or the possibility for real personal expansion. Your why is going to be unique to you, but connecting to this will help you show up, as this is the thing that will get you out of bed each day, that will help you move beyond the excuses and all the reasons that will come into your head not to, it will help you stay connected to your practice and sit.
WHAT IF I HAVE A SETBACK? It’s ok. Its life happening. If you have a setback just acknowledge that and you can begin again. It’s normal when you start to build a regular practice, to not always be able to keep up the consistency. It happened to me. When I started, I remember to not being able to find the time (but I had time to endless scrolling on my Phone). It takes time, and a few fails, and the commitment to get back to maintain it.
8. “I thought I could do it, but I don´t know if I´m doing it well.”
Trying to learn meditation alone. One of the reasons people don’t give meditation a fair chance is because they feel they fail at it. Well, meditation must be taught. If you never learned, how will you do it? There is a lot of misconception about it, and that is why is so important to find a good teacher that you feel comfortable with. Questions and doubts are normal and a big part of the process. And, it’s good to have someone to support you, to share experiences and to explore any challenges that come up. Look for a person that resonates with you.
9. “I tried several meditation techniques, and nothing happens.”
Consistent technique. There are so many different techniques out there to try, find one that you connect with and practice that for a period. Whatever it is, the more you can stay with one technique helps you to build that consistency, the body gets to know what to expect on a physiological level, it helps to rewire the neural pathways, and you can start to see the benefits.
10. “I suck at mediation.”
Self-Criticism. Sometimes we are our worst critics. This is my most precious tip: be kind to yourself throughout your meditation journey. Whenever things get challenging or you have a difficult day, see if you can bring in a sense of compassion, of self-care. We all have off days, and you're not alone on this journey. If you're having a challenging day, you might like to ask yourself: What do I need right now? How can I take care of myself in the moment? Can you speak to yourself the way you would to a good friend?
"If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent."
In the end IT’S YOUR PRACTICE. Own your practice. What works for me or someone else, might not be right for you. Find that spark that helps you to show up each day, acknowledge yourself for being there, and most of all be kind to yourself with any setbacks or challenges.
These are one of the biggest ways to growth, so give yourself that support you need to move through them, so that you’re able to continue. It definitely gets easier with time and consistency, and if you’re like me, you might just fall in love a little with your practice, it nurtures and supports you, and carries you through your life with just that little bit more ease and grace.
I know that starting a meditation practice can feel a bit dauting. You don’t know how to do it, it’s not something that is taught to us. And it means starting a new routine.
If you are having difficulties or struggles with meditation, please reach out. I´ll be happy to help you with creating a and maintaining a consistent meditation practice.
And if you want to learn about the mindfulness meditation basics and how to apply it in your life, join us in one of our retreats in the France!
Take good care of you,