Meditation? What's stopping you?
Busy mind? Unable to sit still? Not enough time? There are many reasons why people give up or don’t even begin to practise meditation.
These are some of the most common barriers to meditation and how to get over them…
‘I can’t empty my mind…..’
You’ll be glad to know you can stop trying right now because meditation isn’t about emptying your mind. When you meditate you can focus on just one thing, instead of letting think a jumble of random thoughts. The one thing can be the breath, in and out, or counting the breath. You can repeat a simple mantra, a Sanskrit one like ‘OM SHANTI’ (Peace) or make up your own e.g. ‘I AM PEACE’ or you can focus on a beautiful piece of music, or a candle flame. The idea is to rein in the mind like pulling in a kite string to bring the kite under control.
‘OK, I tried that and my mind won’t stay on that one thing…’
While the intention is to focus attention on one thing, the mind is going to wander off to other thoughts over and over again. Noticing that your mind has wandered off to other thoughts is part of the practise, and shows you’re increasing your awareness because you’ve noticed your mind drifting. Every time you realise your mind has wandered off, bring your attention back to whatever is the focus of the meditation. It doesn’t matter how many times your thoughts drift off – what is important is that you notice and come back to what you’re focusing on for the meditation.
‘I’m way too busy to meditate, I just can’t find the time….’
There’s a wealth of research that shows how beneficial meditating each day is for your wellbeing and mental health, so you might discover that putting aside just a few minutes a day to slow your body and mind, focus your attention on one thing and take a few breaths is very much worth it for the feeling of calm you feel. Find that a 10 minute morning meditation sets my mind into stillness before the day gets too busy. An evening meditation helps me to process the day (I don’t mind the thinking mind rolling around, I just breathe with it) and helps me to sleep better. You can also try using the techniques while travelling, on a coffee break. Think of the time you choose to do things like scroll through social media and meditate instead!
‘Sitting in silence makes me anxious…’
If being busy is your norm and you’re used to a fast pace of life, think of how we can all use distraction because we are afraid of what we will find when take a peek into our inner world! It can feel uncomfortable to sit in silence and meditate. First of all, rather than closing your eyes, you can simply lower your gaze to a spot on the ground in front of you. Try listening to gentle music or a guided meditation, where a voice is talking you through the meditation step by step. Try an App like Headspace or Calm. Set yourself a timer for JUST 5 MINUTES!! ‘I only have to sit here for 5 minutes…’ Challenge yourself! Then up the time to 7, 8, 10 minutes.Or begin by going to a class to learn with a group and a good teacher who can give you tailored tips to keep you in a safe space.
I have struggled with meditation, often!! But I promise, it is worth the time and commitment. Remember that the word COMMITMENT means that we show up for something, even when we don’t feel like it!! And if we just can't settle and focus, then we leave it for today. No judgement or self criticism.... Try patience and acceptance and come back tomorrow.
Meditation is all about the pursuit of nothingness. It's like the ultimate rest. It's better than the best sleep you've ever had. It's a quieting of the mind. It sharpens everything, especially your appreciation of your surroundings. It keeps life fresh.Hugh Jackman
Photo credit: All photos by Desh Kapur.