The 1 Big Obstacle to a Successful Meditation Practice
Is not understanding the true nature of meditation. There are 19 common misunderstandings that become hurdles to meditating. Let’s look at a brief summary of them and why they aren’t true.
The Common Problems Beginners Meet When Starting Meditation
“I don’t have 30 minutes a day, every day, to sit with my eyes closed, painfully cross-legged, with a thoughtless mind, doing nothing, and have all my friends and family think I’ve joined a cult.
Besides, I’m not sure it works, and I don’t want to put in 10 years before I see any benefits, like some buddhist monks. I don’t have a quiet place to sit, I don’t know where to start, I don’t know if I’m doing it right and I don’t know how to keep going!
And, I am constitutionally incapable because I can’t stop my restless mind from wandering all over the place!”
The Quick Answer to These Meditation Problems is that none of these assumptions are true. Keep reading to find out the true nature of meditation, its benefits and how to overcome the hurdles.
Let’s Understand the True Nature of Meditation
Warning: at the end of this post you won’t have any real reason not to meditate!
Meditation is Like the Stock Market
Small consistent investments over time lead to greater balance. Like the stock market, there are ups and downs, but believing that there will be gain over time keeps the investment process going. When times come that an investment is not possible then we will probably see that the balance flattens out or loses ground. This experience motivates us to start reinvesting so that when life turns us upside down, there is a balance from which to draw.
Think of Meditation as an Investment in Happiness
Meditation has natural ups and downs, just like the stock market, but believing that there are benefits in the short, medium and long-term keeps us returning to the practice. Think of it as investing in your “Happiness Index.”
Surprisingly, falling off the wagon is a good thing, since the contrast between “life on meditation” and “life off meditation” is seen. By noticing the loss of inner peace, focus, sleep, or life balance, we can see how meditation has been helping us. Life is better “on” meditation than “off.” This motivates a continued practice, even a few times a day for just 30 seconds or a minute, in the midst of a busy life. These add up. Then, when life turns us upside down, there is a reserve on which to fall back.
Let’s Bust the 19 Most Common Myths About Meditation
You don’t have to:
- Spend 30 minutes a day
- You can start with 10 minutes (think of replacing the time you waste in other distracting activities with an investment in meditation)
- Do it every day
- You can skip a day or two, but you might notice that you miss it, and you won’t accumulate the benefits as quickly.
- Sit with eyes closed
- You can meditate with your eyes open. A practice called krama involves getting into a meditative state then the opening the eyes while maintaining the state. As the state subsides, one closes the eyes again.
- Sit painfully cross-legged
- You can sit in a chair (or I can teach you how to be comfortable on the floor). You can also stand, walk or lie down for meditation. And, you don’t have to go to a monastery. By the way,… I can’t sit in lotus pose.
- Have a thoughtless mind
- You can have thoughts; it’s ok, they are expected. I’ll teach you several ways to approach them.
- Waste time doing nothing / be bored
- Science thinks of meditation as active brain training and there are results to prove that this is true.
- Surprisingly when attention is fully present in the moment, then every moment appears fresh and new and there is no boredom.
- Explain that you haven’t joined a cult
- My father worried about this when I started yoga. Now I laugh about it. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years by various religious and spiritual traditions. Some were cults, so it is wise to be discerning, but meditation itself is just a practice.
- You can explain that you are becoming a better person by cultivating peacefulness within. Eight percent of the North Americans meditate. Children meditate, celebrities meditate. Businesses meditate, CEOs meditate. Scientists meditate. It’s now mainstream.
- Doubt the benefits / time cost benefits
- You can do a quick Google search to see the huge quantity of research that has shown meditation to be effective for/as; an anti-inflammatory, emotional balance, mental focus, increased immunity, lowered blood pressure, heart disease, improved sleep, easing pain, reducing anxiety, fear and depression, improving your sex life, slowing brain aging, improving memory, making more rational decisions, improving concentration, and more.
- Wait ten years (or even a month) to see gains **
- In as little as 10 minutes your heart will slow down and your blood pressure will drop.
- In a week, you can have better concentration and attention
- In 1 month, you can have less worry, feel more in the flow, enjoy greater self-acceptance.
- In 2 months the parts of the brain areas associated with cognitive and emotional processing and feelings of wellbeing will thicken.
- Over the course of years of practice, you will be able to tolerate stress more easily which can lead to managing an addiction,
- In the end you may acquire trust in yourself and Life.
- Have a quiet place to sit
- While quietude is helpful, there are places and ways to work with distractions. You can meditate while walking outside in the midst of life. The meditative state does not depend on place or body position.
- Know where to start
- Beginning meditators often give up because they haven’t found the right meditation for them. There are many styles and techniques, so keep going until you find the one that draws you to the cushion. A teacher can help you explore the options and coach you over the hurdles.
- Know if you’re doing it right
- There is no right or wrong way, just a way that is best for you and will keep you returning to the practice. Again, a teacher can be helpful in navigating hurdles.
- Know how to keep going
- Meditate, rinse and repeat. That is, keep going, even if only for short periods, keep at it.
- If you choose to enroll in the Essential of Meditation online course then I will help keep you accountable and you’ll be part of a supportive community
- Know how to tame the restless mind
- What is important is the coming back from wandering thoughts, not the going away. There are tools for responding to “monkey mind,” and practice will lessen the number of times you drift off as well as how long you’ve drifted off. As you train the mind to pay attention, you will increase your happiness.
- Spend a lot of money
- You can start with as little as the park bench and your breath or add a free meditation timer to help you keep track of the time. The internet is full of free guided meditations and courses. If you like the practice and want to sit on the floor then a couple of hundred dollars will get you a good zabuton and meditation cushion. If you like, candles and incense are inexpensive, but none of this is necessary, except your time and your breath.
- Give up your religious beliefs or practices
- Meditation is compatible with your religious practices and has been know for thousands of years as a pathway to the Divine. There are, however, some intentional as well as some uninformed fear-mongers. I have never met a person who lost their mind, lost control, or was overtaken by evil spirits in the 30 years I’ve meditated. In fact, long-term meditators have a deep equanimity and gentleness about them that non-meditators often lack.
- Have a Master
- But, an experienced and trained teacher is invaluable in helping choose the right kind of meditation for you, deal with challenges, as well as helping adjust the practice to make it easier or more challenging as you gain skillfulness.
- Lose control of your mind
- You won’t lose your mind. Your mind will become more rational and focused. It will slow down and develop a sensitivity so that you see things earlier and are able to respond with compassion and wisdom. Meditation is not hypnosis and there is no loss of control. If anything, there is more control of your mind and emotions. In the longer term, a deep trust in Life emerges and with it a relaxing into “what is.”
- Think it’s selfish. Meditators are trying to escape from reality and responsibilities. They are shutting out the world and cutting themselves off from the rest of life.
- Meditation isn’t selfish, since the positive effects flow out to others in our lives. When kindness and compassion and trust are extended to others, the recipients will also pass along this good will – it’s like paying it forward. Meditation has the possibility of making us less violent and less afraid of each other.
- Over time meditators become more engaged in life. They might have closer relationships with loved ones, find their passion, or authenticity, or extend themselves in volunteer work.
- The 10th step in the iRest Yoga Nidra protocol is returning into life with the wisdom and kindness earned from investing time in meditation. This world needs peaceful warriors; meditators are on the front line.
** These are some of the benefits that can accrue. Your mileage may vary depending on the length and frequency of your meditations. We are each different and so results will be vary or be experienced differently. Nonetheless, the above list gives an idea of the many well-documented positives that come from a regular meditation practice.
Final Advice: Just start and keep going.
There are lots of books, recordings and organizations that will teach you to meditate. You’ll see results almost immediately and those benefits will increase and evolve with every minute you continue to invest. In the end, you can be happier, healthier and better attuned to your Self.
The Essentials of Meditation
Stay tuned for a 6-8 week on-line course on the Essentials of Meditation. You’ll learn which meditation suits you, how to do it and how to adjust it to make it easier or more challenging. You’ll acquire confidence and see results with my guidance as well as the support from a private FB community.
Next Week: What’s Your Intention?
Philip Beck is a Certified iRest Yoga Nidra Teacher, a graduate of the Spiritual Psychotherapy program at Transformational Arts College, and a 500-hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher. He lives in Toronto and works with all people who want to engage in psychological and spiritual inquiry as a way to reconnect with themselves and their heartfelt passion. Free discovery sessions are available in person, by Skype or FaceTime. You can email Philip here or book Philip here for your complementary first session.
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