“I can’t meditate because I can’t stop my thoughts” is one of the most common reasons I hear from people who’ve tried meditation but quit. In this article I’ll share four more reasons why your meditation might not work for you.
Let’s zoom into the first one:
1. You’re trying to stop your mind from thinking
If you’re trying to stop your mind from having thoughts, if you’re having a serious battle going on in your mind, I can tell you already; this meditation thing?
STOP, it will not work for you!
First of all, be happy that you have thoughts, it means that you’re alive 😉
The mind isn’t quieted by willing or by effort. You simply can’t quiet the mind through will power. That would be like pushing down on a spring. The harder you push – the more the spring pushes back.
The mind becomes clear as you shift from thinking about thoughts – to being aware of what is arising. Just by being aware, present, and mindful of the activity of the mind – it settles down.
Unfortunately, the’ stilling the mind’ phrase is usually pulled out of context as quieting (not killing!) the mind is just a side effect of meditation. Not the goal as such. You’re looking for those little gaps in between thoughts.
2. You’re trying to meditate at the wrong time
Everybody is different. Are you a morning person or rather an evening person?
Yes, the mind is supposed to be more still in the morning but if you know that you’re very active with your to do lists in the morning, from the minute you open your eyes, morning time might not be the right time for you. Soooo, try the evening! Experiment, and just find that perfect moment for you.
3. You don’t REALLY know WHY you’re meditating
There must be hundreds of different meditation techniques. All having a different ‘goal’. A short visualization has a different purpose than a deep Zen meditation. So you need to know what you would like to accomplish by meditation.
What’s the real reason why you would sit for a while and just sit still. Why would you dedicate 5 or 20 minutes of your precious time or even longer to do eh, nothing…?
Is it to quiet the mind?
Is it to feel more balanced?
Is it to get more self discipline?
All of the above?
If you don’t really know why you’re meditating, it can also become a bit … boring.
After all, you’re just sitting there breathing in and breathing out. What could be more boring? In, out, in, out. Or you’re repeating the same mantra over and over. So ham, so ham, so ham, sooooo haaaaaaam…
It is kind of boring, no?
Being bored is a symptom of not paying attention. If you pay attention deeply to anything – it becomes very, very interesting. Meditation, which is the practice of cultivating deep attention, dissolves boredom. As you discover the richness of the present moment – even something as simple as a breath becomes the doorway to exciting feelings. The fun part is that, as the surface mind gets bored, it settles down. And in that settling, an awareness emerges. Not so boring at all!!
4. You’re sitting in the wrong posture
Nope, full lotus pose or any other yogic posture is not necessary, especially not if it makes you cry after five minutes or if these postures make your physiotherapist a very wealthy person.
To be honest, it really doesn’t matter that much how you sit when you start with meditation. If you can keep your back up straight, without too much tension and make sure that nothing is tensed, an easy and comfortable pose is fine. You can even sit on a chair, or lean against the wall.
At some point, you’ll become more aware of how your posture influences your meditation practice. The positioning of the legs, your head, even the eyes can make a difference but let’s just start with easy and comfortable, and not go for the Champion’s league in Meditation (?) just yet.
5. All your focus is now on the Mind
Mens sana in corpore sano ring a bell?
There is a body that comes with the mind….
Yoga means union: The union of body, mind and spirit. So there’s little point in only training the mind if you’re neglecting your body.
Meditating after a 7 course meal? Maybe not, your body will be slightly occupied with digesting.
Meditating in bed whilst you know you’re dead tired? Maybe not, you’ll fall asleep.
Over-indulgence in sweets, spicy food, caffeinated drinks or junk food will also affect the quality of your meditation.
If you’ve been drinking, even if it’s just a little bit, it will definitely be harder for you to meditate. Alcohol pretty atrociously disrupts functionality in the prefrontal cortex, a pretty exclusively important element in being able to get into that rich, focused, state. Just cut down on the booze, you’ll meditate better ;).
So the next time you feel “my meditation is not working”, go over these five reasons I just gave you and do a quick check: Are any of these applicable to me? Also, connect with your teacher whenever you feel the need to.
Whatever you do, do ‘something’, as it’s only by experiencing and actually taking the time that you will experience it. Reading this blog and fifty books on meditation will entertain the mind (I hope!), but simply by doing it, you will also experience something.
To end with, two questions I tend to get a lot from the more result driven types…
How long does it take before I will feel something or see some results from meditation?
Some people will have an aha-moment the very first time they actually sit down, others need a lifetime to decide whether they already feel ‘something’. Fact is , that you start benefiting from meditation from the moment you begin. You might not experience immediate peace or bliss but your body will get a chance to rest, release stored stress, and heal.
How long should I give this a go before I can decide that meditation is just not my thing ?
Theory tells us to do it (not try – do!) for twenty one or even forty days in a row, just to get the mind into the habit of it. Usually, the rebel in me just wants to pull out of things, the minute I hear that I have to do something or whenever patterns start filling the picture.
Not with meditation though, it took me a while but there aren’t too many days now that I skip it as the ‘have to’ has shifted towards ‘I want to’.
If you’re stuck and don’t know what to do, talk to your local yoga teacher, or get in touch with me, always happy to guide you further, in person, via email – firstname.lastname@example.org- or via Skype.