I felt like a meditation fraud for years. As a yoga teacher, meditation is practically in my job description. Only problem was, I had an extreme aversion to sitting still. Everyone around me was going on 10-day silent meditation retreats and coming back “profoundly transformed.” I silently judged these people for profoundly wasting their time.
See, I have this strange affliction whereby my eyes roll up in my head every time someone utters the phrase “let me meditate on that” or “I’m totally manifesting right now.” Rather than be exiled from the yoga community, I invested in a good pair of sunglasses and played the role of diligent yoga teacher by picking up the latest books from Eckhart Tolle and Osho.
With one trip to the New Age section of Barnes & Noble, I had enough reading material to reasonably pass myself off as a meditator and extol the virtues of meditation to all who asked. But unfortunately, you can’t just read about meditation. You actually have to do it.
I used all of the excuses in the book to avoid it, until one day my heart started racing, my vision went blurry, my legs went numb, and I felt like I was teetering on the edge of reality. A particularly stressful and emotionally trying year had culminated in my first panic attack. Determined to avoid anti-anxiety meds, I grudgingly turned to meditation.
My panic attacks disappeared, my eye-rolling affliction cleared up, and I now consider myself profoundly transformed. If that last sentence triggered your own eye roll, read on. Below are the 8 most common excuses not to meditate:
1. I don’t have time.
If you have time to look at Facebook or Instagram for more than five minutes a day, you have time to meditate.
2. It’s not a priority.
Is stress reduction and lowering your blood pressure a priority? Is boosting your immune system a priority? Is happiness and contentment a priority? Is fostering more loving and compassionate relationships with yourself and the people around you a priority? If you answered yes to any of the above, meditation should be at the top of your priority list.
3. It’s too hard.
Yes, meditation takes consistent practice and discipline, but so does anything of value. A simple trick is to focus on the breath. On each inhalation, mentally repeat the word In. On each exhalation, mentally repeat the word Out. You can also try a simple concentration exercise of counting the breath. Deeply inhale. At the bottom of your exhalation, mentally count one. Take another full inhalation. At the bottom of your next exhalation, mentally count two. Continue counting your breath all the way up to ten. Then start again from one.
4. There are too many distractions.
I get it. You have three screaming children vying for your attention. But at some point they sleep, right? Life is distracting. Meditation helps you deal with those distractions in a healthier, more productive way.
5. I can’t turn off my thoughts.
Neither can I. The goal is not to stop your thoughts. The mind is wired to wander. Cultivating a meditation practice is about observing when the mind wanders off, and catching yourself, before it wanders too far. The simple act of observing the fluctuations of the mind anchors you back into the present moment.
6. I can’t sit still.
Do you do that heavy breathing, not moving for 6 to 8 hours every night, wake up with a pillowcase imprint on your face, thing? You know, sleep? Then your body innately knows how to be still. If you find it hard to sit still, cut yourself a little slack and try meditating lying down. The worst that’s going to happen is that you’ll fall asleep.
7. I’m not a religious or spiritual person.
You don’t have to be religious or spiritual to meditate. Trust me. I don’t go to church. I don’t pray. I do, however, confess to owning a Buddha statuette that I bought for $20 from Target. It functions exquisitely as a candleholder (and sometimes a door-stop).
8. There aren’t any meditation teachers or classes nearby.
True, learning to meditate from a trained teacher makes the process much easier and more likely to stick. So what to do if you’re all alone? There are thousands of guided meditations available to download at your fingertips. Our very own MindBodyGreen offers a comprehensive video course guiding you through the basics of meditation. And if all else fails, there’s an app for that. Check out Insight Timer. It’s a free app that offers guided meditations and connects you with a global community of meditators.
So, what’s your excuse?