In the 15 years thus far of my yoga journey, the act of meditation has always been difficult for me.
I found it incredibly challenging to just sit still, as all my thoughts and agitations would constantly come up as if to say, "Hello! I'm still here!"
After years of trying to meditate, studying the scriptures and practicing stillness as best I could, I was awakened to some truths about meditation that I hope will also appease some of your difficulties with this practice.
You may end up saying like I did, that it's OK if you're not ready to enter the stage of meditation just yet.
Here are five truths about meditation that could affirm your belief that maybe it's just not for you:
1. You might not be ready to meditate until you rid yourself from desire and attachment.
It is important to note that ancient yogic texts like the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, teach that meditation is something that happens automatically to you, when you are ready. Meaning, when you are purified and free from all your desires and attachments, then you are ready to meditate. Once we no longer have desires for chocolate, a family, a partner, more money, that car, those shoes, and even that handstand, then we will naturally be propelled into a state of meditation.
I was elated to learn of this insight because it meant I was no longer a dog chasing my tail anymore. It gave me direction and understanding that sitting silently in hopes of achieving this state, was ultimately futile until my mind becomes fully ready.
2. You can use other focusing techniques to quiet the mind, without actually meditating.
I came to understand from observing myself and my students, that meditation was just a form of learning how to focus better. The act of sitting still helps us to see how the mind jumps from one thought to another, like a monkey swinging from branch to branch. It can therefore be assumed that applying certain techniques like breath-work, affirmations and gazing upon a candle flame, would help to make the monkey-mind calm down, without actually entering meditation. I am reminded that, "I am not the mind."
3. You can sit still in your awareness without meditating, and still benefit.
Through my attempts at practicing meditation over the years, I have achieved an ability to command my body not to move. My intellect has proven stronger than my mind's desire to scratch that itch or adjust my positioning. This newfound control over my body's constant need to not feel agitated, is quite beneficial. This heightened awareness reminds me that, "I am not the body." I am aware that I am still not meditating; I am just sitting physically still. But that's OK.
4. Believe it or not, there are side-effects to meditation if done incorrectly.
If meditation serves as an escape from reality for you then I would question those practices. Or rather, if you feel superior to others because you meditate and they do not, then this may not be serving your highest good.
The sacred yoga texts state that meditation tools are meant to help you deal with reality better, make you more compassionate, and experience the similarities in us all — not the differences. You might want to reflect on which practices help you and which ones do not. There is no ego in a true meditation practice.
5. There are other ways to practice self-study, aside from meditation.
If you're a yoga teacher or student and feel that you have to meditate because you practice yoga, then you're not alone. Because I teach yoga, I thought I was a phony for not meditating. But once I understood the ancient, true meaning of meditation, I accepted that my role wasn't to meditate but to develop my intellect, my self-reflection and my ability to stay focused. It's my job to share this understanding to others to help with their own search, if faced with a similar dilemma.
Once I allowed myself to accept that, "I don't know anything," I was able to surrender consciously. After my many years of struggle it was my own teacher's advice that I stop meditating. My practice now consists of applying critical thinking, self-analysis and studying the ancient texts. My job as a yoga teacher is not to force myself to meditate, but to serve others with action and unconditional love — to the best of my ability. And now when I have moments of sitting still and just allowing myself to be, I find I have more clarity than ever before.
Sure, one could argue that sitting in stillness might look like a form of meditation, but for me it's a form of relaxation which is valuable on its own. And one day when I least expect it, I might finally experience that true meditative state and have a whole new article to write about! Namaste.