"I can't seem to focus."
"My thoughts won't go away."
Does this sound familiar? If you struggle to find stillness when you sit down to meditate, you're probably searching for what Deepak Chopra describes as "The Gap."
Here are four common reasons why you might not be meditating effectively:
1. You think something is wrong with you because you "can't" meditate.
Nothing is wrong with you — it's totally normal to have thoughts during meditation. But instead of getting frustrated about achieving perfection in meditation, gently push your thoughts aside and re-center yourself.
Will this take some time and practice? Absolutely. It is said we have around 50,000 thoughts a day, so don't feel discouraged. But the point of meditation is to find that peace and balance within yourself, so getting upset during the process is counterproductive. Relax and enjoy the experience. Soon, these thoughts will come and go in the background without distracting you.
2. You meditate in the noise of the day.
Meditating in the beginning of the day makes a big difference. Your mind is fresh and temporarily in a peaceful state from restful slumber. It's easier to meditate before you answer emails and the messages from your boss. You don't want to find yourself anxiously thinking about meditating while trying to meditate, because you've already distracted yourself from your responsibilities for the day. You will find as your day goes on that it's so much easier to re-center yourself, once you've already established that center beforehand.
3. You're thinking past today.
It's the end of the day and you're trying to meditate and relax to get ready for bed, but you can't seem to do so because you're thinking about a day that isn't even here yet. Planning for the future is absolutely necessary, but dwelling on it in the present can be detrimental to your health and cause anxiety.
So the next time you meditate repeat to yourself, I will only think about today. Visualize yourself completing your to-do list for the day and then relaxing afterwards. Avoid thinking about what lies in the days ahead during your mediation. For some people, it's much easier to live life by the hour, or even in the present moment, but not a second past that. So get some rest — today has enough problems as is! Let tomorrow worry about itself.
4. Your mind is filled with television and social media.
Has there ever been a moment when your television, laptop or iPad have NOT been distracting? As useful as these little gadgets are, they're also reliable tools for procrastination and brain degradation. The average American spends more than five hours in front of the television — that's not even including the hours given to smartphones, kindles and other electronic devices.
It's no wonder you might find it difficult to transition from constant audio/visual stimulation, to complete silence in meditation. Try taking a social network, TV, or even a news break for a whole week. Read a book. Go outside and get fresh air. Open up your blinds. You'll find that the less your brain is stimulated by nonsense, the more it can be stimulated by being aware or your consciousness.
Everyone can meditate, but just like anything else it takes practice. You don't just walk into the gym and tackle the heaviest weight successfully, you build up to it. Then once you reach your peak, you train to maintain. In a world built on moving fast and staying productive, you're essentially re-learning how to be still and not think. It's totally possible and incredibly rewarding. You'll forget how precious and rare stillness really is. Just remember to stay consistent and stay focused. You will get there.