There is no shortage of information on the health benefits of meditation these days. But maybe you've tried to meditate but still have yet to maintain a daily practice. Here are the top five reasons why most people give up on meditation, and some things to reconsider about each one.
1. I don't have time.
Do you have time to eat? Brush your teeth? Have coffee? Well, then I assure you that you have time to meditate. Five minutes a day is all it takes to sit down, be still and tune in to something bigger than your busy mind. Establishing even the smallest habit of meditation will change your life for the better.
A regular meditation practice increases our efficiency, so we actually save time in the long run by meditating. Meditation increases mental clarity, so as a result we're able to focus better, make decisions faster and are more productive in less time. You wouldn't miss brushing your teeth today would you? Make meditation a habit, not a choice — it only takes five minutes of your time.
2. My body starts to hurt when I sit for too long.
Comfort is absolutely essential for sustaining a meditation practice. So take some time to experiment with pillows, chairs, blankets, etc., to find a seating arrangement that best for you. Good seated posture will allow your hips, legs and knees to be at ease, while your spine grows nice and tall for proper energy flow.
Taking a little extra time to stretch or do some yoga beforehand is always helpful. In fact, the practice of asana was designed to prepare the body for long periods of stillness in meditation. Once you have found the best arrangement possible, settle in and forget about your body. Tell yourself that for the next 5 to 30 minutes, that you're going to focus and expand your awareness beyond the physical body. Relax and get comfortable.
3. I don't know what to focus on.
Once you have carved out some time, found your comfortable seat and gotten still, then what? Random thoughts and images will immediately float through the mind as it processes your to-do lists, unfinished conversations, etc.
This is why meditation techniques are so vital. The mind does not just turn off the moment you sit down, so using something intentional to focus the scattered thoughts well help steer them in one desired direction. Try paying attention to the rise and fall of the breath, or repeating a mantra once with each inhalation and once with each exhalation. If you are a visual person, you can try intently imagining something that inspires you.
It is also helpful to have an order for how your practice will go to develop a positive habit. It could look like something like this:
- Get comfortable and set an intention.
- Take 10 slow deep breaths.
- Practice a focusing technique.
- Sit in the stillness of receptivity.
- End with an affirmation or gratitude.
4. I don't get anything out of it.
We cannot expect to accomplish anything of value without effort, but at the same time when it comes to meditation, we must release all expectation of accomplishment. Forget instant gratification. Once you have chosen a focusing technique and ordered your practice, stick with it for at least a month before you assess whether or not you've achieved results.
Everyone experiences restlessness and frustration. We are programmed to go, do, produce and multitask at ever-increasing rates. To really stop the body and quiet the mind takes time! Use your will to eliminate distractions. Results are accruing with every effort whether felt now or not. Be persistent. Have patience and faith in the process.
5. I have more important things to do.
This fallacy is the greatest obstacle to meditation. Fueled by the ego, the mind thinks it is personally essential to the world —prioritizing outer activity and production over inner stillness and balance. But the Bhagavad Gita explains, "When this I shall die, then I will know who I truly am." To know who we are beyond the personality aspect of self — the one that feels it is so important it cannot stop for five minutes to meditate — is the very reason why we must meditate.
It is only when we come to know the true self that we can we operate our individual lives without tension, fear, doubt or worry. Only then will we find peace no matter what is happening around us, and be anchored in a state of joy. Not only will meditation help us experience improved performance as human beings, but we'll also see reduced stress levels, increased immune functioning, a decrease in blood pressure and myriad other physical benefits. So maybe it's time to rethink meditation ... do you really have something more important to do?
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