The Most Common Meditation Hurdle & How To Overcome It, According To Light Watkins
There's a reason so many people tout meditation as the most important element of their well-being practice: It's known to help manage stress and anxiety and improve focus and mental clarity. Certain types of meditation can even change the structure of your brain for the better. But like all good things, the practice doesn't come easily. Meditation can be notoriously difficult, even for people who have done it for years.
According to meditation teacher and mbg class instructor Light Watkins, a lot of times the key to a smoother session is simply cutting ourselves some slack. Here's what he thinks we'd all be better off doing less of while meditating.
The problem with trying too hard.
As a meditation instructor, Watkins sees people struggle with lots of different aspects of meditation. But according to him, one of the most common roadblocks in meditation is actually working too hard. "In my experience," he says, "meditation works a lot better the less you do."
But what does that really mean? In the words of spiritual icon Ram Dass, meditation aims to cultivate "loving awareness"—and that's about be-ing, not do-ing.
"It's not about adding things to the experience," Watkins says, but rather learning how to be still in the present moment, which really involves nothing from you. Understanding and embodying this will get you further than fighting your thoughts ever could.
How to overcome the urge to do more.
It can feel very unnatural, and even unsettling, to surrender into stillness during meditation, into that place behind all your thoughts and emotions. This is why we feel inclined to wrestle with our thoughts, try really hard to focus, and so on.
As Watkins previously explained to mbg, when it comes to thoughts, "The more you resist, the more they will persist. So, if you want to make meditation feel a hundred times easier, practice leaning in to the unwanted thoughts." Or let the thoughts simply be what they are, so you can, too.
"It's about stripping unnecessary things away—removing the focus, the concentration, the letting go, and all of the other 'doings,'" Watkins adds. "Instead, just be in it. Being is as much of a skill as doing."
Know that every meditation session isn't going to leave you feeling enlightened, and allow yourself to fully be in the experience.
The bottom line.
The bottom line is, it's no secret that meditation can be challenging for lots of different reasons. But many of those reasons can be umbrellaed under the category of "trying too hard," which can be overcome when we learn how to be OK with being.
Once you find out which type of meditation is right for you, and which areas within it you're trying too hard at, you can begin the practice of being in those areas where you'd normally push yourself and, instead, finding peace within them.