“I’m really bad at meditation.” I’ve heard this from many yoga students, and I’ve said it myself. I blogged about my own meditation challenge in fact. But why is meditation so hard?
Here’s what I reckon…
- It seems to go against everything we’ve been brought up to believe, in terms of striving for goals and taking action. You can read all the scientific studies you like about the benefits of meditation (and there are plenty of them – try this article for starters) but it still seems counter-intuitive that to enjoy all these productive sounding benefits you have to sit still and be quiet.
- It’s not actually just sitting there. If you come to meditation believing that it will be an easy, relaxing experience, you won’t be prepared for the sheer effort it requires. It takes focus, concentration and discipline to meditate. And that can be hard. The main feeling I used to experience on hearing the bell at the end of meditation was relief that it was over. This is normal, and it has lessened (a little) with time.
- You might be missing the real purpose of meditation. Contrary to popular belief, the point of meditation is not to relax. Although meditation can help you feel relaxed, that’s actually more of a side effect. The true purpose of meditation is to understand the nature of the mind. Through that understanding, you gain the potential to harness the power of your mind, rather than being at its mercy. Once you know that, it’s easier to see why it takes such effort.
- It’s said that your ego does not like you gaining power over your mind because it wants to be in control. This is one reason why you may experience such resistance to meditation. When you meditate, you recognise the way that thoughts and feelings arise, seemingly from nowhere, and fall away. And you realise that you are not those thoughts and feelings. Instead you are the observer or the witness of the thoughts and feelings – a much deeper state of consciousness that’s completely unaffected by the events that happen to you. Once you reach this state, you see that a lot of the things your ego believes matters tend to fall away. Your ego doesn’t like this, so it resists.
- Being alone with your thoughts can be difficult. Sometimes they’re negative, disturbing, or (a lot of the time!) just plain boring. Your mind doesn’t like boring – it craves stimulation and distraction, and will try any number of things to get you to stop.
So what can you do about it?
There’s so much information out there about how to start meditating that it can be overwhelming- a Google search for this topic returns 1,790,000 hits. The crucial thing though is deciding that you want to meditate, and that you want to enough to put the effort into overcoming the challenges. It’s worth asking yourself – do you want to understand the nature of your mind? Do you want the potential to master your mind, rather than being enslaved by the random thoughts and feelings that pop into your head for the rest of your life? And if the answer is yes, meditation is probably a good place to start.
Have a wonderful week, everyone!
P.S. All credit for my latest learning about meditation goes to my wonderful teacher Vidya at Frog Lotus Yoga.
Update: Check our this later post for details of ‘How I meditate: My personal practice.’