Meditation is a simple exercise that requires a dedicated mind, an honest heart, and a disciplined body, in order to get the maximum benefit for you. People often find it difficult to stick with because on the surface it seems so easy and simple in theory, but it can’t be fully mastered with laziness.
In this section, we are going to talk about some of the most common pitfalls and issues people have when first learning to meditate, and then move on to solutions and strategies for overcoming these obstacles so that you are prepared to move onto the practical exercises portion of this course.
Common obstacles to meditation or excuses as to why you “can’t”
- “I am not the religious type.”
You don’t have to be. In the modern world, meditation (especially the “Mindfulness” variety) is more of a psychological practice. It is more about training the mind to work in better harmony with the body than it is a religious experience. Although it should be noted, many who practice meditation become more spiritually-minded. Meditations are not just for monks and gurus, but if you must avoid feeling “religious”, then focus on the mental and health benefits in your practice. If you are not here for a deeper spiritual experience, then you are coming to meditation for its physical benefits. There is no shame in that, never underestimate its power for helping you condition your mind and reactions to better handle stress as well as provide you considerable benefits to your relaxation.
Too many people think every practice is all the parts of a particular practice. Some people get great spiritual satisfaction from performing Kata, the chained connection of moves almost like a dance, in Karate. Others come to Karate for its fighting applications and gain an understanding of how movements interact with each other through Kata. That doesn’t mean either one is doing Kata right or wrong, only that one person is using that tool for a different reason. If you are this far into the book, you have your own reason for coming to this, don’t let that little part of your mind that likes to self-sabotage undo that. Instead, recognize that part of your mind may be more why you are learning this than anything else, and undoubtedly you will gain the tools to silence it.
- “I can’t sit still for an hour” or “I just don’t have enough time to devote”
There are longtime practitioners who can’t sit still for an hour either. The great thing about meditation, in general, is that you really only need 15-20 minutes a day to see lasting results. Most basic meditations can be easily completed from start to finish in this time frame. Also, the more you practice, the easier it becomes to get started each day. Focus on setting good practice, rather than focusing on arbitrary numbers such as; how much time a day you will or will not spend.If you find it difficult to sit still, that is OK. At first, most people move around a little each time they practice, it becomes easier the more you practice. Don’t be so hard on yourself. The goal here is to get better, not to beat yourself up and quit a few days into it! If you find it very difficult to sit in disciplined postures, then start off using the wall or a straight-backed chair.Saying that you need the exact postures to meditate is like saying a sword doesn’t cut if you don’t practice Kendo. While you need the postures to do meditations that specifically focus on those postures as a core of what they do. It is the same way with a sword, maybe you can’t call it Kendo, but it doesn’t mean it’s not effective. Treat meditation like you would anything else and make the changes you need to enhance your ability.
- “I can’t clear my head of thoughts”
When you first start to learn how to meditate, many things seem to become difficult. Let us ask you this; when in your life (if you are not already a seasoned pro!) have you consciously cleared your mind of all thoughts and nonsense? Really, the important thing to practice is not so much the stopping of your thoughts, but the release of your thoughts without judgment or attention. Allowing them to pass through until all you are left with is the moment. The act of meditation though is perhaps the greatest obstacle. There is a natural need to criticize the action before it starts, during it, and then after it. This critical mind prevents one from actually meditating at first and has the student go through the motions only. It’s a hard thing to overcome, and most teachers have a student repeat a meditation for hours upon hours to break them of it.
Once we can break the part of the mind that needs to be critical of everything without an immediate reward, much more opens up to us. This applies to meditation as well as the mundane. Many people struggle to advance in their lives because long term goal thinking needs an immediate result to push them forward. This means that, so long as that long term goal has immediate small results or benefits, most people can continue with it. Remove those short term rewards and most people simply default to a state of pretending to put in the long term work. The cure to this, of course, is inside the problem. To get around that critical part of the mind, one must meditate, which means going through the motions until results are seen. This means immediate results won’t be the biggest part of your first month or possibly even your year. If you are setting a course to learn these skills through your dedication will show through. Likewise, if you have decided to do the work regardless of the results initially, you will eventually overcome that critical mind and find the results you are looking for.
- “I have tried this before and I hated doing it, it didn’t work for me”
There are so many different kinds of meditations out there. Over the years, we always encourage my students to practice and try as many different approaches to meditation as they need to until they find “The one” that works for them depending on what their practice goals are. Mediation is not a “one size fits all” practice. Don’t be discouraged by one or two failings at meditation.
The dialogue below is quite common with student’s first learning meditation;
Student: “I have tried a few times and none of them work!”
Teacher: “What doesn’t work?”
Student: “Meditation. I don’t know which meditation is the best?”
Teacher: “Whatever one works best for you.”
Student: “How will I know?”
Teacher: “When you try them all!”
This serves the purpose of encouraging the student to continue to try different methods until one works well for them.
When meditations focus is simply calming the mind, finding direction or something else, where other options can work then those other options are great! When you are focusing on a meditation that does one thing and does that one thing very well, then the only good answer to give is to continue till you get it.
Likewise, sometimes a meditation only gives benefits months into its practice. ZaZen is often like this, and energy work meditations even more so. Again it all depends on what they are looking for or what they want to gain from the training. Someone seeking relaxation or just clarity of the mind I’d offer a lot of options to them. Sometimes though as a teacher the only good answer you can give is “try harder and longer” because you know they can get past the barrier. If you find meditation isn’t working, ask how much time you’ve really put into it? Was it five minutes a week, or five minutes a day? There is a big difference between the two and self-honesty will take you very far.
Your best foot forward
To be successful at this, you need to be prepared. You already know the common issues and obstacles that many people face after starting meditation, so you are ready to be on the lookout for them. Let’s talk about some things you can do to help ensure even more success as you start out.
Setting a strong intention and positive mindset
You know the “what” and the “why” by now. Before we move onto the “how” you have to make sure that you are ready, willing, and able to begin. Know where you want to be in 3-6 months with your practice. If you start with a defeatist attitude, you will be defeated in everything you do. If you are pumped and excited and think like a champion, then a fighting chance you will have. Make a commitment to yourself; promise yourself that you will stick this out and see it through. Don’t start off by creating obstacles before you have even begun, find them and crush them along the way!More people have defeated themselves in history than those who have been beaten by a foe or obstacle. If you pit yourself, against yourself, as the primary obstacle you will either win and lose or lose and win. Either way, it is an unnecessary complication. Act in unified focus, and you will already be one step closer to meditation.
Start without delay, make it a habit!
Once you have made the decision to learn meditation, don’t delay. Delaying will only allow procrastination to creep in and before you know it, you will be putting an obstacle in your way. Don’t look for the “perfect moment” to meditate, set aside a few minutes every day to sit in quiet contemplation. The “perfect moment” for meditation exists at every single moment. Don’t give yourself a reason to find an excuse as to why you don’t have time to meditate.
One way to make it easy for yourself is to take fixed points in your day and use those moments (even if it is only 5 or 10 minutes) to meditate. For example, chose to meditate every time you wake up and every time before you lay down to sleep. This helps establish a pattern in daily life. Once that is established firmly for you, finding other times becomes much easier. When you continue to meditate at the same time in a daily manner, you are making things easy for meditation to take root. The repetition and familiarity will eventually lead to the formation of a new habit.
Find a place where you can consistently sit in peace and quiet for at least a few minutes a day without interruption. Use this place every day at, or near, the same time every day. The more consistency you have the better and easier it gets. Once you have developed a pattern and are comfortable with the practice of meditation, then you can explore and try new venues for new experiences.
Remember this, five minutes of meditation is more than zero minutes. Even one minute of focusing on calming and breathing every night or morning sets a pattern. One minute can become five, and five can become ten. Eventually, you are putting a half-hour in and not even thinking about it!
Also though, learn from the mistakes of others. Some people get way too gun-ho, try to meditate an hour every day, and then burn out. You need to make this something you can do, and burning out so you have the excuse to quit is just creating failure. Don’t create your own failure. Be meditative in life, and in that be aware of what you can reasonably do every day without compromising friends, family, sleep, exercise, work, and those other things important to you. Still, if you make it important to you, then you will find five or ten minutes daily to do it.
Reach out and commune with those who can help you along the way
Find others who can relate to the challenge you have embarked on. Millions of people meditate all over the world and you should be able to find at least a small group of people in your area. If there are none in your area, then there are millions more that are just a click away on the internet. When you practice alongside others who are facing the same type of challenge you are, you gain perspective and insight into what works for you and others. When people share an experience, it creates an environment where people learn from each other as they travel along together. Communion is very important also because it helps us stay motivated and “on track”. Sharing this among others will also help ensure that you are not stuck for very long if you run into an obstacle that you can’t quite figure out.
- Don’t’ go into it expecting quick, easy, or unrealistic results every time you meditate.
- Don’t practice in settings or surroundings that are not optimal for practice. Set aside a place and time where you can comfortably practice without distraction consistently.
This, of course, may not be possible every time. Do the best you can and work through it. As David would say; “A lousy routine is better than no routine.” If you can’t always practice in an optimal setting each time, don’t worry and just do your best.
- Try not to be too experimental with various forms and techniques at first. Stick to the basics until you get the hang of it.
- Make it a habit to practice your meditations, make them a part of your daily routine. Not practicing consistently will lead ultimately to you not getting any benefit.
- Pushing yourself to use a technique that is not suitable for you will only make you less likely to practice. Find one that works and own it!
Common and modified meditation posturesThe following are the different postures we will use during this course. If you have any questions, contact an instructor.
- Straight back chair (feet flat on the floor)
- Sitting reclined with feet crossed at ankles
- Seated posture 1: Folded legs and hands (lotus or half-lotus), and an erect but settled spine. (May also sit up against a wall to assist in this pose)
- Seated Posture 2: Folded legs, and erect, but the settled spine, with eyes, partially closed and hands folded together into a simple mudra over the belly. (May also sit up against a wall to assist in this pose)
- Kneeling Posture: Use a small bench or cushion to maintain an erect, but settled spine, with hands resting on top of your thighs, or in the mudra position over your belly.
As we said earlier, there are people from all over the world, from every timeline in history, from various cultures and backgrounds who have been practicing meditation in some form or the other. Although there are these variations in the technique, setting, posture, etc. the thing that remains the same for most is the result of contemplation and focused awareness to the moment. There are so many “schools” of meditation out there. We are going to keep it simple and talk about the more well-known and commonly practiced today. As you will notice, however, many of these techniques share some commonality. … Continue readingMeditation week 1-“Traditional” Techniques
This is the cyberspace Home of the Knights of Awakening! For years, the KOA has been providing countless hours of conversation, learning, and entertainment on multiple media platforms. Starting out as a single radio show, the KOA has grown to encompass a larger multimedia footprint in the world! … Continue readingHome
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