Meditation seems like it should be easy…. right?
After all, you’re just sitting there.
But if you’ve spent any time doing it, you know that meditation isn’t easy!
Don’t get me wrong… meditation is wonderful and life-changing.
Meditation Isn’t Easy, Because Sometimes….
Your Mind Is Sooooo Wild
For thousands of years people have been comparing the mind during meditation to various forms of turbulent water, like waterfalls and raging rivers. And for good reason!
It’s not easy to sit still when the mind is exploding with thoughts. It hardly feels like meditation at all.
But here’s the good news…. just noticing that your mind is wild and crazy is a sign of progress. Before you started meditating, did you have any idea how busy your mind is?
There’s another reason that water is a popular image in meditation circles… because given enough space and evenness, raging rivers become smooth and silent – still waters that run deep. If you stay with meditation, the mind will settle down.
Even if you spend 90% of your meditation session lost in thought, you’re doing well. That other 10% – when you notice you’ve been thinking and come back to your technique (and back to the present moment) – is the heart of meditation practice.
If you’re used to a lot of stimulation, meditation can be a shock. The mind is accustomed to gathering information, forming opinions, making decisions…. it’s not used to just being there.
Did you know that boredom is actually an expression of fear? If we’re not used to so much openness, we kind of freak out. The agitation we feel is an attempt to fill up the space and control our experience.
When we feel agitated, it helps to recognize what’s happening. We can acknowledge that we’re uncomfortable with unfamiliar feelings of openness and lack of feedback.
Here too is good news! We can make friends with our boredom – rather than plotting how to get rid of it. When we can rest in boredom, it shifts into a state of being relaxed and aware. Still not much going on… but now we’re ok with it.
It’s Physically Painful
It’s hard to meditate when your body hurts. It just is.
But pain doesn’t mean the end of meditation. Far from it.
Here are some ways to work with pain:
- Find the best support for your body. Meditation seats are not a one-size-fits-all affair. Some people do well with a mat on the floor, some with an elevated cushion, others need to sit in a chair. It’s your body, treat it well.
- Don’t torture yourself! Unless you’re doing a practice that specifically requires not moving, listen to the wisdom of your body. You don’t want to fidget and squirm, but it’s fine to adjust your posture as needed.
- Make pain a part of your meditation. If you suffer from chronic pain, you can let this sensation be the object of your meditation. Hold your mind to the feeling. When your mind wanders, come back to the feeling in your body. Many people report that by doing this, their relationship to pain changes – it becomes easier to bear.
Things Surface That You’d Rather Not Deal With
We all have stuff we’d rather keep buried. In our daily lives it’s pretty easy to avoid certain thoughts and feelings.
But with meditation there’s no where to hide. That’s the point!
If you really, really don’t want to look at certain memories or feel particular emotions… then sitting meditation probably isn’t good for you right now. You might do better with something like trauma-informed yoga.
But if you can face uncomfortable thoughts and feelings in meditation, you’ll find that they lose at least some of their power to cause you pain.
Meditation is meant to change us. Being willing to embrace ourselves completely is part of the path.
You Want To Sleep Late (or go to bed early…. or watch a movie…. or do anything else)
Here’s the truth…. getting to your meditation seat is half the battle. Which means that resistance will probably be a constant companion for quite a while.
Here are some tips for working with resistance…
- Try to meditate at the same time of day. Once your body gets used to the routine, you’ll instinctively know when it’s time to meditate – the same way we get hungry at mealtime, even if we don’t actually need food.
- Set an alarm before your session. Give yourself a 5, 10 or 15 minute warning – so you have time to finish what you’re doing and shift into meditation mode.
- Have a sense of humor about it. If you know that resistance is part of working with the mind, you can have a nice little chat with yourself that might go like this, “Ah… here you are again. I know your tricks, but you aren’t going to derail me!”
- Be gentle with yourself. The world won’t end if you miss a session…. or even a lot of sessions. Reconnect with your reasons for meditating and recommit. You can always start fresh.
Meditation is training for the mind, the same way exercise is training the body. Sometimes it flows beautifully and other times it’s just plain hard. Either way, it’s worth the effort!
Meditation isn’t easy… or is it? Share your experience in the comments section below.
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