Have you tried to meditate but you found it too hard? Your mind kept wandering off or thoughts kept rushing in as soon as you started to meditate, maybe you felt frustrated because you told yourself that you didn’t seem to get it right or you could not feel what you thought others felt when they meditated?
As a result you maybe decided that it was not for you or did not work for you and have not tried again since. Or maybe you are practicing meditation but only sporadically because you find it difficult to keep the momentum going and keep forgetting to do it.
Well let me tell you, I have been through this myself. The first few times I ever meditated I did not think it was for me either especially that at the time I was doing a Buddhist meditation that involved counting the breath and I did not think that it worked, my mind kept wandering off, I found myself out of breath and felt frustrated.
After I learned more about how to meditate and tried different types of meditation, I was able to do so but for the first couple of years it was only sporadically because I found it too difficult to keep the momentum going on my own. It only was after I did a meditation course and got into the habit of practicing every day that I was able to practice regularly even if some days it was only connecting with my breath for a minute or 2 during the day.
So it is normal for minds to wander off, that is what they do! The mind does not like to be in the present moment, so it will try to get you into the past or the future or to judge yourself, others and what is going on. When we meditate we are retraining the mind. If you want to build your muscles, you are not going to be able to lift heavy weights right away, and what is heavy will of course be different for different people, you are going to have to do a little bit every time before you get to that stage. Also if only go to the gym sporadically, it is not going to get easier and as you will not see results. Well it is the same with meditation.
When you start to meditate, your mind may try to resist because it does not like to be in the present moment, and you may have thoughts like: `this is boring’, I can’t do this’, `it’s not working`, it’s too hard’,
it's not for me'. So why should not I listen, you may ask? If I think this it must be true!
Through mindfulness and meditation we learn to become the observer of our thoughts and the more we practice we realize that we cannot believe all the thoughts that come into our mind. We all have acquired beliefs and a particular mindset from our childhood experiences but a lot of these are not very helpful to us in adulthood and prevent us from being happy and fulfilled. If you tell yourself that `
something is too hard' or `it is not for you’, then you have closed your mind to it and thus to new possibilities.
A friend of mine who experienced depression, anxiety and much stress in her life was adamant that she could not meditate. She had decided that meditation was not for her because her mind was too active. Even though I explained to her that mindfulness did not only consist of meditation but many different techniques to become aware of what was happening in the present moment and that there were different ways to meditate, she still closed her mind to it for quite a while. One day, I was finally able to get her to come to one of my mindfulness workshops and she was very surprised that she was able to do some of the meditation techniques that I showed.
Indeed there are many different ways to meditate and practice mindfulness, so it is worth trying different techniques as some will work better for you than others.
So how can you meditate more easily? Here are seven tips that will help you meditate more easily.
1. Not trying to push thoughts away
When we meditate we are not trying to push thoughts away, on the contrary we are allowing whatever thought to come in whether, it is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral but rather than holding on to them we let them go without by bringing ourselves back gently without judgment to our focus of attention.
2. Keeping an open mind
It is important to keep an open mind, if thoughts like `
I can't do it', `it’s too hard’, `it won’t work’ come in just observe them and let them go like any other thought.
3. Not trying to achieve anything
It is also very important to not try to achieve anything, mindfulness meditation is about just being in the now. If you try to be peaceful or try to feel something or expect a certain outcome while you are practicing, you will just create more stress for yourself and will feel frustrated.
4. Starting with watching your breath for one minute at a time
You do not need to start with a 5 or 10 minute meditation, you can just start by watching each movement of the breath for its full duration as you breathe in and out and feeling the sensations associated with each breath for one minute. You can then add one or two minutes when it gets easier.
5. Using guided meditation
It is also easier to start with a guided meditation if you are going to do more than one minute at a time. There are many different types of guided meditation so you can try a few to see the ones that you prefer.
6. Not calling it meditation
If you told yourself before that `meditation was not for you’, it will be easier if you do not use that term. In mindfulness, we talk about formal and informal mindfulness practices. Meditation is a formal mindfulness practice because we take time out out of our day to do so. However, as mentioned in no 4, you can start practicing watching the breath for one minute anywhere, in the car, sitting at your desk at work, waiting for the train, even in the toilet! So you do not have to take time out of your day, you are just connecting to your breath and bringing yourself in the present moment.
7. Set up a routine
It is important to do the practice roughly at the same time everyday, put it in your diary if it helps, even if it is only connecting with your breath for one minute 2 or 3 times a day. For instance, it could be connecting with the breath for one minute when you wake up, one minute before you start work, another minute before going to sleep. Making it into a routine will help you considerably in keeping the momentum going.
Also remember that mindfulness can also be practiced through your everyday activities, so that you do not need to start with meditation but connecting with the breath for one minute is a very good way to start.
If you would like to have a free 20 minute mindfulness phone discovery session to discuss how I can help you have more calm, joy and fulfillment in your life, please contact me or check out my upcoming 6 week mindfulness course, in which I teach a wide range of meditations as well as mindfulness techniques to incorporate into your everyday activities, in St Kilda East, Vic, starting on Wed 25th Oct. from 7 to 9 pm, by clicking here.