5 Biggest Challenges When Starting With Meditation and How to Overcome Them
There are plenty of challenges a beginner might face when starting with meditation. The most common difficulty, I feel, is that you don’t know what meditation is until you’ve experienced it. So your mind keeps asking: “Is this it?” or “Am I doing this right?”.
What is meditation?
I will not go into defining meditation because this will create expectations that might hinder your experience.
The only thing you need to know is that we cannot create conditions for meditation. We can only ensure our surroundings allow us to concentrate. Meditation is a natural consequence of concentration.
With this said, let’s look at some of the biggest challenges to concentration.
You have too many thoughts.
Feeling unsettled is one of the most common issues when trying to meditate. In Buddhism, they call this the “monkey mind” because your mind is acting like a monkey, jumping from one thought to another. Your thoughts are anywhere but in the present.
In his book Raja Yoga Indian monk Swami Vivekanda recommends you become the observer of your thoughts. Leave out judgment and be patient. Gradually, thoughts will stop coming up.
When I first applied this technique, it was life-changing. After so many failed attempts to meditate, for the first time, I was doing it.
You cannot find a comfortable position.
Most people who have heard of yoga think it is a purely physical practice involving postures that require a lot of flexibility. In reality, asanas (or poses) are an element of yoga that strengthens the body and prepares it for long hours of sitting. By attaining comfort in the physical body, one can focus on meditation and eventually achieve enlightenment.
In 2018 I visited an ashram in India to take a break from social media. There, I spent most of my time trying to meditate. I’ve struggled with bad posture and back pains ever since my childhood so sitting cross-legged even for 15 minutes felt like torture.
In the ashram, we were meditating in an empty hall, so I sat beside a wall that I could lean on. I also used pillows to support my lower back and neck.
An easy way to keep your spine erect is to sit with your pelvis on a higher level than your knees. A pillow or a folded blanket under your tush is enough to put your pelvis in a forward tilt, allowing you to sit comfortably upright.
You can also meditate sitting in a chair or even lying down.
Possibly the best solution, although it takes a lot of time, is to work on your posture. After two years of sticking to a regular yoga asana practice, I’ve seen incredible results. I can now sit without fidgeting for at least 30 minutes. Plus, my chronic back pain is a thing of the past.
Meditation can often be so relaxing that you doze off. It is quite natural as you still have not built the habit of remaining still while keeping your awareness.
Falling asleep was one of my biggest struggles when starting with meditation. It still happens sometimes when I try Yoga Nidra, a sort of meditation that takes you to a consciousness similar to that of the moment before you fall asleep.
Try meditating during a different time of the day when you feel fresh and energized.
Meditate in a setting that is relaxing but still doesn’t comfort you enough that drift off to sleep. For example, I intentionally do Yoga Nidra lying on my mat on the floor rather than on my bed to avoid getting too comfortable. I also prefer to meditate in the daylight rather than in darkness. In my experience, it helps a lot with keeping your alertness.
Sticking to a habit.
If you have tried meditation even once, you probably already know it has many scientifically-backed benefits. Yet sticking to a meditation habit can prove to be challenging.
In general, creating new habits is not an easy task. However, several techniques can help you stick to a meditation routine.
Try “attaching” your meditation practice to a habit you already have. Meditate right after you brush your teeth or first thing when you come home from work.
My biggest issue with instilling new habits is that I forget about them. If this sounds like you, you can set a daily reminder on your phone.
Also, always start small. If you’ve never meditated before and you want to meditate every day for 30 minutes in one go, you’re setting yourself up for a failure. Instead, start with an easy goal that will build up your confidence. Once you’re comfortable with meditating for 5 minutes, you can gradually go up to 10, 15, and so on.
What meditation is not.
As I said in the beginning, I won’t create any expectations of what meditation should be. It is a personal experience and it is best if you see for yourself.
Nevertheless, I want to point out what isn’t meditation.
Sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed is not necessarily meditation. Stillness can aid with focus but doesn’t guarantee it. You can be in a lotus pose, thinking about what errands you have to run.
You can still achieve a meditative state while you’re in motion. As you progress, you’ll find you can meditate while dancing or walking, in silence on or in a busy street.
Let go of any preconceptions about meditation. Accept it and try to have fun with it.
Author’s Bio: Eva Milano is a yoga teacher, avid traveler, and freelance writer at All Things Hair. She loves sharing the techniques and knowledge that have helped improve her health and well being so others can also benefit from them.
You can find Eva on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/evamilanoyoga/
Thanks for reading. Really, it means so much. I would love to hear about what Meditation and Motherhood is like for you. Drop me a comment and share, share, share!