5 things that are sabotaging your daily meditation practice and what to do about it
As meditation is becoming more “mainstream”, more people are becoming aware of the mental and physical health benefits that meditation brings. Meditation is scientifically proven to calm anxiety, help you sleep better and increase your overall happiness and quality of life. Yet, developing a consistent meditation practice is a struggle for many people.
One of the most popular complaints that I hear from people who want to meditate is that they don’t have time. But time is just one of the challenges. Here are the 5 things that are sabotaging your meditation practice and how you can address them and start meditating daily.
1. I do not have time to meditate
I used to feel the same way: I was so stressed out trying to do too many things and not taking enough time to care about my needs that I was constantly derived of sleep and tired. I attempted to meditate for 10 minutes every day but would fall asleep within the first seconds of the session and eventually, after a couple of sessions, gave up on it completely!
Now, having meditated on an off for 3.5 years, I realize that there are a few things to unpack. If you “cannot find time to meditate”, here’s what you should do:
Start meditating for just one minute every day and gradually increase the duration of your sessions (you can find unguided meditations in the Calm app where you can pick the duration of your sessions).
Meditate in the mornings and sitting upright. I was so exhausted in the evenings that the only thing my body wanted to do is sleep. If that’s your case, by meditating in the morning and sitting upright while doing that can help you stay alert and engaged.
Try walking meditations instead. If sitting in silence and focusing on your breath is too overwhelming (I know, the irony!), opt for going for a mindful walk and noticing how your body feels when you move, the sounds of your surrounding, the color of the sky, the smells, the wind, anything that you experience as a part of your mindful walk. By doing a walking meditation you are both bringing awareness and mindfulness into your day and getting those steps in.
If you are not able to do a walking meditation, simply take a few deep breaths and focus on your breath for a minute or two.
Finally, if you have small kids, for example, and your attention is constantly pulled into satisfying their needs, try including them in your practice - encourage them to sit still with you, close the eyes and focusing on the breathing, one breath at a time.
2. I am constantly distracted by my thoughts
It’s one of the biggest misconceptions in meditation that a regular meditation practice will help you clear your mind and let you avoid thinking about anything during the meditation sessions. This could not be more wrong!
It’s absolutely natural for us to have all sorts of thoughts during the meditation practice. In fact, our mind is so used to being stimulated all the time that it freaks out when we slow down and throws all sorts of thoughts on us to sabotage our practice. That minor inconvenience at work that suddenly feels like a big deal that will ruin your career, that to-do list item you forgot to cross, or that tiny possibility of something going wrong in the future - we’ve all been there, sitting down to meditate only getting carried away by our thoughts.
While you knee-jerk reaction might get you to interrupt your meditation practice early or stop it, hang in there. Simply say “my thoughts are just thoughts, and they will pass” and watch them pass by like clouds in the sky, without getting emotionally involved in them. It might be hard to do at the beginning but you will become more familiar with this approach as you continue practicing it.
Also, you will notice that most mindfulness meditations sessions get you to focus on your breath, observing where it starts, how it moves through your body, how it ends and how it starts again. Why? Because our mind can properly focus on just one thing: when you focus on your breath you are not able to think about anything else. So, when a thought arises, simply come back to the breath.
3. I don’t know if meditation is working
Another popular misconception about meditation is that, as you progress in your meditation practice, you will become this easy going calm happy person and nothing or no one would be able to ruin your day. Oh, and these positive changes will happen quickly. False! And there are two things to note here:
Skill: in my opinion, meditation is like golf: you learn certain techniques and approaches but it does not guarantee that your experience will be progressing day by day. In fact, today you might really enjoy your meditation session and tomorrow you can barely sit through those 10 minutes - it might be uncomfortable, you might be swept away with negative thoughts or you might simply feel unmotivated - and that’s okay. When that happens, simply acknowledge it and continue with your practice - on days like this you need it more than ever!
Timing: As I have described above, you might not reap the benefits of meditation instantly and sometimes you might feel like you are making one step forward and one step backwards. Please know that it’s part of the journey and that by meditating every day you are becoming more aware, compassionate, resilient and happy. Life will not stop throwing curveballs on you but you will be much better equipped to respond to the events happening to you rather than react to them.
4. I just cannot commit to meditating daily
When you are just starting out, keeping a meditation streak (meditating for a number of consecutive days) might help you stay motivated. At the same time, the first time you miss a session and break your streak might feel like you’re a failure. Please note that it’s not true and you are doing the best you can!
One of the concepts of mindfulness meditation is being kind, compassionate, loving and patient towards yourself. So, just like you do it in your loving kindness meditation practice and send loving kindness to people around you, direct some loving kindness, acceptance and patience towards yourself. If you missed a session, that’s okay, do not beat yourself about it and start again.
5. I feel like I am being judged / my partner does not support me
While meditation is scientifically proven to improve your health, it’s not uncommon if your family or partner are not onboard with it. While it might feel discouraging, know that you are not alone and that there are people out there on a meditation journey. The Daily Calm Community, for example, has over 50,000 members and it’s one of the kindest, supportive and uplifting places on the internet!
When challenged by your family or partner, simply ask them to give you those 10 minutes of your time a day. Put a note on the door when you are meditating if needed or simply let them know that you are going to meditate and ask them not to disturb you during that time.
Alternatively, invite them to join your session! It might be something completely new to them at first and then they might love it!
I hope understanding these barriers and addressing them can help you develop a consistent meditation practice. Please let me know how it goes or simply share your thoughts on this in comments!