When I first heard of meditation many years ago, I thought that you were supposed to be transported to some other realm, the looks of which, I had no idea. It was this mysterious ability that I wasn’t sure I had. Was I supposed to feel something? Hear messages? See visions?
As I learned more about what meditation was, I realized that it would help me to relax, de-stress, and be able to focus better (not to mention its benefits as a spiritual practice). I did research on the Internet and found all kinds of suggestions but nothing seemed to help or make a difference.
Whenever I “attempted” to meditate, nothing happened. I would feel the same; my mind would race as usual. Quieting my mind seemed to be an impossibility. I would just sit there and wonder: What’s the point of continuing to try? Why is meditation so challenging? Maybe it’s just something that I’m incapable of doing.
One day I decided to take a different approach. Instead of trying to find more techniques or suggestions to help me meditate, I asked myself the question, “Why can’t I meditate?” What stood out to me was that our minds are accustomed to always be thinking. Our busy lives and societal conditioning have us always thinking, critiquing, worrying, focusing on our jobs, going over our to-do list, etc. So my mind’s comfort zone was to be active. Being quiet and calm, without thoughts, was a foreign experience, so it would rebel.
I thought about what would happen during my attempts at meditation. Oftentimes a topic or person that I had negative or stressful feelings about would pop into my head. The more I tried to get it or them out of my mind, the stronger the thoughts would become. Then I’d worry that any negative energy around the situation would come into my field. The more I’d fight all this, the worse I’d feel, so then I’d stop my attempt at meditating in order to not let that energy affect me.
Then I had an epiphany. I realized that this was my mind’s strategy for its rebellion. My active mind wasn’t comfortable being quiet, so it would pick a stressful topic that it knew was tied to a fear I had, which would cause me to give up my meditation attempt. Once I realized this, it no longer had the same power over me. Being aware of this little trick my mind was doing to sabotage my attempt, I no longer got stressed when triggering thoughts would appear.
A more mundane trigger that causes me to sometimes stop meditating is when my mind wanders to my to-do list. All I want to do is to get up and attend to whatever tasks have entered my head; it’s quite a strong compulsion. But I also know that it’s my mind’s way of getting back to its comfort zone: busy thoughts. I remind myself of this and try to focus again on stillness.
If you also find meditation to be difficult, ask yourself the same question. Ponder what makes you give up on meditation attempts. Do you think that meditation takes time away from other important tasks? Is having a meditation practice something outside your comfort zone or belief system? Does it seem not worth the effort? Do you feel like you should be working rather than taking time for your self? What are some reasons that you have for not following through with your intention to meditate? Do the answers to your questions shed light on what may help to break through your meditation blockages?
I’ve also considered the physical side of meditation. Sometimes I feel like my body just doesn’t relax easily, which adds to my meditation difficulties. This has led me to experiment with things to support overall relaxation, which helps me to quiet my mind. I’ve done breathing exercises, acupuncture, walks in nature, listened to meditation music, among others, to get my mind more accustomed to being still. I’ve also consulted with my naturopath on supplements that help to keep my body balanced and calm.
The mind needs repetition and practice for stillness to become easier. I now recognize the value of sitting in stillness, even when I can’t quiet my mind. One day during my attempt, the phone rang and the intrusion felt jostling. Then I realized that even sitting quietly, something was happening or else the ring wouldn’t have felt so intrusive and disturbing. So even though my mind felt like I wasn’t meditating, I was on the path. I was training myself and taking steps forward that would lead to deeper experiences later. So don’t discount the value of simply sitting quietly. It is beneficial and something is still most definitely happening.
I’m still finding my way on my meditation journey. I haven’t had some of the unique experiences that I’ve heard from others nor do I get into a deep meditation where the external world fades away. But pondering the question of why I couldn’t meditate was enlightening and helpful for me to tailor my own personal strategy and approach to meditation that led to my own breakthroughs. I hope my discoveries help you to find your own.