By Leo Babauta
I hope you’re finding some good training in theÂ Drop Deeper into Mindfulness ChallengeÂ … today I’m going to address some common problems you might be facing, so that those problems don’t sideline you too much.
If you’ve been struggling or having difficulties with the challenge, don’t worry! That’s totally normal. It’s just a problem to be solved.
But here’s a guiding principle: see every problem or difficulty as an opportunity to practice gentleness, relaxation, kindness and curiosity toward your experience and yourself. No matter what the problem is, think of it as an experience that you can relax with, be gentle and kind with, be curious about. If you’re frustrated with yourself, relax, be gentle with yourself, be kind to yourself, be curious about the frustration. If you are irritated with something you’re experiencing, relax your attitude toward that thing, have a more gentle way of being with it, be kind toward it.
Also, real quick … pleaseÂ take a few minutes to fill out this form for me:Â Drop Deeper Into Mindfulness Quick Poll.
Here are some common problems you might be facing, and my suggestions:
Problem: I get impatient and want to get up.
Suggestion: It’s normal to get impatient and feel like getting up from meditation. Just notice this impatience. Relax the muscles of your body a little and just feel the sensations of being impatient. Bring gentleness into your outlook toward this experience, and breathe deeply. Think of staying as an act of kindness toward yourself.
Problem: I get frustrated because I can’t keep my attention on my breath or the present moment.
Suggestion: That’s also very normal! First, relax a bit â€” it’s OK if your attention isn’t completely focused, that’s just the way the mind works. It’s an active mind, a thought-producing machine. Just sit and relax and notice how the mind works. When you get distracted, come back gently. When you get frustrated, breathe deeply and relax, be gentle and kind with yourself. See how this focus on gentleness and kindness with yourself works. And just return to watching the mind jump around â€” once you relax with this, you will start to become a loving observer of your mind, a student of reality.
Problem: I’m frustrated because I can’t remember to practice during the day.
Suggestion: If you’re doing one of the mini-challenges where you are supposed to remember all day long … you’ll find that you often forget. And that can be frustrating. And yes, this too is normal. We’re not trained to be mindful all the time! We’ve had the habit of being distracted, busy, lost in thought, caught up by our emotions … for years and year. Changing this to something that is even a little bit more aware, a little more mindful throughout the day … you can’t just flip a switch. It takes practice. Relax, be gentle and kind with yourself, and put more reminders around. Ask others to remind you. Review at the end of each day and notice your successes. Notice where you can get better, and focus on that the next day.
Problem: I feel like I’m doing it wrong, or I’m not good at it.
Suggestion: Of course! No one is ever good at anything when they first start, or even a few months after they start. Even a year later, you’re not going to be “good” at anything … except that you are. You’re practicing. That’s exactly where you should be. So actually, you’re doing it perfectly. And if you feel like you’re doing it wrong â€” this is perfect. It’s uncertainty. It’s the ground of our lives. We walk through uncertainty all day long, every day. So feeling shaky and uncertain about your practice is perfect, because then you can relax with the uncertainty, be gentle with the shakiness, be kind to the doubting self.
Problem: I can’t seem to find the time.
Suggestion: All you need is 2 minutes a day, and you can call that a success. You can find 2 minutes each morning. Just check your phone less! You can find 5 minutes. Wake up a few minutes early, and take less time in the shower. It might seem stressful to shove your 5-minute meditation in there, but just relax into that feeling, and sit. Go to bed a little early (set up a curfew for your electronics, and a nice bedtime routine), and wake up 10 minutes early. It’s OK if you’re a little tired, just sit. Relax into the feeling of tiredness (see next problem).
Problem: I get sleepy when I meditate.
Suggestion: That’s also very very common. We are usually sleep deficient. Meditation will make that very clear. Get more sleep (go to bed earlier!). And when you sit, if you feel sleepy, know that that’s completely OK. Relax and explore this feeling. You can also try to concentrate more and breathe deeply multiple times. One meditation guru said this:Â â€œSqueeze your eyes shut several times, then open them wide and stare straight ahead. Repeat this practice once or twice more. If you do this, sleepiness will cease to bother you.â€ In the end, you can even let yourself sleep, and see what that’s like. Think of this as an experiment, where you’re learning no matter what happens, and you can’t do it wrong.
Problem: I get frustrated with distractions or people being loud or interrupting me.
Suggestion: It can be annoying to have distractions … if you can find a quiet place, that’s best. But sometimes noises happen, other people interrupt you â€” and that’s OK too. Try turning your attention toward the external distraction for a bit, noticing it with a relaxed gentleness. Notice the quality of the sound, allow yourself to receive the vibrations openly, and relax into the receiving.
Problem: I get uncomfortable when I sit.
Suggestion: If you’re sitting longer than 10 minutes, you might experience discomfort â€” I certainly do! And this too is OK. If it’s not sharp pain (like you’re injuring yourself), some discomfort won’t kill you. Just relax around it, and notice what the sensation feels like, without trying to get rid of it, without wanting to exit, without judgment of the sensation. Just notice like it’s something happening near you but not in you. Be gentle and kind with this feeling of discomfort. We experience discomfort every day, and working with it mindfully is an incredible practice.
Problem: Difficult emotions arise for me.
Suggestion: Sometimes sitting still and turning inward can bring up difficult emotions, from anger to deep sadness. This is not pleasant for most of us. That’s OK. Just like with discomfort, we can practice with it, and it won’t kill us. Sit still and allow yourself to notice the sensations of these emotions. It’s a powerful thing to accept your emotions and allow yourself to be with it. Relax into it. Be with it attentively but gently. Be kind to yourself as you allow the emotions to be.
Problem: It feels boring or not fun.
Suggestion: You might want to be entertained or having fun all of the time â€” sitting still will then bring up boredom, because your mind has a habit of always wanting to be busy, always wanting to do something useful or fun. Instead, relax with this feeling of boredom, and turn toward it with curiosity. Notice how it feels. See if you can bring kindness to this feeling. And finally, bring a sense of deep appreciation to this moment, noticing the preciousness of this human life, this incredible moment, and how this combination of sensations, this experience, will never happen again. It is fleeting, unique, and lovely.
Finally … I’d love to hear from you about this challenge. Can you take a few minutes to fill out this form for me?