If all is going well, you’ve meditated a bunch of times this month. Great!
But likely one or more things have gotten in your way, either stopping you from meditating or causing you frustration when you do meditate.
Let’s take a moment to address those obstacles, with my own recommendations and some from your fellow Sea Change members.
And don’t forget to report on your obstacles/solutions on this forum thread.
1. Too Busy, Urgent Stuff Going On
Many of you have reported that when the crap hits the fan, or you just have a lot to get done, the meditation habit drops off. I’ve experienced this myself.
Suggestion: What helps me is:
- To realize that this feeling of urgency is actually suffering. I’m feeling so much anxiety that I don’t want to make time for self-care. But the best way to deal with this anxiety is actually to meditate.
- To tell myself I only need to do 2 minutes. Even though I like to meditate for longer, if I can just sit for 2 minutes, that’s a success. And I’ll almost always have time for 2 minutes.
So when you feel rushed or busy, pause for a moment and watch your mind trying to run from the meditation. This is our mind being afraid that other things are more important, that we’ll fail in our lives if we don’t get moving on the other things. Watch it, but don’t believe it. Our minds do a lot of things out of fear.
Instead, just sit for 2 minutes. Sit there and watch the anxiety and fear. See your suffering, feel it in your body. Accept the suffering, instead of trying to reject it.
2. Forgetting to Do It
This is an extremely common problem — many of us just plain forget to meditate. You tend to get better at this over time as it becomes more of an automatic habit, but you can definitely find solutions to remember until then.
Suggestion: Create both electronic and physical reminders. A big paper note posted somewhere obvious is a great physical solution, or a meditation cushion in your doorway where you won’t miss it, write it on your whiteboard. Digital reminders include a calendar reminder, reminder emails, notifications on your phone, having a message about meditation on your browser home page or your computer wallpaper.
3. Disruptions in Your Routine
Another very big obstacle for people so far has been disruptions to their regular routine — weekends when things are different and you sleep in, travel, visitors, waking up late and the kids are already up.
Suggestion: There are a few ways to handle this, depending on the disruption:
- When possible, plan ahead when you know there’s going to be a change in routine. Decide ahead of time when you’ll do your meditation. If you’re traveling, make an extra commitment to set new reminders when you’re on the road.
- When something unexpected comes up, make a note to make an adjustment that day. For example, if you get a call in the morning and aren’t able to meditate, write out a paper note to yourself and place it where you can see it — and then meditate at lunch, or right before bed.
- If all hell breaks loose and you simply cannot find a few minutes to meditate, that’s OK. Forgive yourself, but commit to getting back on track tomorrow (or as soon as the hell is over). If you can find a few minutes in the midst of the hell, that’s even better. You can take a break anywhere and meditate walking or standing up if necessary, or in the bathroom or shower.
4. Being Too Tired
Some people are just too tired in the morning to feel they’re meditating properly, or perhaps are physically exhausted from work stress or being overcommitted in their lives. Or perhaps they’ve pushed meditation to the end of the day, and then are too tired by then to focus.
Suggestion: The main suggestion I have is to let go of the idea that you need to be alert to meditate, or that you need to be not tired. You can meditate when you’re tired or physically exhausted.
Your mind wants to run from doing something when it’s tired. It no longer has its full battery of self-control, and is depleted.
You can still meditate when your mind wants to run. See your mind rationalizing why you shouldn’t meditate. See it wanting to do something else. But don’t let the mind run. Keep it there, and just tell it, “I can do anything for 2 minutes.” And then just sit for 2 minutes.
If you’re meditating and you can’t focus because of tiredness, that’s OK. Let yourself do it “imperfectly”. There’s no right way to do it anyway. See if you can stick to your breath or body while you’re tired. Or instead, try focusing on the suffering you feel as you’re tired. What’s that like? How does it feel? Just observe, and accept the suffering. This is a really useful practice.
- Go to bed earlier. Set an alarm to remind you when it’s bedtime, and turn off all devices/screens.
- If you fail because of tiredness, that’s OK. Forgive yourself, and recommit yourself.
5. Other People Interfering
Some people reported problems with their kids getting in the way, or wanting to stay in bed with the wife, or having company, or not wanting other people to interrupt while they’re meditating.
These are all legitimate obstacles, but they can be overcome.
Suggestions: Again, watch your mind wanting to run from the meditation here. Your mind will rationalize why you shouldn’t meditate — because of the kids, or your spouse, or company, or interruptions. These are all just rationalizations from a mind that wants to avoid discomfort.
Instead, find any small space to meditate, even if it’s in the shower or on the toilet or taking out the garbage, or waiting for the coffee to brew. You can find some space, just for a couple minutes.
Watch the mind want to run, and don’t let it. See the suffering you’re feeling because of others, and just observe, just accept the suffering.
- Invite your kids or spouse to join you.
- Go for a walk and meditate either while walking or find a place to sit for a few minutes.
- Meditate on your commute, even if you’re driving — meditate at stoplights and while stuck in traffic, or when you arrive at the parking lot, or while on a train.
6. Lack of Concentration
Some people reported problems with focusing:
- I am anxious about some struggles in my personal life and my mind wanders to those problems.
- I am stuck at 11 minutes, after that I get antsy, and starting rushing affirmations. I feel that my mind wanders and then comes back.
- Sitting doesn’t work for me because I can’t concentrate / am not at peace.
- My mind wanders to a project I’m working on.
Suggestion: It’s OK for your mind to wander. Just observe what it’s trying to wander to. Give it a little space to do that, then gently return to the breath and body. Sometimes it’s good to see your mind trying to wander, and see this as a form of suffering (distraction, attachment). Observe the suffering.
You don’t need to perfectly concentrate, at all. Just keep doing it, keep watching your mind wandering. There’s no wrong way to meditate, and if you’re feeling like you’re failing at it or doing it wrong, then a good thing to do is to examine your expectations and ideals around meditation. Meditate on those ideals, try letting them go and meditating without expectations.
7. Other Problems
A few other problems people have reported, with some suggestions for each:
Problem: My biggest obstacle is I still don’t see any of the amazing benefits I read about. So the practice seems like a chore.
Suggestion: Yes, this can be difficult. I suggest continuing the practice, and giving it a chance. Sometimes you don’t see the benefits for a month or two, or sometimes the benefits are there but you don’t see them.
An interesting thing to explore is your suffering around your expectations and disappointment. You were hoping for some amazing benefits (expectations) and having seen them (disappointment), and so this is frustrating. You’re suffering because of the expectations. In meditation, take a minute or two to watch this suffering, see how it feels, accept it.
It’s also interesting to meditate on the feeling of doing something that feels like a chore. This results from not wanting to do something, not seeing it as worthwhile. But if you were doing something to help a friend, doing something that would make them happy, you might be grateful to do it. So approach this the same way: you’re helping a friend (you), and you can find a way to be grateful that you’re able to do this activity.
Problem: I’m a perfectionist.
Suggestion: Me too! And these expectations of perfection are a great thing to meditate on, along with the suffering we cause ourselves from the perfectionism. Practice letting go during the meditation, and accepting the meditation for what it is, as it is.
Problem: I don’t have anything good in the afternoon to anchor the meditation habit to.
Suggestion: For now, use an alarm, or a physical reminder. You might be mindful of your daily rhythms in the afternoon, and find a good pattern of time/energy to fit the meditation into.