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Everybody will naturally face difficulties when they meditate - whether beginning the journey or as experienced practitioners. Having an awareness of the obstacles can allow us to meet them and eventually overcome them.
“My mind is too busy to meditate!”Firstly, this is a natural and common response. Our minds are hardwired to be thinking, so when we want to sit still and be quiet it’s going to go into over-drive. If we set out with the intention to focus on our breath or body and we ‘lose the meditation’ – waking up in a stream of thoughts about the shopping list or planning our next holiday – it can feel like we’ve failed or not doing right…Actually, the opposite is true. Our thoughts and distractions provide the basis for the meditation, once we realise we’re thinking about something we can gently bring focus back to our breathing. So really, when we notice we have been thinking about that email, or what we’ve got for dinner, it’s a success, not failure. With continued practice, you will notice that the relationship to thoughts gradually changes too, with an understanding that not all of thoughts require our attention. In a ‘Monk’s Guide to Happiness’ Gelong Thubeten simplifies and frames meditation into 3 phases: 1. Breathing (focusing) | Being with the breath 2. Noticing | Moment we realise we’re on a train of thought (waking up) 3. Returning | Coming back to the breath So, breathing, noticing, remembering - all meditations will follow the same patterns.
Meditation is a way to relax or a way to be happy, get rid of negative thoughts…Yes, these are natural by products of meditation, but we meditate in order to cultivate awareness and acceptance of anything and everything that may arise when we sit, so we can learn to do the same in our daily lives. When we decide to still in silence, our fears, anxieties and worries come to the surface because we haven’t the usual distractions – mobile phone, socialising, entertainment – this can be a real barrier to continued practice. The job is not to get rid of, or control, these thoughts in the hope that we’ll be happy, but instead meeting them with compassion and kindness – it is impossible to stop thoughts but with practice and awareness, we can change our relationship to them.
“I won’t be able to meditate because I find it difficult to sit cross-legged / sit still”This another common misconception. Any comfortable but alert position is totally fine – whether sitting on an armchair or lying on a yoga mat. It’s not necessary to sit full lotus position without moving so much as a muscle, contrary to popular belief. Some like to use a bench or cushion, or some like to sit upright on a chair or on a bed with pillows under the arm – you can rest your knees or in your lap. Over time you will find your favoured position. When we’re not used to sitting still for periods of time, the body will get uncomfortable – instead of labelling that an issue, use it as a vehicle for returning, being present with the area of the body that needs attention – simply re-adjust with intention to get comfortable again.
"The meditation is not working, I'm not doing it right!"The mind can conjour up many narratives around what meditation 'should' be like, especially if we've seen certain films, documentaries or videos which portray ancient yogis talking about 'illuminating transcendental' experiences when meditating on a snow capped mountain. This leads to expectations, which when not realised after 5 minutes of sitting, doubt shows up and thoughts suggest we're doing it wrong or nothing is happening. Although these thoughts may seem more true or important, remember no matter what the thoughts are, they are just thoughts - whenever you notice that the mind has been pulled into the story, we guide the attention back to the point of focus. Let go of any expectations and know that there is no such as a right or wrong meditation. As we continue to practice, we deepen trust and confidence in our own direct experience - your meditation is unique to you, so go by that rather than what others may or may not experience.
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