Want to know what's keeping you from finding a consistent meditation practice everyday? Here's what you're doing wrong and how you can change that.
I spent so much time throughout my journey trying to 'figure out' meditation. Forcing myself to sit for hours on end in silence, only to have my thoughts running a million miles an hour. It's so easy to become frustrated, reacting at each thought that pops up, and getting down on yourself for being a 'bad meditator'. Here's the thing- there's nothing wrong with thoughts. The problem lies within your ego that is setting unnecessary expectations. After many meditation retreats, yoga intensives, silent vipassana retreats and years of diving into this practice, the most essential thing I have learned is to LET GO. Here are the top five mistakes I've found that most people make while meditating.
1. You’re too hard on yourself
Meditation practice is really all about letting go. Letting go of the expectations of what your practice is going to look like. You have to be able to accept that while you’re trying to meditate, especially in the beginning, you’re mind is going to wander. It’s impossible not to. But trust me, it WILL get better. In a 20 minute practice if you are able to only find stillness for 3 minutes. IT’S OKAY! It is AMAZING actually. It is 3 more minutes of mindfulness than if you didn’t meditate. And next week when meditating, you’ll have 4 minutes of space, and the week after, 5 minutes. And it will keep becoming more and more natural and you will learn how to stop reacting to those thoughts more and more.
2. You're reacting to your thoughts
Like I mentioned above, it’s totally fine when your mind wanders in a million directions. The problem is when you allow reactions to come from those thoughts. When you think to yourself ‘Ugh I’m thinking again’ or ‘Why am I thinking about this?’ or ‘Why can’t I just meditate?’. The key to success is accepting your thoughts. Accept that you wandered off for a little while, and just very simply, come back to that quiet place. Even if it's only for 10 seconds before another thought arises. Just keep coming back again and again without getting upset, angry, or emotional. Be patient with yourself.
3. You are starting too big
Most people who want to start integrating a meditation practice into their daily routine tend to start out too big. You do NOT need to meditate for an hour a day to see an impact on your life. I am telling you 5-10 minutes per day will make such a big difference. How hard is it to wake up FIVE minutes before your alarm clock? Really? You can totally do it. Do it! It’s going to bring such happiness into your life! You’ll have so much more peace of mind and clarity through out your day, you will be able to start your day with an act of self love and allowing you to be more gentle with yourself through out the day. You will be able to see a change in your reactivity to small things that normally trigger you. You will be able to stop reacting so quickly with anger and frustrations and learn to take a few deeps breaths before you react. And once you’ve got a solid 5-10 minutes per day you’ll start to crave more! Then slowly, slowly you can increase the amount of time. Please, please do not set unnecessary guidelines to force yourself into sitting for one hour a day. Start small, work your way up, and it will be much more manageable.
4. You think everyone else is doing it ‘right’
Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. Just stop. Like, right now. It’s useless, really. If you think that everyone else is sitting there perfectly in meditation for one hour a day without their mind wandering once… you’re WRONG. It’s not happening, trust me. We’ve all got a million thoughts, fears, doubts and worries running through our minds all the time. You are not alone in the struggle. It takes a lot of practice to quiet the mind, but you have to start from somewhere. Unless you’re an enlightened guru living in a cave in the Himalayas…chances are, your mind probably still wanders from time to time. So like i’ve already mentioned multiple times here... go EASY on yourself! There is no right way to meditate. Sit, breathe and be patient. Come with the right intention and you will learn as you go.
5. You focusing too much on the position
When you're starting out meditating, how you sit, which way your legs are crossed, how many times you move….it doesn’t matter. Make yourself comfortable. Don't worry about trying to sit in the perfect lotus posture and beating yourself up when you've got an itch you can’t bear anymore. Use a bunch of pillows, sit against a wall to support your back, sit in a chair, do whatever you need to to make yourself feel at ease. Yes, it’s definitely beneficial when you can sit still and your spine is straight and you allow energy to freely flow throughout your body, but it is not the end all be all. It also takes a lot of practice and strengthening of the back muscles to keep your back straight for an extended period of time. Instead of getting so caught up in the how you sit and how often you twitch, try to focus on HOW you move. Slowly stretch your legs whenever necessary, but do it with mindfulness. Become aware of every single movement. Keep your breathing patterns and don’t let it disrupt you. We’ve all got different bodies and injuries of our own and sometimes its impossible to sit still for a long time. Instead of being so uncomfortable that you cannot even focus on your own breathing, relax! Sit however you want! The stillness within is what is most important.
Try not to stress so much on the 'how' and focus on the 'why'. Intention is key in every meditation practice. Go into it with an open heart, full well knowing your thoughts are probably going to wander and it's not going to look 'perfect'. But you showed up. You sat here in silence and you're making an effort. THAT is what is important. Breathe, relax into it, and your mind will follow.