I used to be one of those people who could find a million reasons not to meditate. My excuses ranged from “I don’t know where to start”, to “I can’t stop thinking”, and my favourite (most commonly used) obstacle of all, “I don’t have time”. While most of us are aware of the myriad of health benefits of meditation, it’s fair to admit that a regular practice can be a hard habit to establish. Let’s take a look at the 5 most common obstacles getting in the way, and how to overcome them:
1. “I can’t stop my mind from thinking”
Can we take a moment here to clear up one of meditations biggest myths? The goal of the practice is not to empty your mind of thoughts. When you sit down to meditate, your mind will wander away from the focus of your practice a million times over. This is to be expected; this mind is always going to have thoughts as that’s what it’s designed to do.
When thoughts arise, all you need to do is accept that they’re there, observe them with a sense of kindness and curiosity and then reconnect with the anchor of your practice (whether that be the breath, sensations in the body, sounds, a mantra, etc). Each time you bring your mind back to your centre of focus you’re strengthening your attention span. With practice, you will start to notice that your mind is less inclined to wander.
2. “I don’t have time to meditate”
I have to be honest, this excuse grinds my gears the most. Do you have time to check Instagram and Facebook each day? Do you have time to watch TV? Do you have time to go window shopping online? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you most definitely have time to mediate.
The key to conquering this obstacle, however, is that you must make the time. Just like you need set time out in your day to exercise or catch up with friends, you will also need to carve out some time to meditate. I find it easiest to set a reminder for the same time each day - either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Start small with just 5 or 10 minutes.
3. “I don’t know where to begin!”
Fair enough! There are so many different styles of meditations out there that it’s no wonder you feel overwhelmed by the practice of meditation. The great news is that adopting a meditation practice has become far more accessible and cost-effective than ever before.
You don’t need to sign up for a course, find a guru, or buy a tonne of books to learn how to practice. All you need to do is whip out your smartphone and download an app! I highly recommend the following three apps:
Insight Timer - Guided Meditation
My favourite meditation app, and the one I use personally. Insight Timer offers over 3,000 guided meditations from some of the world’s best teachers. Each meditation is unique to the teacher’s specific style and approach, therefore there is something for everybody. Click here to find three of my free guided meditations on Insight Timer.
Headspace - Mindfulness Meditation
Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk aiming to make meditation accessible. He delivers the directed 10-minute sessions in his relaxed style - no hippy talk here, he strips it down to basics and throws in the odd joke.
1 Giant Mind - Vedic Meditation
The 1 Giant Mind technique is for anyone who wants to feel happier, less stressed and more energised. Their approach to meditation is easy and effortless. No previous experience is needed. Anyone can learn this meditation technique in 12 easy steps.
4. “I can’t sit still for long enough”
Sitting cross-legged on the floor or kneeling on a meditation stool for an extended period of time is plain right uncomfortable! Don’t feel like you’re missing out on the benefits if you’re not in a traditional meditation posture. You can either sit upright (with your back supported so that you’re not slouching) on a chair, on your couch, or in your bed or lie down on your back – you want to be as comfortable as possible.
While you’re meditating, you will most likely be distracted by itches, irritations or urges that you are not normally aware of. When these situations arise, remember that these reactions are occurring simply because the mind does not want to be quietened. In this instance, simply acknowledge these irritations, and let them go.
If you find yourself experiencing an unusual amount of anxiety or discomfort, and feel like it is impossible to focus on your meditation it might not be the right time for you to practice. Allow yourself to come out of the practice and return at a later time when you feel completely ready.
5. “I can’t stay awake for long enough”
This obstacle signifies a greater problem to me. If you’re so exhausted that you can’t stay awake for 5-10 minutes to meditate, then it’s highly likely you’re not giving yourself enough rest throughout your day, or you’re not getting enough sleep each night. For starters, try to take a small break each day to relax and get an extra hour or so each night and see if that makes a difference.
If you’re still struggling to stay awake, it might be time to try a different approach to your practice. Rather than practising a lying down, relaxation style (Yoga Nidra or body scan) practice, try a seated mindfulness (open awareness or breath) meditation instead. If closing your eyes makes you want to drift off to sleep, try practising with your eyes open and gazing softly at something in front of you.