This is a follow-up to my post on Starting (or Restarting) a Meditation Practice.
When you start meditating, you don’t know what to expect or what could happen. You may ask yourself, “Am I doing this right?” or “Is this what it is supposed to feel like?” Your brain may seem to not turn off and you may give up the practice altogether.
As someone who has meditated for well over 25,000 hours in 40 years, I thought I would share some wisdom with you on common experiences and challenges that you may have as you start or restart your practice.
It’s a Practice, Not Perfection
Let’s remember that it’s called meditation practice for good reason. We are practicing, not perfecting, when we sit for meditation. Each time you do sit for meditation, you will improve your practice. The more consistent we do practice, the more we will experience an accumulative effect.
The ole mind-wandering, it’s normal, it happens and it still happens to me after 40 years! We have to remember that the brain’s job is to think. It does so very efficiently with 90,000 thoughts per day. Our task with meditation is not too have no thoughts, our purpose is not attaching to those thoughts. Concentration or focus meditation is very helpful with what is called “monkey mind.” That is focusing on counting the breath, a mantra, candle flame, or a sensory awareness mindfulness practice where you focus specifically on items for all five senses.
One technique you can use to not get lost in thought is what is called “labeling.” When a thought arises, say what you have to purchase at the grocery store later, instead of indulging the thought, label it as “thinking” and go back to your focus or concentration object. The same goes for sounds you may hear in your room or outside. Use “sound.” Same for any bodily sensations, “Sensation.”
The important note here is to return to your meditation object as soon as you notice your mind has wandered. Don’t berate yourself, just gently usher your mind back to concentration. Just like a puppy who wanders off, you don’t yank the leash hard in punishment, you bring the puppy back lovingly. Do the same with your mind.
This is also a common occurrence, and yes, it happens to me as well. When you sit to meditate, you do become calm and relaxed. This state is also occurring when we well, begin to fall asleep. So naturally, you begin to drift off in meditation too. When you find this happening, use mindfulness to the drowsiness itself. Be inquisitive. Don’t give in to the sleepiness.
To counteract, take a deep breath, holding it for as long as you can and then exhale slowly. Repeat this until your body warms up and sleepiness fades away. Then return to your breath or other meditation object.
Tip: Try not to meditate directly after having eaten a large meal, wait at least an hour. Eat lightly before you meditate. The same can occur if you had only a few hours of sleep the night before. Take care of your body’s physical needs first, and then meditate.
Sometimes when we meditate we can feel it is downright boring. Perhaps you are not achieving that place of bliss that everyone talks about, or meeting with an Inner Guide or Source Energy, or can’t see the point of doing this altogether.
It can be an uncomfortable experience. Some ways to counteract this is to first, go back to the focus of your meditation. Obviously, you have lost focus and be mindful from this point on. Or, you can try a different meditation technique.
Sitting still can seem dull. To stop yourself from watching the clock, use an app like Insight Timer. Set the length of time you wish to meditate and then forget it. Be with your focus and do your best to stay on focus.
Trying Too Hard
New meditators especially are often overly eager for results. A lot of times newbies have inflated expectations. They jump right in and except incredible results ASAP. They push, strain, sweat and strain, and end up causing themselves more tension. Because of this, new meditators usually quit quickly.
One only learns about meditation only by meditating. You learn what meditation is about and where it leads through direct experience. Therefore, a beginner doesn’t know where s/he is headed because they have developed little sense of where their practice is leading.
A beginner’s expectation is unrealistic and uninformed. Expectations only are an obstacle. If you are trying too hard, your effort becomes mechanical, and it defeats the purpose. Drop your expectations and straining and simply meditation with a steady and balanced effort. The meditation will take care of itself.
There are times when you just don’t feel like meditating. In fact, it feels like the last thing on earth you want to do. Missing a practice doesn’t usually have a profound affect, but it can easily become a habit. Push through the resistance, meditate anyway, and observe the aversion you are having to meditating. In five minutes, the aversion and resistance can dissipate.
Other challenges that can occur are discouragement, dullness, procrastination and I’m sure you have found some of your own. The bottom line is do the practice, do your best, and be gentle with yourself. You’ll hear me saying that quite frequently.
The Upside of Meditation
On the upside of meditation, you can find yourself inspired in ways you had not been before. You can find a calmness and a peacefulness, even relaxation that you had not invited into your life previously. Have gratitude for these moments, but don’t expect each meditation to be the same. Enjoy the process and the process will unfold as what you need in the moment to learn.
Everyone’s meditation is different and perfect just for them. Stay away from comparing yourself to others and their experiences. It doesn’t matter if your friend sees visions, light, and receiving messages from spirit guides, while you only experience a sense of peace. Both are correct.
Additionally, each time you sit for meditation you will have a different experience. Some times you may slip right into the meditation with no effort, other times you may be distracted continuously and constantly returning back to your focus.
This is normal. Remember, it is a practice.
- You can create consistency by meditating daily. Meditating five minutes a day provides a more lasting impact than one session of 60 minutes. Starting small and daily is a key to success.
- Track your mediation practice in a meditation journal. This is not a personal diary. This is where you write down each time you meditate, for how long, and your observations of the meditation.
- joining a group or working one-on-one with an instructor. Meeting regularly with a group can help to facilitate your daily practice, you can ask questions, learn new techniques, and continue to improve your dedication to your practice. You already know the benefits, now it’s time to put it into action.
In all, your practice is unique to you. Be dedicated and consistent in your practice, and you will reap the benefits. I’ll share more about meditation here on the website. In the meantime, join me for a meditation session held throughout the week. I am here to answer your questions, instruct you on meditations you can use specifically in your life, and support your you.
I am here to assist you both in group and private sessions. Meditation has been an integral part of most of my life for 40 years since I was 16 years of age. It has assisted me with stress, life traumas, depression, health issues, and more. Sharing meditation with others is my passion.
Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have, I am here to cheerfully help you!
Be sure to visit this website for all the meditation sessions and classes we offer here at Meditate Madison, including one-on-one private sessions with me, Deb Phelps, an experienced meditation practitioner and instructor.