The benefits of meditation have been known and espoused for thousands of years despite its seemingly recent rise in social awareness. It’s hard not to notice the shift happening as more comedians, actors and actresses, CEOs, and thought leaders are attesting to the fact that meditation works and helps them achieve success on many levels. It’s safe to say that meditation is not going away anytime soon.
Meditation is perhaps the easiest to learn and most accessible tool you have for personal development. Anyone can do it. You can do it on a plane, a crowded bus, or in the privacy of your bedroom. If you decided to, you could meditate right now.
The health benefits—mental, emotional, and physical—are numerous and even better, there are no negative side effects. Meditating as little as five minutes a day can start to make you happier and healthier; meditating 30 minutes twice a day can change your life.
So why is it so hard to maintain a regular meditation practice? You probably started out strong and hopeful at one point, then slowly (or quickly) meditation became a thing of the past. The fact is, even the most dedicated meditator has come across reasons to consider quitting at some point in their journey. These come up so often that they can be broken down into categories. These reasons might be at the core as to why you weren’t able to maintain your practice. Once you can understand these common misconceptions and release them from your belief system you can start to give yourself permission to re-engage in your practice once more.
Purpose of Meditation
Meditation is meant to be easy and effortless. The journey to get to that point may be a huge lesson for you. Society tends to value an active mind to achieve, accomplish, and function in life. The same value is not given to the quiet mind, though its value is tremendous.
When you can access both the active and quiet mind, they kindle clarity, balance, and an overall feeling of expansion. It is in this expanded space where happiness, creativity, love, and well-being thrive. The purpose of meditation is to help you fulfill your right to live life from this expanded space.
Something brought you to meditation—what was it? Lack of purpose, stress, health issues, a poor night’s sleep, curiosity—or maybe no real reason. It doesn’t have to be profound. That’s the great thing about meditation, it meets you where you’re at and sends you off on a journey that will be like no other. That being said, here are some reasons most people quit the practice and some meditation tips to combat them.
1. “I Can’t Clear My Thoughts”
That which you resist, persists. The more you resist thoughts, the more they clamor to get your attention. You are a thinking machine, having up to 60 to 80 thousand thoughts per day! There is no way you can turn off that faucet so easily and you are not required to.
Instead, think of your thoughts as part of your meditation rather than distractions. Welcome them, it means you are a human being. For new meditators, what is often experienced is a flood of thoughts, like a dam that has been broken. You are finally allowing the time and space to explore your inner world and sometimes it can be a bit turbulent. This is perfectly normal, and with regular meditation, the flood will begin to slow. Knowing that thoughts are a part of the practice allows you to eventually shift into becoming an observer, not getting caught up in resistance or judgement.
As you meditate, notice the thoughts drifting in and out and then drift back to the object of your attention, which depending on your practice could be your mantra, following the breath, etc. Over time, it will become a habit and you will start to spend more time in meditation rather than thinking. The turbulence will lessen and more peace will prevail.
2. “Nothing Is Happening”
When it comes to meditation, one of the first things to let go of is expectation. When you expect, you are actively seeking, and this puts blinders on to what you may be missing. This can be hard to do, especially at the beginning. You have heard about the benefits of meditation and yet you see, feel, or experience nothing. The benefits of meditation can be subtle so if you are expecting some big “ah ha” moment and it doesn’t happen, you will assume it’s not working and give up.
Here is what you must learn—it’s not about what happens during but outside of meditation. Yes, something inspiring may happen during meditation, but this is not the goal.
A good example is the gym. If your mind were a muscle, then meditation is like taking it to the gym. The same process of building and strengthening physical muscle applies to experiencing the benefits of meditation and it takes time and requires regular maintenance. You don’t see the results while at the gym (during meditation) but you begin to notice one day that you have more energy, feel happier, experience less stress and anxiety, sleep better, and so on.
3. “I Don’t Have Time”
This is probably the number one reason for quitting meditation. Who has time for meditation when there is work, appointments, kids, cooking, and cleaning? Yet, you also make time for such activities as TV, social media, texting, exercise, and reading.
Try taking a moment to write out your daily activities in order to see where your time is being spent. It can be pretty eye opening. What you place value on affects how you spend your time. How would things change if you placed value on meditation?
Meditation actually creates more time in your day because of the following:
- You are more productive, completing tasks faster
- You have more energy
- You sleep better
- You are able to focus more on relevant tasks or life-enhancing activities
If you have time to brush your teeth, you have time to meditate. Meditation doesn’t have to be a big production where you have to sit for an hour. It can be as simple as sitting for five minutes. Start to see where you can carve out time in your day for meditation. It may require getting up earlier, spending less time on social media, watching one TV show instead of two at night, or delaying checking email first thing in the morning. Whether you incorporate it in the evening, middle of the day, or as a part of your morning routine, try putting it in your calendar and telling your brain that this is something that has to get done.
Ideally, you work up to meditating twice a day, a half hour each. Be flexible because there my be some days, weeks, or months where you can’t meditate very long and its once a day. Then there will be times when you can relax and enjoy longer meditations every day, twice a day. As long as you take a daily dip into that pool of stillness where you bring a little bit of that peace with you into your daily life, even if it’s just a drop at a time. Over time, you’ll eventually find yourself feeling a sense of relaxation in your everyday life.
4. “Maybe I’m Doing it Wrong”
This goes back to expectations. When you are looking for something and it doesn’t happen, there is the belief that maybe you weren’t doing it right. Also, stress is released during meditation which can cause some physical discomfort, making it easy to think maybe you’re doing something wrong. In the beginning, there is often a period of settling down that takes place as the body and mind begins to purge that which is not needed. Every person experiences this differently. Tension, fatigue, and headaches are often felt.
First of all, every meditation is different and gives you exactly what you need for that time, even when you think it’s not. No matter how advanced you are, there will still be great meditations one day and a not-so-great one the next. Don’t expect the same experience and most definitely don’t look for someone else’s experience. So, whenever you wonder if you were doing it right, the answer will always be yes.
Also, feel free to try different meditation techniques and see if one feels better than the other. There are many to choose from and, intuitively, you will know when something is or isn’t vibe-ing with you. You want to feel comfortable in your practice and be able to ask questions when things come up, as they often do. If you experience physical discomfort, nurture yourself and take it easy.
These are the main reasons why people often give up on meditation. Mostly what it comes down to is letting go and just allowing the meditation to unfold. Don’t try to control it, when you try you are doing and you want to move in the direction of effortlessness. With every meditation, a great healing is taking place even when you don’t necessarily feel it right away. The best gifts are the ones worth waiting for and meditation always delivers.
Remember, every successful meditation is the one that you DO.
Learn a natural, effortless style of meditation that helps invite renewal and freshness into every day with Basics of Meditation, a self-paced online course guided by Deepak Chopra. Learn More.