Meditation is a skill like learning to ride a bike or drive a car. It takes time, discipline, and making mistakes before you feel you’ve mastered the skill.
Sometimes, we fall into an it-looks-easy-so-it-should-be-easy mindset, which can cause a lot of frustration if you’re struggling to master a particular skill. Most skills require hours of practice.
Meditating, and learning how to be silent and sit still while awake, is one skill that takes considerable discipline. We often have to fight against outside environmental factors or our own inner dialogue. However, you can learn to overcome obstacles to meditation with the proper amount of practice and focus.
Pets, your mind, children, or other people in your life can all make it difficult to meditate. Here’s a guide to help you tackle each common distraction.
The Four-Legged Pet
Your dog or cat might ignore you all day—until you sit down to meditate. Once seated in meditation, they fight for your attention.
When I first started meditating, my cat was constantly walking across my lap. I put him outside the room and closed the door, but he pawed at the door so loudly that I had to let him back in. He eventually learned that when I’m meditating he is to leave me alone. Now he will sit at the edge of where I’m sitting, but he won’t touch me.
You can choose to have your pet in or out of your meditation space. If your pet has never seen you meditate, it might take more effort on your part to ignore a curious cat or dog. If you decide to keep your pet out, put him or her in a crate or a separate room so you don’t hear begging noises.
Even the youngest members of your household can learn that when mom or dad is practicing meditation, they must be left alone. My 4 -year-old son was told not to disturb me when I was meditating. And when he tried, with my eyes still closed, I would point my finger toward the door. On the rare occasion that he would come and stay in the room, I would pat the floor beside me, and let him sit there. Eventually, he got so bored that he would leave.
It’s OK to take personal time to meditate, especially if you have small children. Children learn by example. If they see you calm and more patient after meditation, they will likely welcome your practice, and maybe even join you.
One of my young meditating moms once explained that while she was screaming at her kids, her 3-year-old pushed her out of the kitchen and said, “Mommy, you go! You go meditate!”
Even meditators experience challenging and stressful days. Situations might arise that are completely out of your control. It’s important that you meditate anyway.
Don’t be frustrated if you’re distracted and can only maintain focus on your mantra once or twice because your mind is that scattered. Imagine what your day would have been like had you not meditated at all.
Remember, the goal of meditation is not to stop thought altogether. That is an impossible goal. With meditation, you will lower the number of thoughts you experience. You’ll have more evolutionary and creative thoughts. And through the practice of meditation, you will learn to detach from your thoughts.
Texting battles with a loved one, can throw your meditation session off course. You will gain little benefit from your meditation practice if you continue to text during your practice—even if it seems like an important conversation at the time.
You may feel the sudden urge to respond or you might have a sudden inspiration of words in the middle of meditating, but don’t allow an argument via text take you away from your practice. Sometimes a little distance and time is exactly what you need to see and think clearly, and be more compassionate in your responses.
Or let’s suppose you are waiting for a response from a potential client or a counter offer on a home. While these are important issues, connecting to the energy that orchestrates the dance of the universe can help all business transactions. Don’t worry, all your messages will still be there when you get back into activity.
When you begin meditating, it may be the first time you’re ever sitting in silence with just your thoughts. That can be an extremely scary moment if you’re not comfortable with silence. It is a positive development when disturbing thoughts, emotions, and memories come up during meditation because you are detoxing emotionally.
Think of it this way: When you begin a new diet or exercise regime, your physical body begins to detoxify. You’re eliminating toxins and cleansing your cells. In the beginning, you feel yucky. But after a couple of weeks, you begin to feel better—even great.
When you begin a meditation practice, you’re cleansing the subtle body (the mind, intellect and the ego). This may be an area that you’ve never detoxified. Now that you are getting silent enough to allow the subtle body to speak up, it does. And sometimes it’s not pretty. You may feel intense emotions that have been stored up for years. You may have deep thoughts about a person or situation. Or you may be mourning a loss that you never grieved. These are all normal parts of the meditation process and beneficial in the long run even if they don’t feel great in the moment.
To lift the fear, you can try the following:
- Keep a journal by your meditation chair and jot down thoughts that come up.
- Tell the thoughts to go away for now and promise them that you’ll hear them at a more appropriate time.
- Embrace the thought or emotion and see where it takes you, if you feel safe.
- If deep emotions persist, seek out the help of a counselor or psychotherapist, who can help you sort them out.
There are many scenarios that can distract you away from your meditation practice. With persistence and dedication, most of these annoyances can be dealt with. Try not to let these distractions stop you from meditating. Instead, let them be fertilizer to help you grow in your practice.