Can’t Meditate? Here’s What’s Stopping Your Meditation Practice

    Written by: Hilda Carroll /
    Aug 13, 2016 11:00:00 AM

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    In theory, meditation shouldn’t be a hard sell. We all know the benefits it brings to our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.

    Meditation is good for us.

    But, there can still be a fair bit of resistance to giving it a go–or to sticking with it.

    Typically, the two primary obstacles center around…

    1. time and
    2. the (perceived) ability to quiet our minds (or not, as the case often is)

    You have time. (Even if you think you don’t.)

    Time is one of the main reasons why people choose not to meditate.

    With our uber-busy lives, it’s easy to think we don’t have time to fit in yet another activity, even if it’s good for us. Trust me, no matter how busy you are, you have time to meditate.

    It’s a bonus if we can give 20 to 30 minutes to our daily meditation practice (twice a day is even better), but the truth is that isn’t essential.

    Even five minutes of meditation counts.

    It’s better to do five minutes once a day than none at all. Sure, it will take longer to notice the benefits than 20 minutes, twice daily, but the benefits will still accrue over time.

    Think of meditation as a mental (and emotional) fitness regime.

    We don’t get physically fit from one gym session. It develops gradually. And how quickly we become fit depends on what we’re doing and how often. No matter how little the effort, there are still benefits.

    It’s the same with meditation. A few minutes will make a difference in our day. As we build the habit of taking a few minutes every day, we’ll notice lasting benefits such as reduced stress, clarity of mind, and contentedness.

    No matter how busy we are, we can find five minutes: in our car before we start driving in the morning, during our lunch break, on the train or bus, or even during a bathroom break. Instead of scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, take five minutes to be with yourself and meditate.

    A busy mind is the number one reason why people don’t stick with meditation.

    While meditation is a process of quieting the mind, the reality is, for most of us, the mind will still remain busy. Distraction from thoughts about our lives, our bodies, or our immediate environment is normal.

    We have moments of stillness during meditation––and it is during these moments that we release stress and experience healing.

    But thoughts will always intrude upon the stillness. The process of meditation involves noticing when our attention has drifted and bringing it back to our point of focus (such as our breath).

    How to Come Back to the Present

    When you notice your thoughts drifting, gently comment internally, “Ah, it’s time to return your attention to my breath.” Inhale slowly, and on the exhale, bring your mind fully back to the movement of breath in your body.

    It is normal to need to repeat this process many times throughout our meditation practice. Refocusing doesn’t mean we are meditating badly or that it’s not working. So, let’s not have any self-criticism around the process. There is no wrong way.

    The moment of mindfulness is the moment in which we catch our mind meandering into the past or future and choosing to return it to the present. Every time we return to the “now” during meditation, we benefit by giving our minds another few moments of rest.

    I like to think of meditation as laundry for the mind. If something is bothering me, it is very present during my meditation. Afterward, the problem intrudes less and I go about the rest of my day with more presence.

    That is the whole point. Meditation isn’t just about chilling out for a while. It’s about going through a process that will reap lasting benefits on multiple levels.

    Even if it’s only five minutes a day, by regularly giving ourselves time for this practice, we can become less stressed, more resilient, and experience numerous benefits on the mental, physical, and emotional realms.

    Excuses be gone. Give it a go.

    Crash Course for a Quick Meditation Practice 

    1. Choose a quiet, peaceful space if possible. If not, it’s possible to meditate anywhere you can sit down and close your eyes for five minutes (including a busy subway).
    1. Although it isn’t essential—and not always possible (especially on public transport)—it is helpful and pleasant to create a dedicated sacred space for meditation. Learn how in this blog on crafting a beautiful meditation space from ACHS graduate Amy Jirsa.
    2. Set a (gentle) timer for five minutes.
    1. Sit in an upright but comfortable position. Close your eyes (or partially lower your lids) to block out visual stimulation.
    1. Observe the flow of your breath––without altering it in any way. While inhaling, silently comment to yourself, “I am breathing in.” Exhaling, silently comment, “I am breathing out.”
    1. Every time you notice your mind has wandered away from the breath, gently bring it back to simply observing your inhalations and exhalation.

    When the time is up, release attention from your breath. Before opening your eyes, scan your body and notice any sensations that arise. Wiggle your fingers and toes, then gently blink your eyes open and return to your daily activities.

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    This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a graduate of American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

    Authored by Hilda Carroll

    Hilda Carroll is a former life coach who now teaches meditation in the west of Ireland and globally (online). She is passionate about bringing the benefits of the practice to everyone, especially those who wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves to be “on a spiritual path.” Find her at her website (thehappinessbusiness.com) where you can sign up for her Thought for the Week to receive curated inspirational quotes every Monday. You can also follow her meditation or writing pages on Facebook.

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