Meditation: Why It Feels Like You’re Failing
- Meditation: Why It Feels Like You’re Failing
- Meditation: Why It Feels Like You’re Failing: Part Two
Meditation. I’m sure you’ve either tried it or been told to try it by an overeager friend. Thanks to the countless mental and physical benefits touted by research, it’s become mainstream in our culture. Apps abound with daily meditations. Just press play, and you’ll be on your way to peaceful bliss, they promise.
If you’ve found your way to this article, I’m guessing your attempt didn’t go as hoped, or you find some sessions enjoyable and others to feel like, well, torture.
The problem is not you. Combine our western mindset focused on productivity and outcomes with our dopamine addicted minds, and it’s no wonder we struggle to gain the true benefits of this ancient practice. In fact, some people who claim they’re benefiting are only getting a sliver of what’s available to them.
Meditation’s goal is to still the fluctuations of the mind and give us distance from our thoughts. As a yoga teacher, I’m often asked about my meditation practice. Does it really work? How long have you been doing it? Why isn’t it working for me? Most assume they must stick to their daily practice a few more years before they finally reap the rewards of their effort. Others jump from one type to another, striving to look like the blissed-out meditators in Instagram photos.
I have meditated for over a decade, but the results were felt after one well-designed practice.
Now, I get it. I have off days myself. But, while there are cumulative benefits to meditating, you can experience a shift with a single practice. Sounds like a big claim if you’re frustrated and have failed a dozen times.
So, what’s the secret? You need to prepare for meditation. Not for years, not for hours. A short practice before closing your eyes will increase the quality of time on the cushion.
There is a reason your friend coming out of yoga class looks more peaceful than the one sitting at his office desk listening to a meditation app for twenty minutes during his lunch break. Of course, attending an hour-long class isn’t necessary. Just try a few simple movements and breath practices and notice how they work for you.
Focus on quality over quantity. Thirty minutes sitting while your agitated mind runs wild is not time well spent. Twenty minutes of preparatory work before ten minutes of deep meditation is more efficient and elicits better results.
When I design a yoga class, I always have a specific purpose, but the goal is always to use postures, breath, and relaxation to help students develop inner awareness. This, in addition to releasing tension in the body, allows for a natural meditative experience. That’s the key that many of the apps and online articles aren’t making clear to beginner meditators.
Individuals who easily quiet their minds may gain extra benefit from additional practices but may not find them necessary. But many struggle to quiet their minds and assume they’re failing, or meditation doesn’t work. If you’ve felt that way, you’re not doing anything wrong. You’re just missing a few pieces of the puzzle.
Even ancient yogis did asana, the physical postures in yoga, and breathwork before sitting to meditate. And that was thousands of years ago, long before lockdowns, cell phones, smartwatches, depressing news headlines, 10 pm urgent work emails, and all the other distractions bombarding us daily. Meaning it’s even more difficult to switch to a state of calm.
I’ll share specific techniques in the next article, but for now, know you’re not a failure. We all enter the practices of yoga and meditation through the body. This alone is a challenge, especially if you have a history of trauma or anxiety. Once we return our awareness to our physical body, then we use the breath to link body and mind. This is where you access gain access to relaxing the mind. Trying to use willpower to focus the mind is not meditation.
When mind and body are linked via the breath, you find the true purpose of meditation. It is not something you’re striving for or imagining, but something you’re experiencing.
If you’re struggling to sit without discomfort, preparatory work is even more important and, oh so worth it. Honestly, just doing the breath-aligned movement on days when you’re short on time can be deeply nourishing and bring you to a more balanced state of being.
In the next article, I’ll review specific practices you can try before meditating.