1. I’m not sure what to expect.
Meditation is about accepting that there is something in the Universe that is greater than ourselves that we can’t necessarily classify or prove. It is human nature to accept what we see, hear, taste, smell, or feel, and fear the what we cannot. In fact, many people have “xenophobia,” or fear of the unknown.
We might be scared of what is hiding in space or the depths of the ocean. We can fear someone we have never met before or hesitate to venture somewhere we have never been. However, at least in these cases we can do research and have an idea of what to expect.
While we can appreciate other peoples’ meditation experiences, that doesn’t mean ours will be the same. Because we don’t know what to expect in our meditation practice, we begin forming preconceived notions. I advise you to stop expecting. Go into the experience with an open mind. If all you experience is 5 minutes of mindfulness, that alone is an accomplishment.
2. I’m not getting anything out of it.
I wish I could tell you that there is a concrete guide to follow that will guarantee you have the perfect meditation experience, one in which you are so at one with yourself and the divine that you levitate from earth. However, I cannot see into the depths of your mind and soul, and understand what you need to quiet the fluctuations of your mind.
I can tell you that in my experience, if something isn’t working, it is a good indication you should try something else. In “Meditation for the Love of it,” Salley Kempton suggests that the destination of meditation can be reached through many doorways. This can include chanting, visualization, counting, etc. It is reassuring to know that we can experiment with various techniques and discover what works best for us.
6. I can’t turn off my mind.
The thought of quieting our minds can be extremely daunting, as our thoughts are constantly flowing and difficult to control. Be realistic about your expectations and consider what works best for you to get you closer to that quiet state.
Rather than turning off your mind completely, start with something concrete like an object and try not to form any attachments. By attempting to focus on one movement or thought, you are getting closer to your objective.
If thoughts flow in and out, accept this without judgement, and try to come back to your centered place. Accepting yourself for who you are and what you are capable of will allow you to get deeper into the experience.
3. I’m not religious.
While there are often religious associations made when it comes to yoga and meditation, it is important to recognize that spirituality and religion are two very different things.
Religion has a set of dogmatic and unquestionable rules that are expected to be followed without question. However, spirituality is something that is born and develops within a person. Spirituality extends many facets of ones life. It has less to do with rules that have been established, and more to do with the way you relate to yourself and the world around you.
4. I don’t have the time.
It can be anxiety-provoking to think about reserving even five minutes of our time to thinking about nothing. However, we must remind ourselves that yoga and meditation gives us time by taking us into a more clear and mindful headspace to be more productive throughout the day.
If you think you don’t have time, consider a five-minute increment during your day where did something less significant than allowing yourself to lead a happier, balanced and more fulfilled life.
5. Sitting still makes me anxious.
Patanjali’s basic advice in the Yoga Sutras, is Sthira Sukham Asanam, or to find a seated posture that is both steady and comfortable. While this advice seems pretty straightforward, many find sitting in meditation to be painful and difficult.
I advise you to find a seat that feels comfortable for you that you can hold steadily. Sit up on a block if you have tight hips, pad up with a towel or blanket if you have knee pain, or recline on a bolster if you have back issues. Make your seat your own and you will find more ease.
Also, if stillness is an impossibility, try a moving meditation. This will allow you to move your body and while simultaneously finding stillness in your mind.
7. Meditation is boring.
If you find meditation boring, perhaps try switching up the location of your practice. Some enjoy an indoor space with candles and music and others are more inspired by sitting by an ocean or a park and listening to the sounds of nature.
If you would really like to shake up your meditation practice, you can try a dancing meditation. If dancing isn’t for you, think about what makes you centered. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
8. It’s too “out there.”
I still remember in my yoga training when one of our teachers began chanting with musical instruments, about gods and goddesses and stories that I didn’t know to be true. Although it made me feel uncomfortable, it also made me analyze why. In the following days, I couldn’t get these songs out of my head. I now include songs with some of these chants and deities in the yoga classes I teach.
I am a big advocate of not pushing your beliefs on others, but I also think that it is helpful to try different things and see what works for you. Your meditation practice is your own but it will never expand if you don’t open yourself to possibilities.
9. I have no inspiration.
You might not necessarily feel inspired to sit and meditate, but I can guarantee that there is inspiration all around you. If you look around your room, you can probably find photographs, souvenirs, decorations, or even plants or flowers that remind you of something that can influence your practice. You can also take a life lesson you learned this week, and take this with you into your practice as your mantra. If you find something that works for you, share it with others. It can be inspiring to motivate others.
10. I don’t need to meditate.
While there are certainly people who are more self-aware and/or mindful than others, we are all a work in progress. Even on our most balanced day, something is bound to make us react. Some of us are more fiery and might go on the offensive. Some of us may be inclined to apologize and take blame. Some might see a confrontation coming and remove themselves from the situation altogether. If you think you are perfect and don’t need time for self-reflection, than you probably need meditation more than anyone.
The Take Away
Meditation becomes a lot less daunting when you remove your expectations for both the journey and the destination. Think about what you would like to get out of meditation. If you have a hard time sitting still, perhaps your goal is to move less. If it is difficult to quiet your mind, maybe allow your mind to whisper occasionally rather than shout constantly. If you are bored or uninspired, look for ways to tap into your creative spirit. If you connect meditating with certain ideals that you don’t agree with, remove these attachments. If there is no wrong path or outcome, why not try it and see what happens?