Overcoming obstacles is one of the biggest challenges when learning to meditate. There is always a learning curve when you start something new, and learning how to meditate is no different. There are some common obstacles that will have to be overcome in order to be successful.
The biggest obstacle is often your own mind. The mind is always working. One thought passes and another immediately takes it place. There are thousands of pieces of data churning in your brain, making it difficult to focus.
There are four main things that distract you, cause your mind to race, and make focusing difficult.
- Your list of things to do is ever present in your mind. Most people have two active lists – personal (family) and business. There is internal pressure to get everything done. (Your mind is telling you that you don’t have time to meditate.)
- You are heavily stressed or have recently experienced some kind of personal trauma.
- You are worried, anxious or fearful about one or many things.
- There are too many distractions around you – children, TV, road noise, electric lawn mowers, barking dogs, etc.
Good news! There are ways to deal with each one:
- Things to do – Remind yourself that meditation doesn’t take long, and as soon as you are finished, you will take care of things.
- Dealing with stress and trauma – Use the following exercise before you begin to meditate:In your mind’s eye, see yourself opening a large empty box. With your hands – gently lift the trauma or stress from your mind and place it in the box and close the lid. Then, set the box aside. I know this may sound strange, but it does work. I have used it many times.
- Dealing with anxiety or problems that are worrying you – Use mindful deep breathing before you begin to meditate. As you breathe let the concerns go and tell yourself that you will look at the issue(s) again when you are finished meditating. (Mindful deep-breathing exercises help you calm the mind and release emotional stress from your body before you begin to meditate.)
- Distractions – The ideal, of course, is to find a quiet place that does not have distractions, or that muffles the noise to the point that you can tune it out. For example: It is easier to tune out a neighbor who is mowing his lawn than it is to tune out a dog barking in the same room.) Enlist the support of your family – ask them to help you with 15 minutes of quiet time, or meditate when everyone is still asleep (early morning, late evening).
Finding the Time
Until you are convinced of the benefits you will enjoy as a result of meditating, you may struggle with the feeling that you “do not have time to meditate.” As I have said before, you always have time to do the things you want to do. But, if this is an obstacle for you, look for “down times” that you can fill with meditation. For example, use the time while you are waiting for your appointment in the doctor’s office – or waiting for the kids after school.
In those “unoccupied moments” you can practice simple breathing exercises that help you relax and move into the quiet, still place inside. You can also do this when you are doing chores like vacuuming – or exercise like running, walking, or using a treadmill – none of which requires a lot of focus
Lack of Self-Discipline
A common obstacle is a lack of self-discipline. Without the ability to stay with it until you realize the benefits, you will not develop the habit of meditating. A new habit takes twenty-one days to solidify.
When you decide to start meditating – do so with a 21-day full commitment to the process. Give yourself permission to stick with it for twenty-one days. If you can do that and practice everyday (with full intent), at the end of three weeks, meditating will not only be a habit, you will look forward to doing it.
One thing that can help you stay with it is to find help. It could be very beneficial for you to work with guided meditation at first. You may want to consider working with Tom Cronin, The Stillness Project, personally through one of his workshops.