The biggest secret about meditation is that people don’t do it. They think it is a good idea, they know the benefits, they believe “everyone else” is doing it, they beat themselves up for not doing it. And . . .they don’t do it.
There are a lot of reasons.
1. Unrealistic expectation: One popular form of meditation directs practitioners to do an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. That’s great for the first week out of a life changing retreat, but it’s probably not going to stick. It is especially easy, perhaps we are even encouraged, to set ourselves up for failure.
We need to master our strokes in the lap pool before we head out into the open ocean to swim the channel. I often suggest that people start with five mins a day. Same place, same time when possible. Let the habit start to form. it is less of a struggle that way
2. Uncertainty: people are often unsure that they are doing it right, if their experience is what it should be, or if they are “getting anywhere” with the practice.
The truth is that like anything we come to meditation with what we have, not what we wish we had. A busy mind, impatience, distraction, unsettling feelings in our body and of course a demanding and sometimes demeaning inner critic. This cannot be said enough: it is not about doing meditation right or even what happens when you do it, it is simply that you do it. Yes you will learn things along the way . . .you may even get better at it, but overall the generosity of meditation practice is that all you have to do is show up.
3 Commitment and Support: Creating a new habit in our lives requires a surprising amount of commitment and sometimes we need the support of others to help us follow through. We also need a strong intention.
Being part of a meditation group and or working with a teacher as well as setting well defined, achievable, and verifiable goals with a meditation partner(s) can be of tremendous support.
4. Intention: Sometimes a part of you really doesn’t want to sit still. Maybe we subconsciously don’t want to be told what to do. Perhaps our inner animal is hungry for connection, nourishment, or excitement and we look to others, to food, to phones to meet those desires. Maybe we are physically tired, in flagging health, or even pain. Sitting alone with ourselves is a hard-sell if the above conditions are present.
We really have to want to meditate. This means we have to connect it to our deeper heartfelt intentions for ourselves. It is not enough to want to meditate in the way that we think we should eat more kale. We need to find the place where we really want more for ourselves than just survival. This may mean therapy or working with a spiritual teacher. It leads directly to our next reason.
5. Dispiritedness: This can be at the root of any of the above impediments. There are variations on this theme, but essentially deep down we feel that we are alone in our lives, that there is no greater meaning or value, no deeper nature. To use a popular phrase: we feel empty inside.
At the core of so much human heartache is our disconnection from spirit. When we look at the state of the world (especially through the lens of media), when we see our own shortcomings and failures, it can be hard to feel connected to a deeper sense of goodness and meaning. Our innate sense of wonder and mystery gets ground down under the weight of survival and productivity. Our worth becomes reduced to what we have or what we achieve. We lose what we love and we face mental, emotional, and physical pain.
This dispiritedness, even when it is hidden beneath a veneer of positivity and optimism runs deep, so deep that it dissuades us from doing the very things that might return us to a sense of connection. Not surprisingly it can take a dramatic turn—a loss, a chronic disease, broken relationships, social upheaval to wake us up enough to do what we know we have needed all along. To sit down, slow down, focus our attention, and be with ourselves.
To boil this down to one thing, it is about engaging our lives with heart. Our hearts are the vehicles that deliver meaning into our lives. My work here at Being Real is to help uncover and rediscover your true heart.