Millions of people set out to start a meditation practice each year. They hear about the benefits like better sleep, less anxiety, reduced depression, more energy and healthier relationships and they are ready to go.
But just like with any other goal, obstacles begin to show up along the path. Some may see this as a reason to quit, others experience it as a test of endurance or will. Regardless of how you view these common blocks, you can move through them and continue your practice.
- A very restless mind
Meditation is a practice to continuously bring our mind and awareness back to the present moment. But many people report a mind so noisy they simply can’t relax and enjoy the benefits of this focused attention.
Noisy mind? No problem! Try adding a visualization component to your practice. As you focus on your breath or sensation in the moment, as thoughts arise visualize each one as it it were a leaf floating down the river. You can also try a cloud floating in the sky. Notice how this alters your experience.
- A specific expectation
Sometimes we meditate with a goal in mind. For example, a young college student starts his practice because he’s unable to concentrate on his studies. Or a monk begins to practice to seek and hopefully find enlightenment!
When we are too goal oriented we block ourselves from being in the present because we’re fixated on some experience we “want” to have happen, which pushes away what IS happening. If you are goal oriented with your practice, challenge yourself to suspend the goal and just enjoy your meditation time. Ironically, that’s the most practical way to achieve that goal, by letting it go and practicing with as little attachment as possible.
- Pain or discomfort in the body
Many people start a meditation practice because of its known benefits such as pain reduction in the body. However the pain itself makes sitting in a certain position for extended periods of time quite difficult!
A few suggestions here to make your practice more comfortable… First, understand and accept that your meditation practice doesn’t have to look, feel or be any certain way. You don’t have to sit on a cushion with a straight spine if that’s not comfortable. You can meditate while lying down, or propped up with pillows. Let go of how it needs to look and do what works for you. Also consider a powerful awareness practice where every time you feel the pain, you put your awareness into the pain instead of the natural tendency to avoid it. Label it as “sensation” rather than “pain” and even start to bring curiosity to that sensation.
As with anything we set our mind to do, challenges arise! If you are committed to your intention to practice and notice you just aren’t doing it as often as you’d like, make a list of all your blocks and see if you can find a way to work through it. The way to move forward with any goal is to practice both acceptance and change. So challenge yourself to accept where you are at in reality, while committing to finding a solution that will bring you a different result.