Why Are You Struggling To Meditate?

How to stop turning meditation into a problem.

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I know this seems off-topic, but I’ve often wondered how there can be Christians who haven’t read the Bible. I don’t mean the ability to quote a few favourite verses. I mean read and preferably memorised the entire thing. Genesis to Revelations.

I’m not trying to shame anybody. I just don’t see how you can simultaneously believe that this book was written by the creator of the Heavens and the Earth, and not feel compelled to spend every waking moment pouring over it for the answer to questions like “What is the meaning of life?” or “Why is it impossible to lick your own elbow?”

If you’re one of those people who feels bad about not maintaining a meditation practice, you’re pretty much in the same boat. I mean, ask yourself; why do you feel bad? Either meditation has proven itself to be helpful for you, in which case you’d be doing it. Or it hasn’t quite managed to convince you yet, in which case you have no reason to feel bad for not doing it.

If you feel guilty about lackadaisical meditation practice, I have two pieces of advice for you. First of all, don’t. There are enough things to feel guilty about in life without conjuring up new ones. And second of all, figure out why you feel like you should meditate in the first place.

Think about this carefully. Don’t reel off the reasons you read in some book or saw in a particularly compelling Youtube video. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by jealousy at your friend who just came back from a ten-day retreat with a whole new outlook on life. These aren’t your reasons. And if you’re meditating — or doing just about anything — for reasons that aren’t your own, you’ll probably fail.

Of course, as reasons to meditate, it might be helpful to consider the reasons why you’ve been struggling to make it a habit. In my experience, there are a few common pitfalls for the aspiring regular meditator. So let’s consider some of them here:

Time management.

Maybe your reasons for wanting to meditate aren’t really about achieving enlightenment at all. Maybe you just want to carve 5 minutes for yourself out of your busy day, and meditation feels like a good excuse. If you’ve been struggling to find that time then seriously, forget about meditation for the time being. If you can’t find 5 minutes out of your day of 1440 minutes, then you have bigger problems than whether or not you’re meditating enough.

Let’s be clear; you have five or even ten minutes every day to meditate. Nobody is that busy. If you can’t find that time then you’re not living the life that you deserve to be. Put all of your energies into fixing that. Then decide what you want to do with the extra time.

A busy mind.

Maybe you struggle to meditate because your mind fills with worries and anxieties and to-do lists as soon as your butt hits the cushion.

That’s what’s supposed to happen.

Thinking you struggle with meditation because your mind starts whirring at a hundred miles per hour, is like thinking you struggle with exercise because you sweat and your muscles get tired.

This isn’t something your brain is doing when you meditate, it something you notice it doing when you meditate. The fact that you’re noticing is progress. Be pleased.

You’re not sure why you’re doing it.

Maybe all that’s making you feel like you should meditate is the arguments you read or watched. Maybe you just want to be like your friend who is super chill all the time. In that case, see if you can make the reason personal to you. Ask yourself how the change you’re hoping for would improve your life. Ask yourself if you really want to be more relaxed or if this is just another thing you’re adding to the endless project of “fixing yourself”.

Meditation isn’t about fixing yourself, it’s about getting to know yourself. Don’t start by making demands. Start by trying to understand what you want. Start by asking yourself who you are. This is already a meditation.

Stop trying.

Meditation is the ultimate expression of Yoda’s famous teaching: “Do or do not. There is no try.” Meditation isn’t something you should convince yourself to do. Let it be something you’re curious about. Better yet, let yourself be someone you’re curious about. Think of meditation as an opportunity to spend five minutes with the person who is closest and most important to you in the whole world.

Remember, you are your most important relationship. But like all relationships, sometimes life gets in the way and you start to drift. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t feel guilty. I guarantee you’ll be right there waiting for yourself when you’re ready. No hard feelings.

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