When we get into meditation, we hope to work with the practice and see rewarding results as we keep doing it. We hope to enjoy the benefits the particular meditation style we are doing is said to bring, as much as we can.
At times, we may enjoy these benefits but we may also get to a point where we stop experiencing anything substantial from the practice. Others may have not even felt anything since they began their practice.
The explanation for such occurrences may be due to some mistakes we are making as we go about our meditation practices. And here we will be looking at the 15 most common meditation mistakes we tend to make that cause such experiences and how we can avoid and optimize our practice for more benefits.
15 Common Meditation Mistakes And How to Avoid Them
1. Chewing ourselves up when our minds wander
This is one of the most popular meditation mistakes out there. We tend to believe, as beginners, that when we get to do our meditation practices, all will go smoothly and we will be able to keep and maintain our attention in what our chosen meditation technique recommends for as long as we desire. Some beginners are not well-informed that the mind wanders a lot and when they meditate for the first few times and notice the mind drifting off to other things, they feel like they are messing things up and interfering with the flow of their sessions.
Knowing, understanding, and then accepting that mind wandering is the nature of the mind is the first step to being at peace with yourself and understanding meditation in general. Almost all beginner, intermediate and advanced meditators face this problem. It’s not just you.
And while mind wandering distracts you, which is not a good thing, you have to account for it and find ways to manage it so that it doesn’t get in the way that often. The best way to do that is to be aware of yourself when your mind wanders and slowly redirect your attention to your meditation session. When you get lost in thought again, and you notice it, just simply recognize that and then go back to continue your practice.
2. Keeping on changing meditation styles/techniques
In the beginning, while we are looking for the right meditation style for us, as individuals, it is accepted and recommended that we try out a couple of styles so that we know which one best fits us. However, some people keep jumping from one technique to others many months later, and this is not advisable. It barely bears any fruits.
In the same breath, some do concentration meditation and keep changing their objects of focus with every meditation session. This makes it hard for them to direct their focus and maintain it for long periods.
The best approach to this mistake is to first understand why we are encouraged to try out several meditation styles. We get to do this to identify the style that best resonates with us and connects deeply with our beliefs, traditions, and personality, among others. In this testing period, we should give each style time to see how well it works for us. A period of about 1 to 6 months is good for us to be really sure.
From there, we should make an effort of sticking to the one we choose to work with. We should aim to work with it in the long term without changing to another one as this allows us to ground ourselves in the practice so that we can get to enjoy its full benefits.
3. Not practicing it regularly
When we take up our meditation practice for the first time, we are excited and powered up to do it but as time goes by and every day demands in our lives catch up with us, the fire of motivation starts fading away. Before long, we wake up one day and realize it’s been a whole month or two before we last sat for our meditation sessions. And if we keep dismissing or delaying or procrastinating our sessions, we may end up losing it completely.
The key to making meditation work in our lives is consistency. If we look at it from a deeper perspective, we can understand why it’s important to meditate daily. Think about why we choose to meditate. We do it because we want peace, calmness, and happiness as the basic benefits along with other benefits that come with the practice. We desire these benefits because we have troubles each day that steal these attributes from us. So to make the benefits stick and remain with us and overcome the daily struggles of our lives, we have to meditate often, since the troubles themselves appear daily.
The essential step to take to avoid this mistake is to create a meditation routine or habit. Choose a time you personally know you are free every day when you can easily meditate, and do it every day. And don’t let anything keep you from meditating every day at that particular time. If you anticipate something may block you from your meditation session, think of a workaround and ensure you don’t miss it.
4. Expecting life-changing results with only days of practice
We all desire to begin experiencing the benefits is known to bring as soon as possible but most of us expect to see these results in a matter of days or weeks. When the benefits are not felt, we begin to doubt the practice or get disappointed or feel like it’s just not working for us.
See, sometimes meditation benefits are enjoyed at different times by different people and based on the meditation style someone is involved with. Mindfulness meditation, for example, can help us feel calmer and more centered within a couple of weeks. For some people, it is a couple of days.
We are all different and while some people may take a short time before they begin seeing results, others may take a much longer time, and this is okay. Also, with some meditation techniques, we may take months or years to fully experience their benefits so a bit of patience and persistence is required to make it work.
To avoid this mistake, we are encouraged to first fall in love with the practice of meditation while lightly holding on to the benefits it brings. We should enjoy how we prepare for our sessions, how we progress our sessions and everything around the meditation practice that we do. When we do that, we begin meditating for the sake of meditating, and slowly by slowly the benefits will begin sneaking in on us.
5. Not being fully attentive to our sessions
The quality of our meditation sessions is the attention we give to them. If we give less attention and constantly get distracted by other things while we meditate, it is obvious we are not likely going to benefit from it that much.
However, if we soak ourselves into the session and fully get immersed in the progression of the session every time because we hold the practice in high regard, we are going to feel its effects in our lives.
Those who truly benefit from meditation are those who take everything about it with respect and have a certain kind of reverence for its actual impact on our lives.
If we see it as a soul uplifting practice and be aware of that every time we are doing it, we are more likely to pay attention to what we need to do during our sessions and this leaves a huge effect on our lives every time.
6. Seeing meditation as a tedious task
This mistake is closely linked to the previously discussed mistake of not paying attention. Since we know we are supposed to be committed to our practice and try our best to do it every day, often we get caught up in the commitment part and forget why we began meditating in the first place.
We then begin seeing meditation as a tedious task on our schedule that we have to do to cross it off our to-do list rather than doing to benefit from it. Over time, we get weighed down by it and lose interest, and finally, we drop it.
If we really want to be elevated by meditation, we should always have our purpose in mind before doing it. We should remember what we aim at getting from the practice, how best to do it to receive those benefits, and how we have always been told to treat meditation. These are what deeply ground us in the practice and ensure we are always doing it with our hearts.
7. Making our meditation sessions too long
Some of us make the mistake of setting our meditation sessions for longer periods than we should and end up feeling exhausted by them, or sleeping during our sessions or experiencing other negative effects.
We think that the longer we do it, the sooner we will start benefiting from it but we forget that meditation is a quality’s game not a quantity’s one. 2 minutes of meditation where we attend totally to our session is worth more than 30 minutes of meditation with little attention and focus on the practice.
As beginners, we should focus on setting aside a few minutes, as little as 1 minute, to meditate. And as we do it and get more comfortable with that duration, we increase to 2 minutes then 5 minutes, and then 10 minutes, and so on.
The idea is to start small and progress as we get more comfortable with it, not the other way around.
8. Not setting aside a specific time for meditation
With our busy schedules, it can be quite difficult to find time to meditate every day because we have many things to attend to. And if we approach meditation with the mindset of looking for time to do it, after we have done everything else, we are likely not going to do it.
Instead, we should intentionally set a specific time to meditate either as we go about our day or before we get into our daily activities. Most people find that morning hours are the best to meditate before they immerse themselves into the hectic schedule for the day.
After setting that time, we should follow up and make sure we do our best to meditate during this time so that even our minds naturally prepare for the practice when that time reaches.
9. Depending on guided meditation too much
Guided meditation is highly recommended when we are starting out, that is, when we want to get a good feel of the practice even though we don’t know how it’s done. Eventually, after we have had some experience with it and have learned how the meditation style we chose is done, we should try to let go of guided meditation.
It may be helpful in the first few weeks but if we use it all the time, we are never really going to progress. And even though we may be different and some people may find that guided meditation works best for them even after doing meditation for months, we should make an effort of switching to doing it alone quietly once in a while.
It helps us to have a personal feel and touch with the practice and connect with it at a deeper level without an intermediary.
10. Thinking about meditation but never actually starting to do it
The only way to benefit from meditation is to do it. As beginners, we get too excited about the power of meditation in our lives and we get too fixated on that and its beauty that we fail to begin doing it.
There may also be other reasons for us not starting to meditate or beginning our sessions but either way, we have to do it to achieve the results we hope for.
If we get stuck on not being able to ever begin meditation for the first time, we can try just sitting for 10 to 30 seconds with the help of guided meditation and see how it feels to actually meditate. From there, we can allocate more time and see how it feels. As we do that often, we will notice quite some change and we will make progress.
If the problem is not getting started with our daily sessions, after already doing it a couple of times, a neat trick is to tell our minds that we will just sit down for less than 5 minutes and then go do other things we wanted to. This trick is for people who meditate for 5 minutes or less as well as those that do it longer than that.
After we’ve done it for 5 minutes we can choose to either keep going or stop. If we stop we will have still meditated but something fascinating is that our minds build momentum, and we get more energy when begin doing something. And most often, we naturally want to keep going after the 5 minutes.
11. Working with meditation versions that aren’t genuine
Over the years, meditation has evolved hugely. Many new versions of the ancient practice have sprung up and claimed to offer different benefits. On top of that, many more money-oriented people have also devised their meditation styles or sabotaged the well-known meditation styles to make a profit.
And when we, meditation enthusiasts, want some meditation resources to help us learn or keep our meditation fire burning, we buy these resources from those greedy people, and we contaminate our practice without knowing and end up not getting what we were looking for.
Meditation training or any meditation-related resources to uplift our practices should be purchased from well-known credible sources. We should first do our due diligence on the experts such as Deepak Chopra, Thich Nhat Hanh, to name a few, and trusted institutions that teach a certain form of meditation we are interested in learning and then buy from them or get the training from them only.
Not all resources out there are good, no matter how easily accessible they are.
12. Trying to teach yourself meditation without expert guidance
On the same breath as the previous mistake, we should also be careful with how we learn meditation. Most of us may not be able to afford the meditation classes offered by local meditation centers or may not have time to attend those classes even if we had the money.
So what we do is, go online search for meditation videos or audios and work with them. Now, doing that is not a problem but not making sure the people in those videos or those who make the resources are professionally trained and experienced meditation teachers is the problem.
It is always advisable to have an experienced hand guiding us through our sessions. We can also make the effort of joining meditation communities online that have been formed by authoritative organizations in the meditation and self-improvement industries to help us keep going in the right direction and find answers and solutions for questions or problems we may have along the way.
13. Now growing and advancing in our meditation practice
This is another very common mistake we make.
We only think that meditation should be when we sit down during our sessions, and it should remain like that permanently. Some even go further and make the mistake of meditating for the same duration throughout their lives.
Meditation is like a journey. We take our first steps, we start getting comfortable with the journey, and therefore push ourselves a little forward to advance and benefit more from it. When we commence our meditation journey, it is okay to do meditation for a short period, and only during our meditation sessions.
Nonetheless, after we have done it for a couple of months, we should go ahead and increase our duration, maybe from 5 minutes a day to 10 minutes a day, and so on. In the same way, we should also try to meditate beyond our meditation sessions after some time.
Instead of always doing it at home, we can try the park for a change, at work or school or even when traveling. Ideally, we should it make natural for us to meditate anywhere and everywhere as this advancement makes us bond with the practice more and get to make the most of it.
14. Not preparing well before meditating
Work and other hectic activities of the day can keep us from really being present during our sessions and can make it hard for us to meditate smoothly.
That being the case, we should try to prepare well before we start meditating. We can do some stretches, deep breaths, declare our intention, maybe read some meditation books or listen to some meditation videos from experts and meditation teachers. These activities help us get into the mood of meditation and even make us mentally inclined towards the practice.
It also reminds us of our purpose to meditate and in turn, allow us to have a more interactive session.
15. Constantly being worried about if we are doing it right
There is also that mistake of being too careful or blinded by the desire to be perfect.
All our meditation sessions may be differently experienced. There are times we feel deeply moved by them and other times when we feel almost nothing. There are even times when we have negative experiences like falling asleep or feeling overwhelmed. These are normal experiences but we may feel like we did it wrong if we have negative experiences.
The most important thing to remember when times like those come is that the most important thing is to fully attend to the session, when we notice our mind wandering we simply redirect our attention to the practice and keep going. That’s the essence of meditation.
Whatever happens beyond that is nothing to be worried about really. All these experiences enhance our lives in one way or another without us realizing it and deep down, we are making progress with every session even though we may not see it regardless of what we experience.
Ideally, when it comes to meditation, we should always remember that the things which make our practice fruitful include how seriously we take it, how often we do it, how right we are doing it, giving ourselves and the practice time to work in our lives, not beating ourselves up too much about it and letting it flow smoothly.
We should make an effort to constantly look at how we are coming along with our practices and see where we fall short, as far as the mentioned mistakes go, and how we can change that for a more positive and impactful experience.