In your meditation journey, do you sometimes feel like there are things that are holding you back from being fully immersed in the practice? Do you feel like the things that are holding you back are within you or external factors?
Well, meditation, just like any other form of self-improvement, is bound to have some challenges along the way. There are times when we feel things just aren’t working out for us. And this shouldn’t be a big problem.
We should take our time to figure out what is really stopping us, why it is stopping, and what we can do about it to make sure we have dealt with it once and for all. And in this post, we will be discussing the 9 most common obstacles to meditation and how we can get past them so as to improve our overall experience with the practice and increase our chances of benefiting more from it.
The 9 Popular Meditation Barriers And How to Deal With Them
Problem: Most of us believe we don’t have time to meditate. We may have our hectic work life, a family to take care of after work, and other things to catch up with in our personal lives. And all these things leave us no time to spare for meditation. Or so we feel and think.
Solution: Most people who believe they have no time to meditate are often those who feel like to meditate, we have to put aside a whole hour or more to focus on the practice, which is not really the case. Meditation can be done in as little as 1 minute.
For beginners, meditation should last for 1 to 5 minutes and as they keep growing and getting comfortable with the practice, they can allocate more time towards the practice. So if you are a beginner and feel you don’t even have time to begin meditation, you should remember this concept and realize how little you can allocate to meditation.
For those who have already started meditating but are having a hard time doing it regularly, a good approach to this problem is to determine the period in our typical day when we take a break from work or family duties and spare at least 5 minutes to meditate. At the very least, we can set aside one minute for that, and it can have a fairly huge effect on our lives in terms of peace, calmness, and inner harmony.
To establish the habit of meditation, we should aim to work with these short meditation sessions frequently, if possible every day, rather than meditating for one hour only once per month.
The bottom line here is, we can find around 5 minutes in our day to meditate if we are determined to. And since there are guided meditation sessions from different meditation apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer to help people who have a busy lifestyle, we can totally make it work and build the habit of meditation with a fair amount of effort.
Problem: We wish to have an almost perfect meditation session each day where our minds are fully focused on the progress of our session without drifting off to other distracting thoughts. However, our minds keep getting distracted every other second and it becomes difficult to concentrate on our practice which ends up affecting the quality of our sessions and in turn makes it hard to enjoy the full benefits of meditation.
Solution: Mind wandering, also called mental chatter, is a common natural occurrence that happens to every meditator including the experienced mediators who have done the practice consistently for years.
The mind is always processing different thoughts and managing various processes of the body so it is always all over the place trying to make sure everything is working right. This being the case, it is natural that we find it hard to control it. However, we can train it slowly by slowly to reduce the many thoughts and calm down.
The first step to training our brains in silence is by first accepting that mind-wandering is its nature and we are like that by default. From there, we should aim to be aware of our thoughts as we meditate.
When we notice we have drifted off, we should gently redirect our attention to our sessions and what we should do to keep going forward towards the completion of the session. If our minds diverted when we were observing our breath, we should redirect our attention to the practice and ask ourselves, “What should we do next so as to keep going with this practice?” It could be observing the sensations in our bodies or focusing on an object the meditation style we are doing recommends.
Whatever it may be, we should go back to that and keep progressing with the session. And if the mental chatter comes up again, we should use the same approach again and should keep repeating it until we are done with our sessions. As we keep doing this, our brains will eventually learn and master to reduce the mental drifting and be more focused on the progress of our sessions.
Problem: We often lack confidence in the practice of meditation and do not believe that sitting down and spending time watching our thoughts, feelings, and sensations can bring about the benefits meditation is said to bring. And this makes it hard for us to begin doing meditation. And some of us who have already been doing meditation for a good while also get to a point where they feel like they are not making any progress because they are not seeing any results from the previous sessions.
Solution: It is important to note that meditation has been scientifically proven to bring about different benefits, here are the top 15 meditation benefits. We encourage you to keep learning more about meditation in general and more specifically, the style of meditation you are involved in. Read meditation books, watch meditation lectures from well-known meditation experts and teachers, research on the internet from credible sources and you will come to realize that the doubts you have might appear real but in actual sense, they are not.
Also, if you feel like the few meditation sessions you have already had have not had an impact on you, please remember that meditation takes time before you can get to enjoy its benefits. For some, it takes a couple of weeks, for other months and others even years depending on the practice you are doing and different individual-based factors.
What will help us is to keep in mind that something is always happening “behind the scenes” of your life whenever you meditate. You may not feel it then and maybe not the next day either, but eventually, you will be sneaked in on by the benefits before you know it if you keep going without putting too much of your focus on the benefits.
Your main focus should be being fully focused on your session and meditating as your meditation style recommends. Do that as best as possible every time you meditate and let the benefits come to you when the time is right. Work with setting intentions for your meditation sessions and soon enough you will achieve the goals you have set for yourself in terms of meditation.
4. Desire and disappointment
Problem: We often get the desire and it influences us to do other things instead of concentrating on our practice and making the most of it. For instance, the desire of the senses and the desire to feel all that meditation has to offer. The latter leads us to become disappointed by meditation when we fail to fulfill that desire from our sessions.
Solution: When our desire increases on things based on our senses, that is, if we see something and desire to keep our visual focus there or hear something and wish to keep listening, or touch and desire to continue feeling that sensation or even the desire to feel enlightened or experience deep spiritual, mental and physical effects of meditation, we should aim to be aware of that desire.
We should direct our attention to it without forming opinions or making judgments about it and just simply sit there with it. Being aware of a desire reduces its effects in our lives. It also helps us take it more with our effects because we are aware of what it is doing to us. After being aware of the desire long enough to have it subside, we should then direct our attention back to our practice and keep doing what we were doing.
It also helps to keep in mind that when the desire to experience meditation at a deeper level than we normally do comes, we should remember that meditation does take time and that our sessions build the effect and take us there slowly by slowly. And even though we won’t get to satisfy that desire at that particular moment, it will come one day in its entirety when the time is right, and everything will eventually fall into place.
Problem: Since we have very busy schedules where we work on demanding activities throughout the day, we might find that when we sit for meditation, our bodies go to sleep mode as a way to recover from the day’s fatigue. Other times, we have low energy levels and just snap to slumberland immediately we begin our meditation sessions.
Solution: It is important to note that there are many reasons why we fall asleep during meditation. The first reason could be exhaustion. If we have had a rough day at work and we feel completely tired, our bodies will want to rest to regain all the energy we spent. For this reason, we need to give our bodies the rest they deserve by simply sleeping.
The second reason could be not being able to manage our inner energies. Essentially there are 3 main consciousness states, as explained by Asha Nayaswami, who is a spiritual teacher, seeker, and master. These states are the waking consciousness, the subconscious sleep, and the superconscious meditation.
When we sleep, we are usually in the subconscious sleep state where there is a loss of inner energy. And here are the solutions for this energy problem to help us avoid sleeping during our meditation sessions.
Problem: There are times we sit down for our practice and our minds and bodies just feel like they want more than just sitting down. They crave more. We feel like we want to do something else or move from where we are to some other place and this interferes with our practice.
Solution: We should learn to acknowledge the restlessness and feeling of boredom with meditation as normal sensations. Just like we feel a tingling sensation around our feet or upper body, restlessness comes about in just a similar way. And quite often, restlessness is usually inspired by some anxiety or fear, or anticipation that we might have of the near future.
To handle the restlessness properly, we should be aware of it and even go a step forward and label it. Whenever it comes up, we can say in our minds “restlessness” and that alone can reduce the effects it brings within us.
Alternatively, we can choose to practice meditation in motion practices such as walking meditation or yoga or Tai Chi that keep us moving which can help ease the tension.
Moreover, if you sit down for meditation when you are in a hurry because other urgent things are waiting for you afterward, you’re less likely to be at peace as you meditate. You should handle the urgent issues first and then meditate so that you can be at peace and be able to maintain your awareness, focus, and attention where your meditation practice recommends and in turn have a fulfilling experience.
7. Consistency and discipline
Problem: Some of us find it hard to meditate for a couple of days in a row. At times, we can meditate because we feel we are in the mood for it and other times we just feel like it’s not the best thing to do because we aren’t feeling it. Or maybe work and other demanding tasks get in the way and before we know it, it’s been a month and we’ve not sat even once to meditate.
Solution: Meditation requires that we remain consistent and disciplined about it for us to see the benefits in our lives. And to cultivate these two attributes we have to be committed. First, we have to work towards making meditation a habit.
One neat trick of doing this is by tying our practice to a habit that already exists in our lives. For instance, if we wake up early in the morning, brush our teeth, take a shower and then have our breakfast, and we have been doing that for so many months that it has become our second nature, we can squeeze in meditation between two of the steps in our routine and be steadfast about it.
We can choose to meditate after we have brushed our teeth and have taken a shower. Just before we take our breakfast, we can purpose to spare 5 to 10 minutes to meditate. That helps to make meditation a regular thing for us easily as we have made it part of the daily tasks in our routine.
As for building discipline, this has to come from inside. We have to make a firm decision to meditate regardless of anything that might come our way during the time we have set aside for it. Whether we feel our moods are low or we have something that has come up that might make us not meditate during that period, we should try our best and get around it and ensure we have meditated without fail every time we have planned to do it.
8. Knowledge of Meditation
Problem: When it comes to meditation there is a lot of misinformation out there that makes meditation appear like a magic pill that will change our life around after the first session. Other people also say that meditation benefits can be enjoyed immediately and many other falsehoods that create a false impression of the practice. Some people also don’t have full information about what meditation is and what to expect from it or even how to do the meditation style they are interested in the right way.
Solution: Learning about meditation before beginning to practice it as well as after we have begun practicing it is crucial. In the beginning, it is important to know what meditation generally is and the essential things to know about it. After learning the general idea of meditation, we should then narrow it down to the specific type of meditation we are interested in getting involved with.
If we are not sure about the style we want to work with, we can first learn about the different types and what they offer and then choose the one we feel best fits us based on the benefits we look forward to enjoying from meditation.
Now when learning, we should always ensure that we read online resources, websites, watch videos and listen to audios from only credible sources. We can Google the top figures in meditation which include Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddha, Deepak Chopra, Rumi, Jon Kabat Zinn, and others, and use their teachings. These are reputable meditation experts who know the truth about meditation and who can help us understand it well.
On top of that, we can use sources with proof or evidence to back up the claims made. If a website says meditation can help do this, and they provide a link to a study that demonstrates the same, then it is worth taking it seriously.
We can even take a meditation retreat, if possible, and join meditation communities to help us increase our knowledge and understanding of our practice. It is in such areas that we will get to learn about how to do our meditation style properly, know that the mind wanders and what to do about it, understand that meditation sessions vary in terms of our experiences and there are good and bad times, and how to keep our heads up every time.
9. General life problems
Problem: There are moments when life hits us in the head with a brick. We go through different problems that take away our peace and distort our daily schedule and our regular flow of activities. And in such times, we may easily put aside practicing meditating to handle the issues first. And then we may find that the problems we have faced have taken long to solve and we have lost complete touch with meditation.
Solution: While it is easy to get absorbed by the troubles of life and be overwhelmed by the negative effect they come along with, it helps to meditate during such periods because meditation can help reduce the surge of emotions and keep us balanced and “sober” enough to come up with quick solutions and solve the problem faster than we would have if we allowed ourselves to be carried away by the emotions.
Meditation is a tool for the good and bad times. It increases the quality of experience of the good times and also helps reduce the negative impact of the tough times. While deep thought, good decision-making skills, and personal effort towards problem-solving are required on our part, meditation creates a conducive environment for us to do that so we should try our best to turn to it when are going through tough life struggles.
In summary, it is always good to know that there are going to be several challenges in our meditation journey and times when things will not go as we would wish them to. To be honest, nothing in life is smooth right off the bat and all the way to the end.
It is all about recognizing the things that make our meditation sessions not as good as we thought they would be, understanding the cause of these problems, coming up as well as finding solutions to the problems and then implementing them right away.
The obstacles are faced by almost everyone who takes up and works with meditation in the long term, so don’t feel like they are only happening to you. It’s part of the process of full self-improvement and transformation, and by getting through them, we get closer to peace, health, happiness, and improved overall well-being.
Which obstacles are you personally facing and what you have been doing about them? Please let us know in the comments below.