Stay! Problems with Meditation
I’ll be the first one to admit that meditation isn’t easy for me. Usually, the problem is about distractions, or at least that’s what I tell myself. Here are some of my thoughts that distract me from my morning meditation:
- Chucky wants me to play ball again. I can’t meditate when he throws his ball into my lap and barks at me! I give up!
- I can’t seem to get my breath under control. When I take a deep breath my heart starts racing. I don’t feel calm at all. I give up!
- Oh, I was going to make a slow cooker dinner tonight. Since it takes 10 hours in the crockpot, I better make it now. I give up!
- My back hurts in this position. I can’t get comfortable. I give up!
- I just spent the last 3 minutes thinking about my conversation with Susie. Why can’t I just let it go? Why can’t I just focus on my breath? I give up!
Do you have problems with meditation? I am committed to making meditation an integral part of my mindful journey in my retirement life. But who ever thought just sitting could be this difficult?
It is interesting that we often refer to these distractions as “problems.” According to Sarah Rudell Beach, blogger at Left Brain Buddha.com, there are no real “problems” in meditation. A problem is only a “problem” when we perceive it that way. Sarah goes on to say, “…meditation is a great way to help us reframe how we interpret and react to our experiences, especially the ones we judge as “negative.” So, let’s take a look at a few of the most common “problems” with meditation that aren’t really problems!
Body Aches and Pains
I put this distraction at the top of my list because as we get older, aches and pains can get more pronounced. For me, arthritis makes sitting or lying on a floor cushion very uncomfortable. Recently, I attended a group meditation session at a local yoga studio. The instructor asked us all to arrange our floor mats in such a way that would be comfortable for lying down. While everyone else was lying down comfortably in a matter of seconds, I was still fumbling with my mat and pillows five minutes into the guided meditation. Finally, I got up and brought a chair over to my spot. We can get so focused on relieving pain that we don’t benefit from the meditation. I’m learning instead just to acknowledge and be aware of the pain. Think to yourself, “To the best of my ability, let me be with this pain and learn from it.” (Ralph Sovik, Yoga International, 2014). Also, give yourself permission to make adjustments as you need to.
I am continually surprised by the misconception that meditation is about emptying your mind or getting rid of negative or distracting thoughts. The reality is that as long as you are alive, you will have thoughts while you meditate. The difference is that you don’t need to dwell on the thought; you just need to observe it, then refocus on your breath. Sarah Rudell Beach suggests using “anchor words” to label the type of thought you’re having. For example, “I’m judging myself when I think about that conversation with Susie.” I can then let this distracting thought go. Other anchor words might include “worrying,” “planning,” or simply “thinking.” (Beach, www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-rudell-beach-/meditation-practice_b_5519349.html, 2014)
There are several types of mental agitation. Maybe you’re worried about a family or work issue. Or maybe your thoughts are jumping around aimlessly. I also put boredom into this category. I’ve heard people say they gave up on meditation because it was boring. Boredom can be experienced for a variety of reasons – but in today’s world, we are so accustomed to overstimulation from technology that being quiet and still for twenty minutes can seem excruciating. It was a major shift for me to move from the hectic, deadline-driven life I led outside Washington, D.C. to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. For the first few months, I wanted to be “doing” something all the time. As time went on, I began to rediscover the joy of observing nature, playing with my dogs, going to the park, and reading a long book. Yes, I still love to google everything, but I equally enjoy quiet, both mentally and physically. When meditating, we have the opportunity to increase our awareness of each moment and notice its effect on us. That doesn’t sound boring to me!
By Pema Chödrön
In meditation, we discover our inherent restlessness.
Sometimes we get up and leave.
Sometimes we sit there but our bodies wiggle and squirm and our minds go far away.
This can be so uncomfortable that we feel’s it’s impossible to stay.
Yet this feeling can teach us not just about ourselves but what it is to be human
…we really don’t want to stay with the nakedness of our present experience.
It goes against the grain to stay present.
These are the times when only gentleness and a sense of humor can give us the strength to settle down
…so whenever we wander off, we gently encourage ourselves to “stay” and settle down.
Are we experiencing restlessness? Stay!
Are fear and loathing out of control? Stay!
Aching knees and throbbing back? Stay!
What’s for lunch? Stay!
I can’t stand this another minute! Stay!””