As simple as it may seem, developing a regular meditation practice can be a challenge. I mean, who has the time to sit and ponder their navel for hours on end?
If you are willing to acknowledge your own obstacles and persist with learning more about this ancient practice, the benefits are many.
Developing a regular meditation practice can ease stress, boost the immune system, provide a greater sense of wellbeing, calm anxiety, overcome depression and relieve insomnia.
It’s well worth the investment, particularly considering that sleep disorders cost the Australian economy more than $5.1 billion a year in health care and indirect costs. In addition, the reduction in life quality caused by sleep disorders has a further cost equivalent of $31.4 billion a year. The report, ‘Reawakening Australia – The Economic Cost of Sleep Disorders in Australia‘ highlights the fact that more than 1.5 million Australian adults, 9% of the adult population, now suffer from sleep disorders.
In 2009 WHO predicted that by 2030 the world population would be affected by depression more than any other illness.
It is time for us to revisit these ancient practices, to develop a regular routine and help ourselves to ease physical discomfort, spiritual malaise, mental agitation and emotional pain.
When you first develop an interest in learning meditation, you may encounter all kinds of struggles and frustrations. This may often arise from having preconceived ideas of what your meditation practice should look like. It is important to remember that everyone is different, therefore everyone’s experience will be different.
Even accomplished meditators will find variation in their daily practice. As there are so many variables within us as human beings, it is not unreasonable to think that our state of physical, mental, emotional or spiritual wellbeing may affect our practice. There are also external factors to consider such as where you choose to practice, whether you are in a group environment; even the style of meditation you choose could alter your experience.
Rest assured that there is a meditation style and technique that suits all individual preferences and needs, from the physical to the transcendental. I encourage you to experiment with different styles to find a few that suit your unique needs.
So let’s take a look now at four of the barriers you may be experiencing in your meditation practice and how you may overcome them.
1 Busy Mind or ‘Monkey Mind’
Meditation is not so much about emptying the mind as it is about observing your thoughts without attachment.
Just as your heart beats and your lungs breathe, your mind will think.
The challenge here is to become an observer of your thoughts; acknowledge that you are not your thoughts and allow yourself to move on.
There is no need to believe everything you think. It is simply not true.
2 Expect Nothing, Gain Everything
When I first began guiding people through meditation I found that they had very high expectations of their meditation practice.
Many expected it to be an easy and completely relaxing experience first time around without realising that sometimes this may not be the case.
It is important to understand that each time you sit down to meditate your experience may be very different. This could be due to differences in your physical, mental and emotional state at the time as well as external influences.
If you are feeling agitated or anxious, perhaps you may like to incorporate some yoga asana into the beginning of your practice to release physical and mental tension before you sit down to meditate.
Try using a guided mediation that may help you to focus on your practice if you are feeling distracted or you are short on time.
If you feeling tired and are concerned that you may fall asleep, try setting a timer that will bring you back at the desired time.
Allow your practice to be what it will be without expectation or judgement. The more you let go of your expectation the greater your benefit.
3 The Time Factor
When it comes down to it, it’s like anything else that you really want to do – you simply make time for it.
Schedule a regular meditation practice into your daily or weekly calendar as you would any other important and recurring appointment.
Your practice can be 10 minutes or an hour long and it can vary depending on how you feel, what support you feel you may need at that time, or simply how much time you have in your day. The choice is yours. If meditation is really something you want to do, take ownership of it and make it happen.
If you are not disciplined enough to do it at home on your own, find a class that you can attend on a regular basis or arrange a regular meditation date with a friend.
4 Personalise Your Practice
When time is tight and you may have to prioritise activities, consider incorporating mindfulness into everyday activities like work, grocery shopping, going to the gym or even eating meals. Mindfulness practice can be a valuable resource in your tool box.
Consider eating a meal at the table without television, phones or computers at your side and really savour the experience of every mouthful. You may be surprised how pleasurable this simple practice can be!
A sense of meditation can also be achieved when participating in activities you enjoy such as colouring, drawing, reading, gardening or even exercising.
My beloved achieves a sense of focus and calm when he works on his dirt bike. My mother finds her place of peace through crocheting and puzzles.
Consider where you find your place of peace and go there. Go there often and languish in the sense of stillness that it gives you when you are focused on a passion or activity that you love.
When it comes to developing a meditation practice, there may be many struggles and frustrations you experience. Whatever your own barriers may be there is always a creative and often simple way to overcome it.
Start small and gradually build on your practice to personalise it and make it yours.
Remember, expect nothing, gain everything!