I Will Start Meditating Tomorrow
Very often aspiring mediators find it hard to start meditating and even harder to make it part of their daily routine. Most of the advice we have heard so far are banal statements like-“Just do it” and “Don’t get involved with your thoughts, just observe them,” which are very true, but not always helpful.
If you think meditation is too hard, or if you have attempted meditation in the past, and only met with frustration, exploring some of the common hurdles many of us face when trying to begin a meditation routine can help you overcome them. Below is a look at some of the most common problems one deals with when meditating, along with solutions to help one around them.
Problem: Waiting for the perfect time
There is no such thing as the perfect time. There will always be work, chores, obligations and responsibilities. They are a part of daily life. Although the early morning time, free of the hustle and bustle is recommended best for meditation, it might not be suited for everyone. Some find it more convenient to practice in the evening.
Solution: Setting aside a certain time of the day for your session is highly recommended, but if your schedule absolutely won’t permit you to meditate in the morning or evening, it would be best to take advantage of any time slot the day has to offer you. The success of a few consecutive sessions will prompt you to prioritize your day to fit everything around your meditation session. The key factor is to meditate daily. Try starting out with a 15 minute session and as you progress you can slowly build up to 30 minutes or longer.
Problem: Not having the motivation
You have the time, but lack the motivation.
Solution: Being knowledgeable of all the health benefits that you could accrue from meditation can motivate you to finally do it. We are all aware of the effects stress can have on our health. According the American Institute of Stress, almost all emotional, physical, mental and behavioral health disorders can be linked to stress. Stress triggers the release of hormones into the blood stream that if gone unchecked over a period of time can lead to and/or aggravate a number of health concerns such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, headaches, mouth ulcers, muscle spasms in neck and shoulders, lower back pain, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke. asthma, difficulty breathing, duodenal ulcers, ulcerative colitis, irritable colon, menstrual disorders, vaginal infections, hair loss, eczema, suppression of the immune system, Parkinson’s disease, obsessive compulsive disorders and auto immune disorders such as psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain cancers.
Where once meditation was considered to be an esoteric eastern practice, it has now been adopted as a stress reduction tool by western medicine and is highly recommended to counter stress induced medical conditions.
A study conducted by the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation showed that performing Kirtan Kriya meditation (a meditation belonging to the Kundalini Yoga tradition) 12 minutes a day for 8 weeks increased blood flow to the brain and increased brain activity in the parts of the brain that are central to memory.
Another study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging showed that different meditation techniques resulted in an increased blood flow to different regions of the brain opening up the possibility of ‘prescription meditations’ to treat specific health disorders like trauma, anxiety and depression.
Meditation has the power to transform your thinking pattern from negative to positive. Performed regularly with sincerity, it can help purge your system of all negative emotional manifestations of stress like anger, jealousy, doubt, suspicion, cynicism, nervousness, and restlessness. Depending on the sincerity and consistency of your practice, it is possible to notice an undeniable difference in your overall well being and mental attitude within a week. Meditation can help heal your heart and dissolve your emotional baggage.
Being in a structured environment of a meditation class with teachers to guide you might be another avenue you might choose to pursue. Being around like minded people will give you a sense of community support. A class like environment could help evoke in you the healthy spirit to succeed and motivate you to give meditation much deserved sincerity and time.
Problem: Not having the discipline
No. It is not okay to miss a day. If you skip a day you are most likely to skip another. This attitude opens the doors to indiscipline and sets the stage for failure.
Solution: Make a resolution and share it with someone. If you think you are one of those people who wouldn’t honor a promise made to yourself, share your resolution with a close family member or friend. Knowing that someone else knows will make your resolution all the more real and pressure you to take it seriously. Be specific in your resolution. For example: I promise to practice (meditation type) everyday for the next 40 days without missing a day. If I miss a day, I will have to start all over.
Consistency is key to success in meditation. You are after all training your mind to adopt a new habit. Worse come to worse, shuffle things around and shift your session time, but don’t skip it.
Problem: Feeling restless and distracted and giving up too soon
The mind is constantly ravaged by thoughts. It is the nature of the mind to wander. Sitting down in meditation only brings you face to face with the state of your inner turmoil.
The first five minutes of meditation are always the hardest. The list of pending chores and temptations will race through your mind and try to pull you away. You will feel restless and fidgety and have the strong urge to flee. The reason for that is the high frequency beta waves that are generated by an aroused brain. Beta waves are associated with alert working states involving high mental activity. When you first sit down to meditate, your mind is still operating at this frequency level. It is hard to alter it immediately. Meditation helps alter your brain waves from high frequency beta to low frequency alpha waves. Theta waves which are of an even slower frequency are associated with deeper states of meditation or relaxation. Low alpha and theta waves have been associated with creative thinking, inspirational ideas and enhanced problem solving abilities. If you can sit through the first 5 minutes, the next 5 minutes will be relatively easier as your brain waves transition from high frequency beta to low beta and then slower frequency alpha waves. At the end of 10 minutes your mind will calm down significantly. This calmness will act as a catalyst to keep you going longer and help you enter deeper meditative states.
Solution: Wrestling with your thoughts and trying to subdue them will only lead to further aggravation of your mind. According to ancient yogic texts, the mind and body are interconnected. A steady breath helps calm the mind and a calm mind helps steady the breath. Anulom Vilom (Alternate nostril breathing) is a great technique to help steady your breath and mind. It balances your seven major chakras and the left and right hemispheres of your brain. Practicing relaxing techniques that promote mind breath and body coordination, like yoga or moving meditations like Tai Chi, Qigong, activities like reading, listening to relaxation CDs, guided meditation videos/CDs can gradually ease your brain waves from high frequency beta to a low frequency beta or alpha state, leading to a more relaxed state of mind and preparing it for meditation.
If you like, you may want to create a ritual to symbolize the beginning and end of your meditation. Simple rituals like dimming the lights, lighting a candle, and ringing a small meditation gong can help set the mental tone and help ease you into your meditation.
Problem: Dealing with discomfort of sitting
The traditional seated positions for meditating might pose some initial discomfort to aspiring meditation practitioners, but should by no means become a reason to not meditate.
Solution: Since you will be required to sit still during your meditation for at least 15 minutes or more, it is important to find a position that would be most comfortable. Burmese style is a great posture to sit in as it won’t cramp your legs and is a relatively easier pose for beginners. If you find it hard to sit on the ground, you can practice sitting on a chair. Just remember to keep your spine straight. If you are unable to sit on a chair due to physical ailment, practice your meditation lying down. Just make sure you are on a flat, firm surface and your spine is straight. This will prevent you from dozing off. Although there is no need to invest in any fancy paraphernalia if you’re just starting out, using back support, meditation cushions, or other props could help minimize bodily distractions and make your meditation relatively easier. Avoid wearing clothes that are tight as they can interfere with your blood circulation and impede breathing.
Problem: Wrong Mental Attitude
Coming into meditation half heartedly and resisting it with preconceived notions of doubt, skepticism and a ready to fail “I told you so” attitude is not the way to begin a session. Some come into it looking for amazing and immediate results without the desire to give it time.
Solution: Your mental attitude could set the stage for the success or failure of your session. It is advisable to keep an open mind. An open mind is associated with alpha brain waves which are generated when one is relaxed. Consciously trying to cultivate attitudes of compassion, love, forgiveness and gratitude can help you work synergistically with your meditation and make all the difference.
Problem: Don’t know where to start
If you dread meditation time, one of the reasons might be that you just haven’t found the one that is right for you.
Solution: Guided imagery meditations can be a great place to start until you feel you are ready to graduate to the next level. Meditation techniques like Soham, Zen, and Vipassana are all worth exploring. Spend some time sincerely experimenting with a few and find the one that works best for you. If you find yourself struggling, you might want to consider joining a meditation center and learning under the guidance of an experienced teacher.
No one else can meditate for you. Personal endeavor is absolutely essential. The benefits of meditation will stay with you throughout the day, day after day. Investing some sincere time and effort to your daily practice will undoubtedly help you reach your highest potential and bestow you with tranquility, improved focus, better concentration, mental clarity, equanimity and glowing health.
I am pleased to share with you the above article of mine that was published in the June issue of Life Positive Magazine under the title-“Drop Out, Tune In”. They also have an online presence at http://www.lifepositive.com/. I have posted the article here under the original title-“I Will Start Meditating Tomorrow”.