Meditation is not as difficult as everyone makes it out to be.
The prevailing concept, expectation, and idea of meditation is what is difficult to come to terms with. The idea that you zen out. Meaning your brain stops talking and you just sit and are able to be calm inside your mind in a way you have never experienced.
But the point of meditation is not just to zen out and be still for the first time ever. And expecting to be able to zen out and be still for the first time ever on your very first try is ludicrous!
But that is the expectation we all have and because we “fail” not once, not twice, but three times, and three times the charm right, we have utterly failed in meditation and will never be able to do it. So we give up.
Meditation is not an instant success.
How very very indicative of the society we live in. It’s too much bother, too much work and we cannot make the time for it if it isn’t going to work right now. Immediately. It’s supposed to be the thing that fixes me, that helps me because it worked for so and so and this famous person talks about it and so on.
We completely ignore that so and so has been doing mediation for months or years, daily and or weekly. We completely ignore the fact that our expectations are too high and absolutely impossible for anyone to attain and maintain. There is this deep abiding belief that we are always the same and change is impossible. Partly due to the fact that our changes tend to come slowly and we are unaware of them. Partly due to some societal perceptions. And for others there is a knowledge that we change, but only in certain ways at certain times. And for a few, a very few, there is the understanding that change we desire to make requires effort and work and we decide to make the effort and put in the work.
The fact is, we are changing all the time. And some changes require more effort and work on our part than others. And we just don’t want to put forth that effort if we don’t have to. And we don’t really have to meditate. I mean we’ve done ok so far without it so why do we really need it now?
But something inside us was clamoring for it so we must need it. But we’re already so practiced at ignoring that inside part of us, that we will get through the need eventually and go back to what we consider ‘normal’ for us.
Only for some of us the need gets stronger. So we keep trying and ‘failing’ to live up to our internal expectations. It never seems to occur to us to question the expectations and let meditation just happen. And if it does we have expectations about how meditation is supposed to just happen. We tend to want to control everything, partly because we have so little control over most things. So the things we actually can control we tend to over control them. Like dieting and exercise. So we can end up doing the same with meditation.
Meditation is normal?
I’ll let you in on something. We all meditate on a regular basis without really realizing it. That drive we don’t really remember? We meditated. Doing chores or mindless tasks? We are likely meditating. Running, swimming or other sports where we zen out? Meditating. It’s everywhere. You do it all the time. Pay attention and you’ll see what i mean. Meditation does not always mean sitting still on a yoga mat and breathing. You can meditate anytime, anywhere. You do it normally. It’s a resting period for everything.
So first examine the expectations you have. Then let them go. Then let meditation take whatever form it ends up taking. If you find you have to run, cycle, swim, etc., to meditate, then do it. If you find you need to do it first thing when you wake up before you move then do it. If you find you have to do it in the middle of the day do it. At night. Do it. Doesn’t matter when and where as long as you do it.
Though in all honesty, it helps to pick the same time of day and the same place. Routine is an important piece for meditation. If you can do it regularly the body will come to expect it and it does, in some ways, get easier at times to actually meditate.
So, deal with the expectations, then go with it. Let go of that need to control the meditation. And create a routine. Whatever that routine looks like is fine. It’s perfect for you. And that is what matters.
Meditation is first and foremost, a personal thing.
Meditation is a personal thing unless you are going to a meditation group where it sort of ends up being personal but also a group thing. But it is always first and foremost a personal thing. You are the one sitting or running. You are the one breathing and relaxing. You are the one watching your brain jump around like a hyperactive labrador puppy with a new toy and the dog equivalent of catnip. You and only you can train that puppy. And it takes practice.
The image of a puppy is incredibly apt because no matter how well trained any dog is, it is still a dog. And it will still do dog things at times. The same goes for your brain. No matter how good you get at meditating, your brain is still a brain. It will still do brain things. That is why it is called a meditation practice. You are practicing. I know people who have been meditating for 20+ years and they still have puppy dog brain days where they cannot sit and just be. I’ve been meditating for 9 years and it still happens.
Just remember that what meditation may look like on the outside does not necessarily reflect what is going on on the inside and any regular meditator will tell you so. Just do it. And just let it happen. Set small goals. Start with so many breaths or so many minutes once a week or so. Then let it grow organically. And rephrase your internal backtalk to more positive phrases when you feel like you didn’t do enough. If you worked at it some, then you did enough. Celebrate instead of berate.
Need help meditating?
If you feel you need further help find a Buddhist center, other meditation instructor or group to help guide you. You can also contact me. Just remember, anyone who demands you do it their way, unless it actually really works for you, is not going to be a good instructor for you. You are your own best instructor because you know how you meditate naturally. On some level, you know. So do yourself a favor and listen to yourself about meditation. The results might surprise you.