In my mid-20s, I made a feeble attempt at meditating after hearing that 30 minutes of meditation provided the equivalent of nine hours of sleep, so being someone that liked to burn the candle at both ends, I thought a 30-minute meditation would be perfect for me.
I also thought it was just a `cool’ thing to do; perhaps even a great chat-up line!
After sitting still and making several attempts, sometimes as long as a whole 10 minutes, I failed to find any way to silence my thoughts, let alone benefit from this elusive myth.
Almost 20 years after that initial go at it, I did start meditating. I knew I had to do something! I was at the lowest point in my life, and drinking wasn’t the answer, although I did start with Southern Comfort to help me sleep, but even that didn’t last long unless I was willing to drink more, and I was still aware enough that I didn’t want to go down that route.
This time it was more important. I had more to gain (and more to lose), so the desire and need were much stronger, but that did not make it easy.
Since this article is about where your meditation is not working, here are several things to keep in mind…
1. You are not consistent enough.
Since meditation makes you instantly feel better, it is easy to fall into the trap of doing it only when you feel a strong need, like taking Excedrin for a headache. A good meditation for 45 minutes twice a day would be ideal, but that simply is not practical when we are starting out. You may think doing 45 minutes once a week would be enough to begin with, but this only helps for a short time right after you do the meditation.
You’re better off doing a 5-minute meditation twice a day, than to cram it all into a single session once a week. It is about consistency, just like cleaning your teeth. Imagine cleaning them weekly!
2. You’re fighting a thought battle.
One of the main reasons people start meditating is to quiet their thoughts, that continuous Monkey noise that constantly fills our heads. All we want to do is create that inner calm that allows us to function without the tightness and stress of thinking about future or past. To enjoy the moment.
The first stage of meditation is Dharana mind, which means to focus or concentrate. To think of nothing is notoriously difficult as well as an age-old paradox that you simply cannot think of nothing. So we focus on something, most commonly our breath.
Your thoughts will arise. There is almost no stopping them. Even seasoned meditators cannot stop them from coming when first settling down to each meditation. The answer is to allow them to arise or you will become too annoyed by them. Know that your subconscious mind is simply doing what it has always done. By getting annoyed, you will end up in a battle between you and the subconscious mind.
The subconscious mind will win every time, so let it win. Enjoy the thought. You can even say a silent “thank you”, then smile and go back to your breathing.
Eventually the gaps between your thoughts will become longer. You may even become aware of this. These gaps are called Dhyana, which means deeper awareness.
3. You give up too early.
Without any doubt and with loads more evidence than almost any other mindfulness practice, meditation is, by far, the number one practice for improving anyone’s life. I’m not going to write all the benefits in this article because there are so many, and I’m sure you’re already aware of some. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading `4 Reasons Why Your Meditation Isn’t Working’.
When I tried meditation again, just like in my 20s, I gave up too early. I was under the impression it was a quick fix because of the immediate benefits. I was putting my effort into trying to silence my thoughts, thus getting more frustrated the longer I tried.
Even now when I meditate for 45 minutes in the early morning, sometimes it takes nearly all of that time for my subconscious mind to stop bringing things to my attention and just allow me to sit quietly and be. It is not wasted time, as meditation is about focus and focus is like a muscle in the mind. The more you use it, the better it becomes, and it allows you to carry this focus into your normal daily routine.
4. You are expecting too much.
I’ve already mentioned how you can instantly improve how you feel, just by sitting down and concentrating on your breath for a few moments, but just like any exercise, you have what’s called `diminishing results’. It’s important to remember that the more meditating you do, the more improvement you will see.
Simply put, we all need to be realistic and just simply enjoy the benefits as they come, without expecting too much, especially in the beginning, and start trusting the process.
“Simply” enjoy it.