Is Your Mind Resisting Meditation?
7 Easy ways to make it more effortless.
You keep hearing how tremendous meditation is, but you either can’t get your practice started or keep your existing practice going. Here’s how to overcome your resistance.
I became interested in meditating years ago, but being an A-type personality, I didn’t think I could do it. Watching my breath seemed unnatural and I remained restless when I tried it.
What worked for me was simple. I placed a candle on a small table at the foot of my bed, dimmed the lights, sat cross-legged about four feet from the flame, and focused my gaze on it while clearing my mind as much as I could.
I found this so enjoyable that it became my daily mini-retreat from the world. I’ve advanced my meditation practice significantly since that time.
If this A-type can do it, you can, too. Here are seven solid reasons to end your mind resisting meditation:
1. You need some quality me-time. Think of everything you do for others: answering phone calls, performing tasks and projects, giving instructions, attending meetings, working overtime, preparing meals, planning your next activities, caring for your kids or pets, even attending social functions. It’s a rare treat when you get to do something just for you. Meditation time is your time — no one can claim it but you, and there’s an easy way to declare the time for yourself — just smile and say, “Excuse me for a bit — I’m going to meditate.”
2. Meditating is effortless. Meditation counters the direction of your other daily activities. It involves allowing rather than pushing, grasping, controlling, performing, or rushing. It helps you to relax deeply in just a few moments. Most of us have schedules so full we can’t possibly take the regular breaks recommended by health advocates. But if you meditate, you can drop all issues and anxieties and just be for as long as you want. You’ll soon experience what a relief this is.
3. You’ll improve your focus, concentration, and memory. Meditation helps you learn to overcome distraction and maintain focus even during boring tasks. Sara Lazar, a Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School neuroscientist, discovered through brain scans that meditation changes your brain. After meditating for only eight weeks, a group of brand new meditators experienced a thickening in four regions of the brain, including those that decrease mind-wandering, and improve learning and memory. Meditation may offset age-related cognitive decline or even enhance cognitive function in older adults.
4. You’ll reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Lazar’s study further discovered that the fight or flight region of the brain which helps us to prepare for emergencies, the amygdala, grew smaller in her subjects. This correlates to a reduction in stress. And the brain regions associated with empathy and compassion increased. When you have more empathy, compassion, and understanding for other people, your interpersonal relationships improve, which can make your days run a lot smoother. A 2016 Rutgers study found that when combined with exercise like running or aerobics, mediation can help reduce depression better than either activity performed alone — it took just twice a week for two months. Personally, I overcame my own depression years ago through meditation, yoga, and walking.
5. Meditation’s effects extend well beyond the time you’re meditating. Dr. Shanida Nataraja, author of “The Blissful Brain, Neuroscience and proof of the power of meditation” says she’s seen the greatest benefits in the way a “meditation practice infiltrates your everyday life.” Like many meditators, she doesn’t get as stressed over deadlines or client problems as she did before starting to meditate. She’s able to “put things into perspective, and … let go of that continuous striving and achieving.” She also went from having borderline hypertension to achieving “perfect blood pressure.” These are changes that remain with you outside of meditation. Nataraja also studied brain plasticity and our ability to change what we’ve imprinted on our brains through conditioned responses to our experiences — in other words — our emotional baggage. She suggests that meditation can help us “[unlock] the potential of our brains” to help us “realize more of our potential as human beings.”
6. Alone time is healthy. In a world where relationships are plentiful, many of us don’t have the opportunity learn how to be alone. Solitude can be scary if you’re experiencing it due to a life transition like a breakup, death in the family, or a move. When you meditate, you’re alone with a purpose. It can help calm you by experiencing the present. For instance, you can ask yourself, “Is anything bothering me in this moment, or do I feel safe and protected?” It can help you retrain your thoughts from anxious, negative ones to calm observations.
7. You’ll discover your inner connection. Most of us don’t think about it but we inhabit two worlds — an outer world and an inner world. When our energy is directed outward, we are scattering our focus. Regardless of whether we are introverted or extroverted, this reduces our energy and can even take us off balance. Many have expressed after a spending years focusing on caring for others or solely on business that they forget who they are. By meditating and connecting within, you can strengthen that connection with your self. This helps maintain a better balance in life, a key to healthful, happier living.
How to Get Started
Getting started can be the hardest part of creating any new habit. Negative thoughts can make you put it off even longer.
Try changing negative thoughts by re-reading the reasons above whenever you are resisting meditation. Realize that meditation takes absolutely no effort — and the benefits pay off far more than watching mindless TV.
Start by being gentle on yourself. Don’t create any requirements — just sit quietly still for a few minutes and enjoy the peace. Relax. Increase the time gradually each day. You’ll find yourself looking forward to meditating in no time flat.
Originally published at perfectinnerpeace.com on December 7, 2016.