Surprising Reasons People Don’t Meditate Even If They Want To
Learn how to make the game winnable
I’ve been talking about the benefits of meditation for a long time. Even when I talk about them during conversations with friends and family, they nod like they know everything.
Their reaction tells me they already think it’s a no-brainer. I mean, if I start listing the scientific studies that prove meditation is good for you in one way or the other, I can write a book about it.
Yet, meditation is one of those things that everyone talks about but no one actually does.
When it comes to taking action there’s always a “legitimate” excuse.
“I have work to do”
“I’m too tired from work”
“I’ve to take care of the kids”
Deep inside you know it’s BS. You can take five minutes after getting up and five minutes before going to bed to meditate. And don’t you dare tell me you don’t have ten minutes; because if you don’t, then you don’t have a life.
The reason I’m being tough on you, dear reader, is because I needed someone to call my BS when I was getting started.
I‘ve faced every problem and made up every excuse under the sun to skip my meditation practice. I wasn’t even good enough to give a plausible-sounding excuse.
I used to avoid meditation because I was binging on Netflix. That’s just plain procrastination!
Yet, I was able to get out of the rut and establish a regular meditation practice of ~2 hours a day, split into two sessions.
That said, let’s bust some meditation excuses and see how you can get back on the horse. (By the way, again, I’ve made all these excuses. Don’t feel bad for yourself)
“Meditation is only about relaxation. I might as well sit on the couch and watch my favorite show”
I know you think you’re not niaive enough to make this mistake. But trust me, your mind is light years ahead of you.
Anyway, yes, relaxation is a necessary precursor to meditation. If you’re too restless, you’ll not be able to meditate and fall into the next trap.
But the relaxation you experience when watching TV for instance is fundamentally different from what you need for meditation:
Relaxation isn’t only about calming the body, it’s about calming the whirlwind going inside your mind. And watching TV doesn’t do that.
It’s about interiorizing your attention instead of exteriorizing it or numbing yourself by getting lost in a movie.
So to truly relax, you need a few breathing techniques and, if you have the time, a few yoga postures.
Once your attention is focused on your body and not on outer objects, you can ease into meditation without a problem. It will take you into deeper states of consciousness, higher than the material world, which would be vastly different and blissful than being a couch potato.
“Meditation is hard. I can’t calm my mind”
Calming the mind is the goal of meditation, but if you can’t do it, it doesn’t mean you can’t meditate.
Most of us go into meditation with attachment to the results and strong expectations. As a result, when they don’t happen, we lose all hope to practice more.
When I first read about meditation, I always expected something magical to happen in every session. Often, this attachment to a certain state of mind would force me to *try too hard *and get more restless.
Yet, if you go in with an attitude of detachment, it’ll always be a success — no matter how distracted or focused you are.
Remember this forever — a meditation where you’re only fighting distractions is also a success.
The Buddhists say it the best — “we sit to sit.” There’s no ulterior motive.
If you start too strong, you’ll be battling with your thoughts which, in turn, will only make the situation worse. Instead, you need to withdraw your attention from the thoughts and realize that you’re only the observer.
We are not trying to empty the mind but merely bringing our attention back to a single point of concentration repeatedly. There’s no race and no bar of success to cross.
The Buddha said,
“You should meditate every day for 15 mins. But if you don’t have the time, you should meditate for 1 hour.”
Why? Because a restless mind is not an excuse to skip meditation, it’s the best reason to meditate
“It takes years to gain the benefits”
I’ll let the science speak for itself. Research has clearly found that only eight weeks of practice is enough to see the benefits.
In fact, eight weeks is the standard time in all clinical Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs.
I’m not talking about enlightenment here. It can take lifetimes to achieve that.
I’m talking about reduced stress, higher happiness levels, a healthier and efficient brain, and so much more.
Don’t compare yourself to monks and think you need to meditate ten hours a day for twenty years (by the way, even the monks don’t do that).
At the end of the day, this one a classical procrastinator response. What do you tell a person who says, “I don’t have the time to go to the gym for an hour so I won’t exercise.”? You say “Just take a ten minutes walk. At least start something.”
And the same principle applies to meditation. Start with one minute. Okay, start with five seconds and go from there.
There’s no rule and the benefits accrue much sooner than you think
“I don’t have time or the tools”
“The more you meditate the more you want to mediate” — Paramahansa Yogananda
Let’s talk about time first. Track your behavior for one week and find out moments of escapism and distraction — binge-watching, social media, etc. Now take 10% of that time and put it into meditation.
That’s more than enough. In fact, you know that time is not a problem.
It’s a priority issue. So treat it like a priority — like a meeting or a doctor’s appointment and stick to it.
Ironically, once you meditate, you’ll see that you have more time to do things you’ve always wanted to do. Meditation is magical in that sense — it makes you realize what’s important in life and strips away the extraneous.
And what about the tools? You don’t need any! I bet you have a chair. Perhaps you’re sitting on one right now — and that’s perfect for meditation too.
Paramahansa Yogananda’s chief disciple, Rajarsi Janakananda was the owner of multiple multi-million dollar businesses.
He came to his office early to meditate. Sometimes, he had to do it in the washroom because he promised his guru he will set time aside for it. And Janakananda wasn’t an average disciple — he was the most advanced amongst all. Yogananda once said referring to him, “He and I are the same soul in two bodies.”
We’ve made harsh stereotypes around meditation. There’s no need to sit cross-legged, light a lamp or incense.
Do what makes you comfortable. If you can’t sit on a cushion, a chair is also fine. What matters is you practice, not where you do it.
“I don’t want to be spiritual”
Meditation is an essential practice of spirituality and in most religions. Yet it’s not an all-or-nothing pack.
Even though most meditation practices were discovered in the context of religions, modern meditation practices are nowhere related to that.
You can meditate without being too spiritual or hurting your religious beliefs.
You don’t have to wear beads and learn chants. Many people just use meditation for its health benefits and there’s no reason why you can’t too.
Atheists, Agnostics, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and anyone else from any religious background can (and do) practice meditation.
So if you’re on the edge, don’t think you need to act or be a certain way to start meditating.
“It will take my ideas and emotions away from me”
When most people think about meditation, they think about a monk sitting amidst chaos not feeling anything — neither happiness nor suffering.
Well, I hate to break it to you but no one can escape the duality of life unless, of course, you’re enlightened.
Meditation does not make you deny or suppress emotions but rather be much more aware of them.
It’s like playing the game in the third person instead of the first person. What’s the difference?
First Person means: “I’m angry”
Third Person means: “I am feeling anger”
Meditation helps you realize that you’re not your thoughts and you don’t have to be a slave to them. This inner-freedom is one of the best benefits of meditation.
You’ll be less reactive but not like a cow standing in the rain. You’ll recognize the emotions brewing inside you and choose to act only on the ones which are positive.
In simple terms, it’s also called maturity, you should try it sometime.
“Nobody around me meditates”
This can be a tricky challenge because we pick up on the habits of the people you spend the most time with.
If you have plans to meditate in the evening but your friends want to hang out, you’re more likely to cave in.
And thus, you need to find a support group. It got me out of my meditation rut and is the number one thing you can do if you’re serious about meditation.
You don’t have to join a cult. You can find meditation groups in your locality on meetup.com, Facebook groups, and so many other places. You just need a couple of friends who meditate together and can solve your doubts when you need them.
They act as running mates and accountability buddies that help you to meditate even if you don’t feel like it.
When I started meditating, I was stuck alone for months. I then found a meditation course in my city and went for it. It wasn’t the course that helped me at the start but the coaching and the accountability that comes with it.
In fact, **if you take one thing from this article it should be this **— find a support group to learn proper techniques as well as keep yourself accountable.
“It’s not cool”
Meditation does have a PR problem. It’s not only for monks and saints. It’s for everyone.
Do you know where I first heard about meditation? From Steve Jobs’ biography. That was my inspiration to try meditation.
Michael Singer, a great spiritual author, and meditator built a multi-million dollar business with it. (He wrote about it in his book [The Surrender Experiment](https://www.amzn.com/080414110X/)).
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square meditates for two hours every day.
Marc Benioff, CEO, and founder of Salesforce meditates regularly and teaches meditation in synagogues.
Oprah Winfrey, Ariana Huffington, Katy Perry, Madonna, Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, Paul McCartney, Russel Brandt, Hugh Jackman, Keanu Reeves, and many more celebrities meditate.
Still think it’s not cool? Think again.
Global consciousness is shifting. Meditation has taken the world by a storm and it’s not just a bunch of woo-woo now.
“I’m not good at it”
Again, when people say they’re not good at meditation, they have an arbitrary standard of success. This comes from hearsay or their environment in general.
But as Naval Ravikant says,
“All you need to do for meditation is to sit down, close your eyes, comfortable position, whatever happens, happens. If you think, you think. If you don’t think, you don’t think. Don’t put effort into it, don’t put effort against it.”
You don’t need an app. You don’t need earplugs. You don’t need a zafu cushion. You don’t need to put your hands in a certain way.
You need to sit. Don’t think about what you’re gaining from it.
Just sit for five minutes. If you don’t have five minutes you don’t have a life.
Close your eyes, and see what happens. Nothing more.
When you first go to the gym, you don’t do a 500-pound squat right? Similarly, don’t think you’ll be able to meditate for an hour when you’ve hardly done it before.
“Start small, rig the game so you can win it, get in five sessions before you get too ambitious with length,” says Tim Ferriss. “You have to win those early sessions so you establish it as a habit, so you don’t have the cognitive fatigue of that practice.”
Make the game winnable. No one can lose at meditation. Yes, not even you.
“Meditation is for sissies”
I used to be the hyper-ambitious type-A kid with a hustle-like-garyvee mentality.
And let me tell you, it’s not fun to be like that. I was constantly busy and moving through like at a breakneck speed. There wasn’t any time to waste and every action I took had to bring me one step closer to my goals. I didn’t want to do something like meditation which seemed nowhere related to what I wanted to achieve in life.
After all, I used to think, “meditation would slow me down and hinder my progress.”
But you’re more the man if you can take time off for yourself, explore higher realities, and invest time to be a better human being.
After All This, I Still Can’t Convince You
After writing all this and trying to rub meditation in your face, I’m sorry to say that I can’t convince you.
Because at the end of the day meditation cannot be done forcefully. You need to have an innate desire to do it. It’s a starting point on the journey of self-discovery and self-realization.
All I can do is give you a nudge. And I hope I’ve done just that.
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