Why You Can't Meditate
And how to fix it
Everyone is talking about meditation like it’s the best thing after sliced bread.
Well, I do believe it is.
It’s funny how something centuries-old has become so cool. It’s not reserved for hippies. CEOs, founders, executives, athletes, and many more have jumped on to the bandwagon.
Then there’s you. Trying hard to meditate. You’ve heard about all the benefits. The enlightening experience of your friends who came back from a meditation retreat.
You decide you want to try it. Good choice!
But you can’t even sit with yourself for 10 minutes, let alone meditate. Your mind starts to race. Negative thoughts start flowing like lava from a volcano.
Its heat makes you sweat, ready to get up and leave. You thinking when the timer will go off. Time never passed so slowly.
It was a painful experience. You decide to quit — “This meditation thing is all woo-woo. It doesn’t work for me.”
Hours later, you forget all this and just live like a robot jumping from one task to the next.
For the rest of your life.
Well, if the above narrative sounds familiar, I hope I can change it for you.
The biggest problem with meditation today is this:
While there has been an increase in the popularity of meditation, not many are able to stick with it.
Like anything else, you make excuses when it comes to meditation
I don’t have the time,
I’m too busy,
I can’t sit still,
I’m not good at this, etc.
But there are only two main reasons why you can’t meditate
Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands — Elisabeth Elliot
Restlessness has almost become a characteristic trait in our lives. We’re busy shifting from one thing to the other. Rushing to our jobs, rushing back home, and rushing to get things done.
I once read this about someone’s daily routine,
“I meditate in the morning and then rush to work by 9 am”
That’s the problem, right there.
It doesn’t matter how good your meditation is if you fill your mind with useless restlessness.
Imagine these two scenarios:
A day when you got up on time, had your coffee, read a book, meditated, had a good breakfast with your loved ones, and then went off to work.
You woke up so late you don’t even have time to brush your teeth. You put on the shirt you wore the previous day and rush to work to not miss the first meeting.
In which case will you be able to work better? In which case will your performance be higher?
A sense of calmness is crucial for good meditation practice as well as a good life.
Your mind is always ‘on’. Stressing about 100 different things at the same time.
You think you’re not restless. Because you don’t know what calmness feels like.
You give excuses to defend yourself:
“I have too many ideas. Meditation will ruin this”
“My stress pushes me to work harder”
Let this be clear once and for all — stress or restlessness is not doing you any good. You can achieve much more with a calm state of mind.
Finally, restlessness is not only about stress. It can come from good things as well. When you hear good news, you get excited.
This excitement of the nervous system stimulates the restless thoughts in your mind.
Calmness is about de-exciting the nervous system — to help you stand firm in the center of life’s storms
In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention — Pico Iyer
Distraction is the cousin of restlessness.
I describe it as a lack of concentration.
Yes, it’s about sticking to one task and working on it for a long time.
But that’s not all of it. Where’s your mind? Is it thinking about all the things you’ve to do during the day? Or is it focused on the present moment?
All distractions have this pattern.
People are productive 3–4 hours after they wake up. Why?
Because they’re calm. And calmness breeds focus. As the day goes on they become restless. It unleashes whirlpools of thoughts and distracts you from the task at hand.
It’s a vicious cycle
Small Note: Your Ego
The soul wants to meditate, it’s the ego that gets in between — Paramahansa Yogananda
If you’ve struggled to build a meditation habit in the past, know this — it’s always because you find something better to do.
Which means meditation is not a priority for you.
It’s the job of ego — to keep you in delusion and the world of duality. Meditation is the only tool to get you out of it.
Such is the ego. It keeps you trapped in a maze and never lets you access the map to get out of it.
I know meditation is not instantly gratifying for beginners. But so is the case with everything in life.
Next time you find yourself making excuses, think about this. Is what you’re trying to do really important than meditation? Or is it work for the sake of work — to avoid doing the right things?
More often than not, you’d be better off meditating.
Until You Fix This, Meditation Will Never Work for You
There are a lot of ways you can go about establishing a meditation habit. I’ve written more about it here.
But it’s more than building a habit. It’s about your lifestyle.
Your 10-minute morning meditation is important. But what you do for 23 hours and 50 minutes is even more significant.
You can’t get fit if you exercise for 30 minutes and eat crap throughout the day.
Likewise, you can’t get the benefits of meditation if you sit for 10 minutes but your life is in havoc.
Your life supports your meditation and your meditation supports your life. They go together — there’s no separation.
In our culture of hustle, it seems impossible to do less. The worth of a person is determined by how long he works.
We’ve put the 4-hour-sleep-day on a pedestal
Do less. Better yet, give yourself permission to do less. There’s no guilt.
Remember, we’re not aiming to get less done. We’re aiming to **DO **less. To do the important things which matter instead of all the fluff in between.
Greg Mckeown describes it perfectly in his book, Essentialism,
The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s not about getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done. It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’. It’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us
Reduced activity leads to more calmness which leads to better results.
Train Your Concentration
Focus on one thing at a time for ever-increasing time-periods. It’s as simple as that.
There are no tips or tricks with this. Tell yourself you’ll not stop until you complete what you’ve set out to do.
Let Mindfulness Enter Your Work Life
I hope you’re doing something peaceful every day to recharge yourself— walking, running, exercising, meditating, etc.
But it’s difficult to carry on this peace and satisfaction throughout the workday. It feels like we’re always striving for more and there’s no rest.
I’ve found one practice to help me with it — integrate 5-minute mindful sessions throughout your workday.
Start with at least 3. Take three 5-minute breaks during your workday and go to a secluded spot. If you can’t find a secluded spot, go to the washroom.
Then, do a body scan, focus on the breath, or sit in silence observing your thoughts. If you’ve not done it before, 5 minutes would feel like half an hour.
You can use any meditation app to help you with it. Or download some guided meditations on your phone.
If you’ve not been able to meditate yet, it’s either because you’re restless or you’re distracted.
To fix this, focus on doing less activity, doing it with concentration, and doing it mindfully.
Center yourself multiple times until you start to carry a sense of calmness throughout your day.
Once you taste the inner joy and calmness, you’ll want to meditate more. And the more you meditate, the more you want to meditate.
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