6 Reasons Why You Find Meditation Harder Than It Is

These simple mindset shifts prevented me from shunning meditation altogether.

Our thoughts are often self-fulfilling prophecies. Of all the aspiring meditators I’ve met, almost none of the successful ones thought that meditation was ‘hard’. Conversely, those who fail to establish a meditation practice always have some or the other excuse ready.

Meditation is just one of those things — no matter how many reports there are proving the mental, emotional, and physical value of being quiet, there seems to be an even greater number who refuse to give it a try.

Often we can forget the point of meditation. We can be sitting in silence questioning the purpose of it all that time.

Don’t get me wrong. Meditation is can be challenging — but that’s just because we’ve been conditioned to believe certain truths that need to change. There are certain myths and excuses around meditation that seem plausible but couldn’t be more wrong.

There are many reasons why meditation can appear difficult, listening to the noises outside or the incessant chatter in our head being one of them. We easily get bored if we do nothing for too long, even if it’s only 10 minutes, and even more so if we are unclear as to why we are doing it.

Here are some of the main excuses people refuse to give meditation a try. By knowing the truths behind these myths, you can set yourself up for success.

You’re Trying to Stop Thoughts to Calm the Mind

“The mind is more difficult to tame than the mighty winds.” — Arjuna, The Bhagavad Gita

Like most first-time meditators, I used to try calming the mind vigorously. That’s an oxymoron in itself if you know what true meditation is. In his book Secrets of Meditation, Swami Kriyananda writes,

“The secret of meditation is to send any vagrant thoughts in your mind soaring, like little balloons, upward in the skies of Infinity until they disappear like in the blue distance.”

Indeed, most of us try to do the opposite. We try too hard to focus on the breath or our object of concentration. This creates nothing but tension. We forget that we’re the observer of the thoughts and start clinging to them.

Thoughts are part and parcel of the mind. You can’t stop the mind from having thoughts just by brute force. You need to relax in the seat of the observer.

When you meditate from that point of being, that’s when true meditation begins. Even seasoned meditators have problems calming the mind. They too don’t have a switch that can stop the mind in a second.

After meditating every day for almost 18 months, I still have lousy sessions where I’m not able to focus. The thoughts are just too wild flowing in my mind like a hailstorm. And that’s fine. It doesn’t mean that meditation is hard or you’re a bad meditator.

As long as you keep going, results will show up. Meditation, like life, will also have periods of ‘dryness’. Accept them and work with them calmly. Fighting the mind only creates tension, learn to work with it.

You Think There’s No Time

“If you’re busy, meditate for 15 minutes. If you’re too busy, meditate for 1 hour.” — (A quote that floats a lot in Zen circles)

I firmly believe that if you can’t find the time to do something, it’s not a priority for you. Don’t blame it on others, hold yourself accountable. You’re not able to make time for it, and now you have to fix it.

I struggled with this for months. Whenever someone asked me why I don’t meditate, I’d have elaborate excuses as to why “there’s no time!” But deep down, I knew I could make time if I wanted. And this was killing me inside. Don’t let the same thing happen to you.

There are some tips, however, that made me prioritize meditation over the past couple of years:

  • By meditating you increase your concentration and willpower while reducing stress. This in turn helps you get more done in less time. In other words, meditation is adding time to your life, not taking time from it.

  • Remind yourself of why you started meditating in the first place.

  • Remember the beautiful experiences that you had before. Think about how meditation changed your life and made you happier. Use that as your motivation on days you don’t feel like doing it.

  • Finally, most things can be done tomorrow. I’m not telling you to procrastinate. But at the same time, it’s important to know that the world will not fall apart if you took a 30–60-min meditation break.

When you’re completely convinced of making meditation a part of your life, find creative ways to get around your problem. I’ve heard many stories of people who meditate in the car or the office since they cannot do so at the home.

When I started meditating, I had to shift my schedule by waking up one hour early to make time. Similarly, I had to let my family know that I’ll be meditating again in the evening and I won’t be available at that time. If you want to do it, no one will be able to stop you.

Finally, the secret of meditation is steadfastness: the more you meditate the more you’d want to meditate. If for instance, you don’t feel like meditating, only do a short meditation instead of a long one. Don’t skip it entirely. 5 minutes is better than nothing.

However, since meditation is so good, you’ll find yourself sitting for a longer time once you get into a flow. The toughest part with meditation is to leave your work and settle down to meditate. Once you’ve done that, things become easier as you go forward.

You’ve Chosen the Wrong Practice

Not all meditation techniques are made equal. Some involve components of focus, others include more prayer and loving-kindness. When I started meditating, I found focusing on the breath painstakingly boring.

All the YouTube videos I watched told me to start counting from 1 and go on till 10. And then repeat for ever-increasing periods of time. This is no doubt a powerful technique, but it didn’t resonate with me.

Later on, when I started learning proper techniques, I practiced two or three different techniques in my meditation session. The first few minutes were spent focusing on the breath with Hong-Sau. Next, I’d do Kriya Yoga. And then the last few minutes could be devoted to the Aum technique.

There are hundreds of types of meditations. Not all of them may be as effective. But if you’re having trouble meditating, it’s wise to pick the one that has the lowest barrier to entry for you. Instead, most people skip meditation altogether due to ignorance or laziness.

Take the time to find the technique you like. But once you’ve found it, stick with it like an adhesive. Even though finding a comfortable technique is good, you shouldn’t jump like a monkey, changing your technique every month.

No technique will give you results if you don’t put in the time to practice it. Once you’ve chosen the one you like, practice it sincerely and you’ll see results.

You’re Trying to Meditate for Too Long

“I can’t find the time to meditate for 30 minutes, so I won’t meditate at all,” is one of the most common excuses that I’ve heard. People tell me, “Oh, real meditation needs at least an hour.”

That’s not true! Yes, the longer you sit, the deeper your experience can (potentially) be. But skipping it altogether is procrastination, not wisdom.

Just ten minutes of meditation practice for a few weeks can literally grow the size of your brain. According to a 2011 Harvard study, eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing.

There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress — and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well.

As Nike would tell us, the lesson is simple — “Just do it.” 20 minutes are better than 10 minutes. 10 minutes are better than 3 minutes. But 3 minutes is much, much better than not doing it.

You (Still) Think It’s Woo-Woo

You don’t have to join a cult, shave your head or sacrifice your first-born child. While I’m the first one to say that meditation has a broader reality most people skip, you don’t need to go into that if you don’t have an established meditation practice.

You can think of it as mental training. The act of bringing your attention back to a central point of focus will do wonders for you in your daily life. The more you train your brain to focus on one thing, the better it becomes at it.

You see, part of the reason we’re distracted is that we’ve trained ourselves to be this way — constant multi-tasking, compulsively checking social media, messages, and email, etc. Ergo, we don’t have any concentration training, but we have tons of distraction training. This is why grown-ups still have trouble concentration, it’s not just the kids. And meditation can fix that.

A recent study found that a two-week mindfulness training course improved GRE results by 16 percentile points! In addition to that, a complimentary finding, or perhaps the reasons behind the increased score, was that participants had much lower levels of useless mind-wandering.

It’s not hard to see then, that the benefits of meditation not only help you crack standardized tests but also perform cognitively better in your professional and personal lives.

You Think You’re Not Good at It

“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” — Buddha

You can’t suck at meditation. No one can. The reason people feel they’re not doing well, is they think meditation is about emptying the mind or the cessation of thoughts. Though that may be the goal of meditation, it doesn’t mean that you’re bad if you’re not able to achieve it.

It can take years to do that! It’s called a meditation practice’ for a reason. I know it’s tempting to judge yourself but this will only suck the enthusiasm out of you.

Not only are there hundreds of techniques to pick from, but also tons of options for your posture, equipment, cushions, beads, and so on. In short, **you’re allowed **to make yourself comfortable instead of trying to conform to something that makes you feel useless.

Meditation is one of the few things where we learn to drop our judgments, likes, and dislikes. Let’s try to do that with all our attention. The more detached you are, the happier you are — not only in meditation but in life.

To Sum Up

Here are the reasons why you’re finding meditation harder than it is:

  1. You think it’s about stopping the thoughts and emptying the mind

  2. You think you don’t have the time to meditate

  3. You’ve chosen the wrong practice that doesn’t resonate with you

  4. You’re trying to meditate for too long too early

  5. You think it’s woo-woo, ‘religious’ or ‘cult-ish’

  6. You think you suck at meditation, largely because you don’t know what it exactly means.

These simple mindset shifts prevented me from shunning meditation altogether. I hope they do the same for you.

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Written on March 11, 2021