Your mind was set, you were going to meditate every single day, so you sold off your PS4 on ebay and turned your bedroom into a minimalistic Zen garden. You were OMG so sure that this mindfulness thing was the ultimate substitute to mundane entertainment, really, you were sooo close to joining a monastery.
But your spiritual fever only lasted for two months, after what life happened to you, one hectic day at a time, one hangover after another.
Now, it looks like your enthusiasm for practice has shrunk down to the size of a nail scraping forgotten in the bathroom.
At that stage you’re really just thinking of dropping out. After all, you live in the city, meditation is for those who can afford to retire early and buy an earthship in a mountain, not for corporate slaves like you.
Don’t let go.
Don’t make that mistake, failing and being discouraged is a natural part of meditative discipline. I became an expert at disappointing myself with my poor performance in meditation, BTW, so I can really confirm that meditation follows the good old rules: fail, fail again, fail better.
Let’s just consider this: your habitual, agitated mind hates to meditate and will come up with any “rational” excuse to convince you to watch a video, stay in bed or even do the laundry, just to dodge the daily sitting.
If you want to practice consistently, you need to counter attack each and every objection your mind comes up with, to help you do that, I’m sharing below the most common arguments I’ve dealt with so far and a little fix for each of them:
I’m too tired
This excuse is the lamest, by far and large. Statistically it’s also used more than any other.
To be too tired to meditate means you’re drained to the point you can’t even sit straight on a pillow.
Unless you’re in a coma or agonizing on your deathbed, you can meditate, you can stop what you’re doing and watch your mind for five minutes, can’t you?
Here’s the only trick I recommend: before cancelling your session out of concern , check the validity of your excuse: if you feel ready to crash in your bed right away, then by all means don’t wait and take a well deserved rest, but if you’re planning some preliminaries like checking your FB timeline or what’s new on Netflix then you simply don’t qualify and are assigned 10 minutes of meditation minimum.
I’m not inspired
Me neither, I’m hardly ever inspired to meditate, and it’s OK. You don’t have to be inspired, you’ll get the same results by just doing it consistently, no matter what. Inspiration is a bait for beginners, it’s meant to be enjoyed when you’ve just discovered meditation and everything sounds awesome and magical.
The rest of the path implies persistence and hard work, it’s about sitting consistently everyday, but it’s also about seeing your life change tremendously overtime.
In short, if you’re not inspired, rejoice, you’ve entered the core part of your journey, where you beat a path to actual change.
I’m too angry
OK, I give it to you that anger is a horrible, creepy ghoul that feeds on your brain, it’s not something you’d like to spend the night with. Yet it’s also a complete hallucination, and the best way to see through it is to sit for a while for a face to face with your anger.
When you’re mad, I challenge you to sit for seven breath counts without moving, observe how you feel, and then do it again. Bit by bit, you should develop the right amount of relaxation and ease.
I personally love to work out when I’m mad, and then sit in meditation. That does the trick for me (well, then you’ll have to motivate yourself to work out, but that’s not the point, here).
I’m too old
Once again, you’re too old to sit? Come on!
One of the highest accomplished Yogis was a Tibetan called Milarepa, he started meditating when he was 43 and spent the rest of his life practicing and teaching until the venerable age of 83.
Do yourself a favor and royally diss the old age card, it’s harming your meditation career. On the contrary, scream out of joy for finding one of the few meaningful endeavors age can’t steal from you: meditation is great at any age, unlike extreme cage fighting.
If, like me, your joints are starting to hurt and won’t let you sit cross legged: sit on a chair with your butt higher than your knees (add extra cushions if needed), that has done wonders for my worn out ankles, I hope it helps.
I don’t really know how to meditate
And I’m not sure anyone really does, since its a constant trial and error process. That means: you’re better off reading this condensated meditation guide, try it for yourself and as soon as you have questions, locate a center next to you to ask a qualified teacher.
The funny thing with meditation is that you usually feel like you’re doing everything wrong during the sessions, and once you’re done practicing, you feel right, and clear-minded.
To save time, cut through the feeling that you’re “not ready” or “not good enough” to meditate efficiently, you’re good enough to progress, that’s all that matters.
I have too much to do
I get caught up every month in the same trap: starting my day by checking email, preparing breakfast, sorting my clothes…Next thing I know I’m the subway and I still haven’t meditated.
The one and only solution to that is to practice early in the morning, which has three advantages:
- It tunes your mind to the right frequency, and conditions your day for more focus and clarity.
- It prevents others from disturbing you: since you practice before they even wake up, they can’t text you, call you or walk around you frantically asking you to take the trash down.
- It gets your meditation out of the way before anything else, making room for other priorities.
And last, yet tough “excuse” I’d like to talk about:
I’m so depressed I’d rather be dead
I’m very familiar with this one too: overwhelming waves of anxiety, sadness and confusion that stand in the way of focus…In that state, meditation is not only a total drag but seems totally meaningless.
Since I attended a MBSR training lately, I’ve been reminded something that can easily be forgotten: meditation is not about constructing a state of joy and thoughtless concentration, but being present to how you feel, right now.
In a fit of depression it’s tempting to try and use meditation as a tool to suppress emotional pain, when actually, being fully present to your feelings is the quickest path to alleviate them.
As a final note, I’ve said it before but I don’t see mindfulness as an appropriate way to treat depression, and if you read traditional Buddhist texts describing meditation methods, you won’t find any mention of it as a cure. Healing from depression is doable, but you’ll get the best results through therapy!
Feeling too tired, old, stupid, depressed, human brains never runs short of good reasons not to go through the challenging process of observing their own thoughts. To make matters worse, our social circles are endless providers of opportunities to postpone quiet times on our own.
To stay consistent in my practice, I like to remind myself one thing: meditation is the best way I found to transform every single thing I experience, unlike most other activities, its benefits pervade through my entire life.
And Yes, getting on the cushion is a bitch, but since the ripple effects of mindfulness are felt even when I sleep, why would I find excuses? To buy time? That’s a value I no longer want to waste, and neither do you, I guess.