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Top meditation experts debunk the most common excuses we make for not meditating. Read their inspiring advice and get over obstacles (including yourself).
1. “I don’t have time, and I don’t know how.”
Wisdom: Even short stints of meditation can be transformative. Just five minutes a day can yield noticeable results, including stress reduction and increased focus, says meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. Her advice: Start by carving out time each day. Sit comfortably in a quiet space, on the floor, on cushions, or on a chair, with your spine erect but not strained or overarched. If necessary, lie down—you don’t have to sit. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, feeling the air as it enters your nostrils, fills your chest and abdomen, and releases. Then let your attention rest on your natural rhythm of breathing. If your mind wanders, don’t be concerned. Notice whatever has captured your attention, then let go of those thoughts or feelings and return your awareness to your breath. If you practice like this for a dedicated period each day, you’ll eventually be able to call on mindfulness in any situation.
2. “I’m afraid to be alone with my thoughts.”
Wisdom: Meditation can free you from the very thoughts you’re trying to avoid. Jack Kornfield, an author and teacher now based at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, writes in The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology: “Unhealthy thoughts can chain us to the past. We can, however, change our destructive thoughts in the present. Through mindfulness training we can recognize them as bad habits learned long ago. Then we can take the critical next step. We can discover how these obsessive thoughts cover our grief, insecurity, and loneliness. As we gradually learn to tolerate these underlying energies, we can reduce their pull. Fear can be transformed into presence and excitement. Confusion can open up into interest. Uncertainty can become a gateway to surprise. And unworthiness can lead us to dignity.”
3. “I’m not doing it ‘right.'”
Wisdom: There is no “right” way. Kabat-Zinn wisely wrote in his book Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life: “There is really and truly no one ‘right way’ to practice. It is best to encounter each moment with freshness. We look deeply into it, and then we let go into the next moment, not holding to the last one. There is much to be seen and understood along this path; but it can’t be forced. It is best to hold to and honor one’s own direct experience, and not worry too much about whether this is what you are supposed to feel or see or think about. If you practice this kind of trust in the face of insecurity and the strong habit of wanting some authority to anoint your experience with his/her blessing, you will find that something of a deepening nature does happen along the path.”
4. “My mind is too scattered … I won’t get anything out of it.”
Wisdom: Let go of preconceived notions and expectations. Expectations lead to emotions that act as blocks and distractions—so try not to have any, says Zeidan: “Don’t expect to experience bliss. Don’t even expect to feel better. Just say, ‘I’m going to dedicate the next 5 to 20 minutes to meditation.’” During meditation, as feelings arise—annoyance, boredom, even happiness—let go of them because they’re distractors from the present moment, Zeidan says, adding, “You’re becoming attached to that emotional feeling whether it’s positive or negative. The idea is to stay neutral, objective.” Simply return to the changing sensations of your breath and realize that awareness of your busy mind is part of the practice.
See also 5 Steps to Meditate Anywhere
5. “I don’t have enough discipline to stick with it.”
Wisdom: Make meditation a part of your routine, like showering or brushing your teeth. Once you carve out time for meditation (see “I don’t have time … ,” above), you still have to get past mistaken assumptions and unrealistic expectations about the practice, self-judgment, and—as with exercise—a tendency to quit. To hone discipline, Goyal says he works to put meditation on par with bathing or eating: “We are all pressed for time. Make meditation a high priority so it gets done daily.” Still, life situations sometimes get in the way. When lapses of a week or more occur, make the effort to continue with it regularly afterward, he says. The first few days, it may (or may not) be more difficult to meditate. Just as you don’t expect to run 10 miles after a long hiatus in your jogging routine, don’t come to meditation with expectations, says Goyal.