Meditation is easy, just close your eyes and focus on the breath.
But unfortunately the mind doesn’t want to stay still and focus on the breath because it’s used to thinking. That’s what the mind does.
Sitting to meditate requires commitment, discipline and perseverance if you want to experience the benefits of the practice – sadly there is no quick fix.
It’s normal for beginners to experience some discomfort or frustration when starting out – after all you’re learning a new skill.
As you learn how to meditate for the first time, your mind will likely resist being asked to sit still by kicking up all sorts of excuses – including restlessness, boredom, doubt and criticism.
Let’s dive in and get you prepared for the roadblocks (nearly) all beginner’s face…
Roadblock #1: I Can’t Clear My Mind
You sit down to meditate, eyes closed… you’re ready for some zen… but there’s just one problem: your mind is going crazy.
You can’t stop thinking about your never ending to-do list, that fight you just had with your partner, or what you need to buy from the supermarket.
If so, you’re not alone. Stopping your mind from thinking is as impossible as trying to consciously stop your heart from beating.
Lots of people think meditation is about clearing the mind or stopping thoughts. It’s not.
Meditation is instead about being aware of your thoughts. Noticing them and then just watching them pass by without getting carried away by them.
Imagine for a moment that a thought is a train… It’s like watching trains come and go at a terminal. The train arrives, people get on and off, the train leaves. But you’re just sitting on a bench on the platform noticing it all, without jumping on the train and ending up in a new destination.
So don’t worry about whether you’re thinking or not thinking.
If thoughts come up. Notice them. Pause. And let them go.
If thoughts aren’t there. Great. Just keep focusing on the breath.
It’s a win/win situation.
Roadblock #2: I Don’t Have Time
There’s a zen proverb that says: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
Many of the world’s top performers prioritise a daily meditation or mindfulness practice. In fact Tim Ferriss discovered 80% of the high performers he interviewed shared this trait and there’s no doubt they all lead busy lives.
The fact of the matter is, everyone is busy but we ALWAYS make time for our priorities.
Meditation is the best way to take care of your mind and is a tool that can upgrade your life in so many ways (which we’re going to share with you in detail later in this guide). If looking after your mind is not a priority, we don’t know what is.
Where so many people trip themselves up with meditation is they start too big.
We struggled to stick to it consistently at the beginning because we thought we ‘had’ to do 20 minutes a day.
The good news is, you don’t.
ANY amount of meditation is better than no meditation and you can start experiencing the benefits even with much smaller practice sessions.
Start small with just 5 minutes a day.
When you’ve built a consistent habit you can then look at scaling up.
When you meditate regularly, you may also find that you get back time in your day.
5 Ways Meditation Can Save You Time
1. Meditation has great recharging capacity so can help give you more energy throughout the day.
2. It improves focus and productivity so you can do more in less time!
3.Regular practice has been shown to have anti-ageing benefits so you may look and feel younger!
4. It reduces the impact of stress which means less time spent on stress relieving activities or wasting time being reactive to events
5. Meditation can improve sleep quality helping you stop snoozing that alarm!
Roadblock #3: I Get Restless
Everyone feels restless during meditation at one time or another. This is especially true when you’re learning to meditate.
As we shared in block #1, the mind is always busy. If you try to still the mind it will fight with you and rebel and become more restless.
So don’t ‘try’ to still the mind… let thoughts come and go and simply watch them.
Sometimes there is a good reason for the restlessness. Maybe the body is uncomfortable or something needs to be paid attention to that you have not been consciously aware of.
Being quiet can also reveal some of our fears, anxieties and concerns which can be uncomfortable to sit with.
The best solution is to watch the restlessness, just like you watch your thoughts.
Notice the physical sensations and emotional reactions.
Don’t fight with the restlessness, try to interpret or judge it. Just let it be, and continue your practice.
The only way we can be more at ease and at peace with our lives is to learn how to deal with that restlessness differently, and trust that it will pass.
The more you experience this, the easier it will become.
Roadblock #4: It’s Painful To Sit Still
Chances are if you think about meditation, you imagine someone sitting cross-legged on the floor – maybe even in the traditional yogi lotus position.
That may be work great for some, but it’s definitely not the ‘right’ way to meditate.
What’s important is to find the position that’s most comfortable for you (and if that just so happens to be sitting cross-legged on the floor then do it).
If you can, sit upright with a straight back, with your hands resting loosely on your lap or on the knees. You might find sitting in a chair or on the sofa with your feet flat on the floor helps you with this.
Sitting upright can help you remain focused and awake during meditation.
If you can’t sit upright because it’s painful or uncomfortable it’s totally fine to lie down. If you do, try placing a thin pillow under your head and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. It’ll help protect your lower back.
But be warned…if you lie down you may fall asleep! So we suggest only lying down if you need to. Have a play and see what feels best for you.
Roadblock#5: It Makes Me Fall Asleep
Many people get sleepy when they try to meditate. We’ve definitely nodded off a few times.
It may be because your mind is over-stimulated. So when your body gets still, the mind thinks ‘it’s time to sleep’.
And sometimes we’re just tired because we need more sleep!
You have a few options to try…
5 Tips To Stop You Snoozing
1. Sit upright on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
2. Whenever you feel sleepy, take a few deep breaths making them slightly audible and sit up straighter. Then let your breath flow naturally, paying more attention to the inhale.
3. Pick a time of day to meditate when you tend to be less tired
4. Stretch a little before you begin your practice.
5. Try meditating with your eyes open.
Meditation can boost your energy levels, transform the way you respond to stress and promote better sleep so you might find the drowsiness falls away when you commit to a consistent practice.
Roadblock #6: I Can’t Stick To It
Seeing as you’re here, I’m going to presume you know meditation is good for you.
For physical health, stress management, mental clarity, awareness, productivity, yada, yada, yada — there are so many reasons to make it a regular part of our lives.
But sticking with it can be a challenge. What gives?
My wife is an A-type personality and she massively struggled with consistency when she started meditating, mainly because meditating felt boring and a waste of time – like you’re not really doing anything, and who has time for that? We have stuff to do!
It was only after experiencing the benefits that she realised it needed to be a non-negotiable.
And the solution really is the unpopular one… if it’s something you want to do, you need to prioritise it.
It takes on average 66 days to build a habit so you’ll want to give it at least this long for it to become a familiar part of your routine.
For those first 66 days at least, mark it on your calendar and commit to it like you would any other important meeting.
We strongly suggest meditating in the morning because you’ll be less likely to come up with an excuse to put it off if you do it first thing, plus it reduces the chance of you forgetting to practice!
Wake up. Meditate. Done! Then you can get on with the rest of your day.
We always do ours first thing. We wake up, brush our teeth, have some water and then meditate which leaves us feeling ready to tackle the day. But if the morning doesn’t work for you, no worries!
Really, the best time to meditate is whenever you can prioritise it. Just choose what works for you and your schedule, then commit to sticking to it.
5 Steps To Help You Build A Meditation Habit
1. Set up your practice around other habits – like brushing your teeth – can make it more likely for you to incorporate it into your daily routine.
2. Use a habit tracker and mark a big X on the tracker when you complete a day. Commit to 66 days straight!.
3. Start really small… just 5 minutes a day until you’ve built up the habit.
4. Get a buddy onboard and keep each other accountable.
5. Join a course so you learn and understand the practice in depth and have a bigger level of commitment.
Roadblock #7: I’m No Good At It
When you begin meditating it’s very common to beat yourself up or feel like giving up.
‘I’m doing it wrong!”…
‘I’m not a good meditator!’
‘I can’t stay focused on my breath!’
You want peace and calm but your practice feels like the complete opposite.
You may experience impatience, disappointment and self-doubt about your capacity to meditate.
You may feel like you’re falling short or doing it wrong.
If you get lost in thought, if your mind is busy, if you’re feeling restless – none of these make you a bad meditator. In fact, what you’re experiencing is total normal.
The purpose of meditation isn’t to enter a state of bliss or eradicate all thinking.
It’s simply to be present with whatever is going on right now.
The only ‘bad’ meditation is the one you don’t do! Every time you sit down to practice, it’s a success.
And remember it’s called a meditation ‘practice’ for a reason – it’s a skill that evolves over time.
If you’ve been held back by any of these blocks yourself, just know it’s not your fault. You’re not bad at meditation. You may not have been taught some of these things when you started out like me.
One of the reasons I’m so passionate about learning to meditate is because almost 15 years ago, I was incredibly lost, stressed out and dissatisfied with my life.
And I know if I’d started practicing meditation sooner, I would have levelled up my life a hell of a lot faster than I did.
Joe : )