I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say I struggle to stick to a daily meditation practice.
Erratic would be the best way to describe it: a little mantra here, a guided chakra meditation there. Some days I’d meditate first thing in the morning. Other days, I’d be about to drift off to sleep and I’d think “SHIIIIIT! I forgot again!”. There have also been long, barren periods without so much as a mindful breath.
When my meditation practice falls by the wayside, life just doesn’t flow as smoothly.
I’m triggered more easily, reverting to deeply-engrained behavioural and thought patterns. Radio ‘doom and gloom’ broadcasts a relentless stream of angry, impatient, judgemental and self-critical thoughts.
The only way to turn the volume down is to get back on my meditation cushion.
Meditation has a powerful role to play in reducing the mental and emotional impact of stress, anxiety and depression.
In fact, some studies found meditation as effective as medication in treating anxiety and depression. So, I’m trying to up my game.
Current run streak: 175 days.
The benefits don’t stop there. Medical and psychological experts are becoming more interested in studying the physiological impact of meditation. Study after study highlights the changes which occur within a short period (often just a couple of minutes). Meditating on the regular can:
- decrease blood pressure
- increase levels of antiviral and anti-ageing chemical DHEA
- stimulate the production of melatonin, essential for healthy sleep
- slows down the ageing process
- enhance memory and cognitive function.
With everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Russell Brand, Arianna Huffington to LeBron James espousing the benefits, we’ve finally moved beyond the stereotype that meditation is for monks and long-haired hippies
Meditation has gone mainstream
So, if we know the benefits, why is it still so difficult?
Knowing something is good for you doesn’t necessarily mean you will do it!
I’ve heard all the excuses. Heck, I’ve used them myself. So, for my benefit just as much as yours, I’ll break ‘em down, one by one. Because meditation should be easy and enjoyable, a daily practice you genuinely look forward to.
Excuse #1: I don’t have time
Ahhh, that old chestnut!
The beauty of meditation is that it doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Ten minutes in the morning will clear your head and give you focus; ten minutes before bed will help you wind down and improve the quality of your sleep. And if five minutes is all you have, just do that!
To prove that it doesn’t take long, here’s a quick five-minute meditation. Get comfortable and hit play.
Far from being a waste of time, a short period of meditation improves clarity, focus and productivity.
Excuse #2: I already have a religion
We are all unique, multi-faceted beings with specific religious, social and political views. Meditation is not about changing who you are and, although it plays a role in many spiritual and religious practices, it is simply a tool to help us make sense of our complex and often chaotic lives.
Excuse #3: I don’t know how
There is no one size fits all approach to meditation. If it seems like meditation doesn’t ‘work’, perhaps you haven’t found the style that’s right for you.
With such a variety of styles to choose from – mindfulness, mantra, japa, visualisation, gratitude meditation, vedic, vipassana, Transcendental Meditation, moving meditation, yoga nidra to name a few – it can be difficult to know where to start.
Guided meditation is a great place to start
If you skipped the five-minute meditation above, go back and press play.
That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Check out our growing library of free guided meditations on Sound Cloud or download a meditation app so you can listen anywhere, anytime. I personally use the Headspace app, which has guided and unguided meditations ranging from 1-45 minutes. There are even meditations for kids.
As you get to know what you need, you’ll feel more comfortable meditating without guidance and, perhaps, start to explore different meditation techniques. Your practice will continue to evolve over time.
Excuse #4: I find it uncomfortable to sit cross-legged
No problem! Let’s find a posture that works for your body!
Meditation can be done in any position but for ease, start sitting or lying down. The most important thing is that you are comfortable so if sitting on the floor doesn’t work for your body, sit on a chair or meditation stool (like The Original Perch) instead.
Start with your eyes open and let them close when you’re ready. Don’t rush.
Excuse #5: I can’t meditate
I’m not good at it…
There are too many distractions, my mind won’t stop…
When it comes to excuses like this, there are two schools of thought:
First, there are those who say that meditation, like any new endeavour, requires practise. Just as it took time, determination and a few wobbly starts to learn how to ride a bike, meditation is something which becomes easier, more natural over time.
The second group argue that it’s impossible to fail at meditation.
While both are reasonable responses, they fail to address the common misconception: that meditation is about stopping thoughts.
If you expect that your mind will become clear the minute you close your eyes, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration.
Thoughts will always be there. It’s impossible, undesirable even, to get rid of thoughts. This is the core principle of mindfulness meditation.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is basically the opposite of auto-pilot.
It is not about stopping thoughts, masking them or reframing negative thoughts as positive. It’s about being in the present moment; you simply pay attention to whatever thoughts, feelings or sensations arise, without needing to get involved with them. When you suspend judgement and simply observe your experience, the mind has an opportunity to wander and wonder. Processing thoughts and daydreaming are an important part of meditation, not a hindrance to it.
Eventually, the dust will settle.
The sole purpose of meditation is to support your life so, if you think about meditation as a mini vacation, it seems less like a punishment and more like a prize.