Meditation’s Most Common Challenges–And Ways to Push Through

How’s your meditation practice right now? Stagnant? Non-existent? If so, today we’re going to get to the bottom of it. Meditation is one of the most important wellness tools we have access to. Before I was a yogi, I was a meditator. I was lucky enough to grow up with parents who had mindfulness and prayer rituals they practiced daily. I have experimented with many forms of meditation, like japa, mantra, vipassana, and others. Though I consistently meditate now, I would be lying if I said my practice was always as solid as it is today. Struggling with your practice is part of the practice. Still, I constantly meet people who say they want to practice meditation but find it difficult to stick with it. If you hit a meditation plateau, read on for tips on how to push through. If you are just beginning to meditate, congrats! Be aware of these pitfalls, and watch your practice flourish.

Reason 1: You set the bar too high.

Maybe the person who introduced you to yoga said 30 minutes was the ideal length of time to practice. Maybe someone espoused the benefits of meditating twice daily. Whatever the cause, sometimes people set themselves up for disappointment by not setting goals that are personalized to them. Studies show that 5 minutes of daily meditation can lead to stress reduction, reduced anxiety, and increased focus. What’s the right length of time to meditate? The time that you can consistently commit to. Do you know when the perfect time to meditate is? Whenever you have the time. The way to make a plan stick is to tailor it to who you are, right now, in this moment.

Reason 2: The technique you practiced wasn’t the right fit.

The types of meditation I listed above are far from an exhaustive list. There is a chance that you tried a type of meditation that wasn’t in line with what you needed at the time. I recommend trying out different meditation techniques to see which one resonates with you. However, trying out a different technique every week will probably lead to more frustration than enlightenment. When you try a technique, practice it consistently for at least a couple of months before determining whether or not it’s right for you. Try journaling about your meditation practice to track your feelings and progress.

Reason 3: You came across feelings you weren’t prepared for.

Though meditation can seem like a light and fluffy practice, it is far from it. Any practice of self-inquiry requires warrior strength. Meditation holds a mirror up to our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. In doing so, it can show us things beneath the surface that we weren’t expecting to see. I used to regularly leave my meditation cushion frustrated at my inability to still my mind. My mind would launch into a litany of harsh judgment’s about how I was “doing it wrong”, as I imagined my yogi peers floating from their cushions blissed out and relaxed. Though I wanted to give up, after sticking with it I realized those judgments reflected negative beliefs about myself that I had internalized long ago. Only through continued practice could I combat the shame, blame, and self-criticism that plagued my mind. Other things may come up for you. Loneliness, longing, fear, and many other things may arise in your practice. Be compassionate with yourself, and make room to process those feelings outside of your practice. Journaling could be helpful in this instance. Or you could attend a guided meditation and discuss your feelings with an experienced practitioner.

Whatever path you take, don’t give up on your practice. Meditation provides the both the space for deep-seated feelings to arise and a process to work through them. By continuing on the path of self-inquiry, you can have breakthroughs you previously didn’t know were possible. But only through having realistic expectations, practicing consistently, and being compassionate with yourself can this healing occur.

What have your experiences with meditation been? What are some surprising things that occurred in your practice? If you’re not meditating, what self care practices do you do? Let me know in the comments below, and stay tuned for more mindfulness tips and stories.

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