Written by Molly Schreiber, Founder and CEO of Challenge to Change
"The body benefits from movement. The mind benefits from stillness." - Running with the Mind of Meditation
You have started your meditation journey. Congratulations!
Sitting in stillness is a difficult practice to not only begin, but to continue.
Today I am going to address the top 5 barriers I have had in my continued practice and give ideas of how to overcome them.
At the time of me writing this blog, I am 129 days into a consistent morning meditation practice.
Below is a list of 5 common thoughts I have faced in my personal meditation practice.
Please take what serves you from this message and let the rest be for others.
1. Sitting is hard
Sitting is part of a good meditation practice.
Sitting with the spine long and the crown of the head lifted, allows us to breathe deeper- therefore enhancing our meditation.
Sitting tall can often bring up aches and pains in the body.
Guess what? That is part of the resistance of the practice.
It is often our mind trying to keep us “safe” from entering into the space of “not thinking” or identifying how we are truly feeling.
When your mind says: “my hip is hurting, I need to straighten my leg,” instead think: “thank you body for keeping me safe,” and let the thought go.
Another way to help the difficulty of sitting is to do it for shorter times.
Perhaps do five minutes and then get up and walk around and sit for five more.
Eventually your body will get used to the practice.
In time your mind will know it is safe to sit in stillness.
I often like to move my body in a short yoga practice before I sit.
It helps me to release tension from my body while still in the night.
Moving my body before sitting down also allows me to connect at a deeper level of knowing what I have done for or against my body the day before in terms of exercise and nutrition.
2. Wandering Thoughts
This is probably the hardest part of the practice. Just as our bodies are meant to move, our minds are meant to think. Thinking is what keeps us safe. Our minds are simply doing its job.
I practice my meditation practice in the morning. Oftentimes I only have a few sips of caffeine in my body before I practice so my mind is still moving at a slower pace. I do notice in the afternoon or evening, it takes my mind a lot longer to slow down and for my meditation to come through.
When I first sit, even after 129 consistent days, my mind is speaking to me. The first few moments of my practice, I watch my thoughts. I acknowledge my thoughts. I label my thoughts as pleasant or unpleasant. And then I let them go. I don’t allow for an unpleasant thought to bring about another, I simply identify it and let it go.
Oftentimes repeating a mantra such as “it is not mine,” or “cancel clear,” helps me to let unpleasant thoughts go and settle down. I then try to sink the mantra to my breath. I take even deeper inhales and exhales to allow my mind to settle and understand what I am asking it to do.
3. Taking The Time- Take vs. Make
Our most common excuse to not meditate is that we don’t have time. This is a simple hardship to overcome.
We take time for anything we WANT to make time for.
If your practice is needed in the morning, get up a few minutes earlier. If you desire to take work breaks and meditate, put it into your google calendar. If nighttime is when you thrive, make a special date with yourself every evening. We have the time, we just need to commit to ourselves and the practice.
4. Nothing is happening
You are doing what you know to do. You are sitting. You are breathing. You are categorizing your thoughts. However, you don’t think anything is happening. Guess what? It is hard to measure.
I would suggest, first of all, keep the practice going and see what happens. Do not quit because you cannot see the numbers on the data graph going upward. Secondly, I would encourage you to try the practice without any guided words or music and notice what happens in the silence. Thirdly, I would start to take notice of your actions and reactions throughout the day. Are you finding you have a pause before reacting in an unpleasant way? Are you noticing your demeanor is just a little bit more positive or happy? Meditation isn’t about just what is happening during the practice, but what is happening in the moments, hours and days after. It is an inside job that eventually affects all parts of our outer lives.
5. I don't like how I feel
Thoughts, feelings and emotions are all part of emotional intelligence. As we begin to sit with ourselves and connect with who we are at the true core of our being through a mediation practice, we notice feelings and emotions tied to the thoughts that come up. First of all, do not label your feelings or emotions as good or bad, but acceptable and unacceptable.
Not all thoughts, feelings and emotions during meditation are going to be pleasant. I often am the most grateful for the unpleasant ones because sitting in stillness with them helps me to grow my empathy and identify how others may be feeling. In my day to day movements, I often move fast and don’t slow down enough to notice how my words and actions- though intended to be helpful- are actually harmful.
Meditation is a practice and a hard one to keep consistent. Oftentimes, I feel I need to put my thoughts or feelings in a place where I don’t have to hang onto them, but where I can return to them when I want or need to.
The biggest suggestion I have for this is to journal about them after your practice. Journaling has always been a powerful tool for me to identify thoughts, feelings and emotions when I can’t quite express them verbally.
After seeing them on a page, it helps me be more equipped to express how I am thinking and feeling in constructive ways. Writing your thoughts and feelings can often bring so much healing and clarity.
This blog is meant to give you hope. You are not alone in thinking and feeling the way you do. My hope is to help you know these barriers are normal and something most people face.
Unfortunately, things that are good for our brains are often the hardest and the events we resist are often the practices we need the most in our lives.
Please don’t give up on your practice. I am always here to help you- reach out if you feel called to do so.
P.S. I would like to personally invite everyone to participate in the Meditation With Meaning: A 21 Day to Developing a Personal Practice Challenge.
It consists of a daily video/meditation practice with me, a digital journal and a private Facebook group - PLUS an immense amount of gained peace :)
Start at any time and go an your own pace! Learn a little more about the challenge below:
I am excited to help many people come to a sense of peace.
The reason for wanting peace can be simple and add to your already thriving life- it does not need to be as big as a cancer diagnosis.
Having a solid meditation practice will only prepare us for what is to come in the beautiful journey we call life.