5 Common Mistakes That Make Beginner Meditators Want To Quit
If you've been trying to start a regular meditation for a while but getting into it has been hard and you’re thinking about giving up, then it's likely you're making the same mistakes as I did. Before you throw out your incense sticks, Tibetan bells CD or the sitting cushion your mate picked up from India because you said "mediating is deffo going to be my thing this year" read this blog first.
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When I first started meditating 5 years ago I thought I was crap at it, I had no idea it was going to be so hard. I can clearly remember lying flat on my back willing myself not to think, waiting for an earth shattering experience only to find that I’d fallen asleep for forty five minutes. I really did try to get in to the habit of sitting cross legged for 20 minutes a day, quietly trying to banish those pesky “mind monkeys” from my cage of a brain but after 3 weeks of sheer determination, I gave up.
Most of us have heard that meditating helps make you feel more positive and less stressed, so it can be frustrating when you hear someone say “I do it twice a day for 20 minutes without fail” and all you’re thinking is “I can’t even sit on the floor for more than 5 minutes without getting agitated”. What I’ve learnt is that no one person’s experience is the same. This is a self practice and you are the only judge. It may take a week of 10 minutes a day to grasp it, or it may take a year and giving up a few times, like it did for me. The good news is though, if you are sitting still and quietly, with your eyes closed, then you’re meditating, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. These are the basics of it and then as you practice more and more, and practise really is the key, then you can go deeper and deeper into your meditation.
Now, when I meditate, 45 minutes can go by in a flash. I’ve had some wonderful, life changing experiences. I have left my body, feeling myself sitting and watching from just above my head with everything looking like I was on some sort of mild acid trip. All the colours more vivid and bright than in everyday life, moving like the effect of heat rising off a Tarmacked road on a hot day. I have received wise messages either from my higher self or what feels like the spirit world, someone called Lazarus even popped in this summer to say hello, I’m not really sure what he wanted but I have no doubt it will become clear one day. It’s funny sharing this with you because if someone had told me two years ago that I would be writing about this stuff now, I would have laughed and thought they were a bit cuckoo but when it happens, you just know and for me it’s felt safe rather than weirded me out.
Not all of my meditations are like this. I go through phases of meditating every day and then sometimes it can be weeks before I’m reminded that I need to get back into it. What’s important is that in the end, I found my way and looking back I can see that these 5 mistakes nearly stopped me and from speaking to clients and friends who also want to get into meditating, they’re more common than I realised.
1. Don’t try to stop thinking
When I first started meditating I thought that I would have to completely stop thinking, so all I was thinking about was not thinking, which seemed to promote more thinking. You’ll be pleased to know that you still need to think, hurrah! The point is to try and have a single point of focus. This is to quieten your mind and body so that when your mind decides to take the thought train to, “What’s for dinner tonight?” you kindly remind it that that is not where you’re heading and take yourself back to your single point of focus, quietening your mind and body.
2. Don’t force yourself into a cross legged position
If it feels uncomfortable before you’ve even closed your eyes, then as a beginner it’s unlikely that that will change. You don’t have to sit like an experienced yogi, you can sit in a chair, with your legs out in front of you, on the sofa, kneeling or in any way that is comfortable for you and allows you to be quiet in your mind and body. For me, I like to be sat in a chair with my feet firmly on the ground so that I can be upright and alert. Play around with a few different positions to see what works for you.
3. Don’t lie down, especially in your bed
I have tried this and it never works. I’ve felt a bit sleepy and thought I’ll meditate in my bed. If you’re doing this, your intention is not to meditate, it’s to sleep. Even if you’re not sleepy you’ve spent so many years connecting bed to sleep that you’re making it pretty difficult for yourself. Remember this is about staying focussed not completely switching off so start with an environment that encourages that. For me it’s best to do it first thing in the morning, after a cup of tea, before my mind starts to race into the day. You may be different, so see what works best for you, is it at home before you leave for work, at your desk in the afternoon, stopping somewhere on your walk home or before you go to bed in the front room?
4. Don’t expect an earth shattering experience
If you expect a spiritual enlightenment first time round, you may be disappointed. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, because it does but meditating is all about noticing and sensing, so if you come with the expectation of something big happening you will miss the small things that are taking place. Like the tightness in your shoulders relaxing, the release of stress from your brain, the itch on your toe or the guidance from your intuition. By paying attention to the small things in your meditation you can begin to appreciate the smaller things in everyday life, like the birds in the trees or the colours of the flowers.
5. Don’t start with really long meditations
You may have heard stories of yogis meditating for days on end, if that sounds like your kind of fun, then go for it but even sitting for 1 hour is quite a hard task when you’re just starting out. You really don’t have to meditate for long periods of time, 10 minutes a day will see some good benefits. If 5 minutes seems to be all you can do, then start with this until you’ve mastered it. You can use your phone to set a timer. If you want to see your practice progress keep upping the time by a minute. If you find you come out of your meditation before the timer, just go back in. Start training yourself to sit for a little longer each time. Setting these small goals will give you a sense of achievement before you start to receive the true benefits of consistent meditating.
Most importantly, keep it up, remember it’s a self practice and no one can be the judge of that but you.
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