You’re probably interested in meditation because you want to relax your mind and body, to manage intense emotions, to spark your creativity, or to develop more self-love and awareness. Right? Many people new to meditation have a hard time starting and sticking with a meditation practice though. Why? I believe they are making 3 main meditation mistakes that make them feel like a failure and that the practice is not for them. Read on or watch the video below to learn about the 3 meditation mistakes to avoid and my beginner meditation tips that will help you move forward in your mindfulness practice with more confidence and ease.
Do You Have A Hard Time Meditating?
Have you heard yourself saying or thinking:
“Meditation just isn’t working for me”
“Meditation is boring”
“I don’t have time to meditate”…
If so, then you’re probably feeling that you aren’t getting anywhere with your meditation or it’s just not suitable for you.
I’ve been teaching meditation for over 20 years, and I’ve heard these excuses so many times. What I find is that students and clients need more education about the purpose and method of mindfulness practices in order to “get it”.
Yes, there is discipline that needs to be strengthened too. And sometimes a personal touch is also necessary to process what’s coming up in meditation, which is why this is one of the modalities that I teach to clients in our holistic healing sessions and in Pathway To Empowerment.
But for most people, if the need and motivation is there, perception tweaks are all that’s necessary to start seeing results. And after experiencing the benefits enough times, that reinforces your commitment to keep going with your mindfulness practice.
Before getting into these meditation tips and mistakes, I highly recommend you get my 3 Essential Meditations that will not only help you experience peaceful mindfulness, but will also balance your energy.
3 Beginner Meditation Mistakes & Tips To Resolve Them
There are three mistakes that I want to go over, and after listing each one, I’ll offer you a meditation tip and solution. It’s important to approach it from this perspective because it is oftentimes something that we are doing that is blocking our success when meditating!
We just need to move out of our own way in order to reap all the benefits of our mindfulness practice.
1. Misunderstanding Meditation
The first mistake is the one I see most often, which is simply misunderstanding what meditation is, or having incorrect assumptions about it.
So when I hear someone say that meditation isn’t working for them or it’s too hard for them I know that this is probably the reason why.
For some reason we have all heard that meditation is about “clearing the mind”. This leads people to think that they need to be feeling joyful, peaceful, and clear throughout the whole process.
That’s not true though! Meditation is a process. It’s not a stagnant state of mind we’re focusing on. Instead, we’re awakening to what’s occurring in the present moment, which is always active. Your mind always has activity as it’s processing the moment. There’s always something to notice inside yourself as well as in your environment.
This is what I love about meditation! It actually becomes easy to meditate when you understand that you’re supposed to be watching the moment. We choose an anchor to loosely focus the mind on. This could be noticing:
- Body sensations
- The movement of the breath
- Sounds in the environment
- Or on repeating a mantra or affirmation
The process of meditation is to keep bringing the mind back to the anchor point over and over with patience, understanding that distraction is inevitable. It’s actually welcome so you have something to work with!
It becomes interesting to see where the mind goes. Perhaps it’s gone into the past, bringing up thoughts and feelings about some event that’s occurred. Perhaps it is fantasizing about the future and obsessing about the uncertainty there.
You constantly realign and adjust. That’s what balance is is all about! It’s not achieving this static state where everything is still. It’s adjusting, and bringing more attention to where it’s needed. For meditation, more attention is needed for the present moment, where we’re actually living.
Your mind does get calm as these oscillations and distractions start to lessen over time. In order to get there, we need to know what to expect. We need to know that this takes practice and is part of the process.
Meditation Tip #1
Understand what meditation is AND approach your practice with a playful, joyful, even curious attitude. Let these oscillations happen and just watch and see if it starts to lessen and you’ll know that you’re progressing. Once you have longer periods of attention and you will also start to see that in your outer world. Peace comes when opening up fully in your meditation practice allowing it to be allowing to adjust you’re going to be able to do that easier in your life
2. Judging and Blocking Insights
When someone is saying that meditation is boring or they have better things to do, I know that they are judging themselves and their experience too harshly.
We all have preferences and prejudices. This is revealed to us in a meditation practice, which is why it’s considered a self-development practice. We learn so many interesting things about ourselves, including the habits of our mind, that we can consciously shift.
When we are being ruled by our preferences and prejudices, we’re only attracted to and engage with the things that we find entertaining, stimulating or pleasurable. We avoid the things that challenge us, that are uncomfortable and unpleasant. When we don’t look honestly at these tendencies, then our world gets very, very small. We do this with people, in our relationships – only engaging with certain people.
I believe that this is a huge life lesson for us to open up more fully to our experience in life. This means opening up to all experiences evenly. We tolerate (and can even be grateful for) the unpleasant just as equally as those things that we love. My teacher says quite frankly at some point we’re all going to be confronted with losing something or someone we love dearly. Meditation practice helps to prepare for that and helps us treat every life experience as precious.
Again, meditation is all about observing the self.
So what exactly are you saying when you complain that meditation is boring and have something better to do?
It means that you don’t like what you’re seeing. Acknowledging that you have a hard time relating to yourself can help you develop more self-love and understanding. Let’s not blame the meditation practice, but instead see this as an opportunity for us to redirect again.
Realize things are going to come up that you enjoy and some things are going to come up that you don’t.
The more that you open up to this the more tolerant you’re going to be of not only thoughts and feelings happening within you, but also with things happening in the world.
Meditation Tip #2
Practice meditation without judgment. Ask yourself:
“I wonder what is going to show up for me today? What is here that I can work with?”
It’s always good to welcome even the distractions and challenges because it strengthens your focus as an anchor for the moment. You’ll also see habits of the mind and heart that help you to learn and grow.
3. Expecting Perfect Conditions
When someone says that they don’t meditate due to lack of time, privacy, or quietude – I gently dispel these excuses. Meditation is about opening. It’s about being receptive and inclusive of anything that is happening in the present moment.
Even though we are focusing on one particular anchor at a time you can still let your attention fluctuate from one anchor to another. It doesn’t need to be something still and quiet that you’re focusing on. In fact, I find it much much easier to focus on something that is moving. Or, to include sounds and other things in the environment that are constantly changing.
This also helps train up your mind to be able to drop into a meditative state whenever you need to. You can meditate if your kids are playing loud near you, or if your dog comes up and starts licking your arm!
These can all be features of the moment that does not need to flavor it in a negative way. It’s all how you’re reacting to it.
Let’s talk about quickly the distinction between a distraction that is mindful versus unmindful. A reaction versus a response.
Say that your dog comes up to you as you’re in your meditation and starts licking your arm. If your meditation focus is not secure, if you’re expecting everything and everyone to be still and quiet for you, then you’re likely to get mad and annoyed at the dog and perhaps stop meditating too. This is a reaction, meaning that you’re not mindful of your response which adds another dimension to the experience.
Conversely, if you’re in a nice meditative state you may still be annoyed if the dog comes up and licks you, but you’ll be noticing that first as part of your meditation, perhaps saying to yourself:
“My dog is licking my arm”
“I don’t like how this feels”
“I’m going to let the dog outside”
And then mindfully deal with the dog and come back to your meditation cushion.
Do you see the difference between reacting and responding?
Can you see how doing this over and over becomes second nature when things come up that are unexpected?
This is how we stay control of our inner environment, by allowing things to flow in you and all around you. Nothing can truly break you from peace in your life if you handle it in a mindful, responsive way.
Meditation Tip #3
If you are constantly distracted and thinking that things need to be “perfect”, I recommend that you try a different type of meditation. Try a mindful breathing practice or an active meditation instead like walking meditation, Tai Chi, or Qigong.
I had to do this for myself when I was a new mom 12 years ago. I did not have the capacity to sit still and I didn’t have the capacity to focus on myself for long periods of time. But I realized that consistency mattered more. So I committed to doing something mindful every day but it was not a 30-minute seated meditation like I used to do. The active mindfulness periods were still very calming and helpful for me. And I did not feel like I was a failure just because it was different than what I used to do before I had a child.
Just keep opening up to whatever else is happening in your moment-to-moment experience, even if it’s just washing the dishes or watering your garden. That is still meditation and will help you show up in the world fully, regardless of any conditions and inclusive of all circumstances. You’ll feel more successful with your meditation practice when you let go of those unrealistic expectations of what you think meditation is supposed to look like.
As long as you’re still seeing positive shifts in your life, you know it’s working. This realization will constantly reinforce your commitment to doing your practice.
There are many more mistakes and tips that I could offer! These are the main three though. I hope this has cleared up any confusion you may have had and that these tips better support your meditation practice. Well wishes!