By Yachna Tyagi
Yachna Tyagi shows you how to stop postponing meditation practice and make it a part of your daily life
Aspiring meditators often find it hard to start meditating, and even harder to make it part of their daily routine. Most of the advice we hear are banal statements like, “Just do it,” and, “Don’t get involved with your thoughts, just observe them,” which are true, but not always helpful.
Have you found meditation tough going? Frustrated with keeping at it and find it going nowhere? You are not alone – it happens with anybody trying to get the essence of it. Given below are a list of common hurdles and how best to overcome them.
Problem: What is the ideal time to meditate?
There is no such thing as the perfect time. There will always be work, chores, obligations, and responsibilities. They are a part of our daily life. Although the quiet early morning hours are an ideal time, it may not be suitable for everyone.
Solution: Although setting aside a certain time of the day for your session is highly recommended, it may not always be possible to stick to it. Be flexible and grab any time slot available through the day. After a few sessions, you can plan your day, and schedule other activities around your preferred time. The key factor is regular practice. Try starting out with a 15-minute session, and extend it to 30 minutes or longer once you are comfortable.
Problem: I lack motivation
Solution: You may have the time, but motivation eludes you. Become conscious of the health benefits of meditation, and the negative effects of stress, to motivate you. According to the American Institute of Stress, almost all emotional, physical, mental, and behavioural health disorders are linked to stress. Stress triggers the release of hormones into the blood stream, which, if unchecked over a period, can lead to and/or aggravate numerous symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, headaches, mouth ulcers, muscle spasms in neck and shoulders, lower back pain, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke, asthma, difficulty in breathing, duodenal ulcers, ulcerative colitis, irritable colon, menstrual disorders, vaginal infections, hair loss, eczema, suppression of the immune system, Parkinson’s disease, obsessive compulsive disorders and auto immune disorders such as psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain cancers.
Meditation, once considered an esoteric eastern practice, has now been adopted as a stress-reduction tool by Western medicine, and is highly recommended to counter stress-induced medical conditions.
A study conducted by the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation showed that performing kirtan kriya meditation (a meditation belonging to the kundalini yoga tradition) 12 minutes a day for eight weeks, increased blood flow to the brain, and also accellerated activity in the parts of the brain that are central to memory.
Another study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, showed that a variety of meditation techniques resulted in an increased blood flow to different regions of the brain, opening up the possibility of ‘prescription meditations’ to treat specific health disorders like trauma, anxiety, and depression.
Meditation has the power to transform your thinking pattern from negative to positive. Performed regularly with sincerity, it can help purge your system of all negative emotional manifestations of stress like anger, jealousy, suspicion, nervousness, and restlessness. Given sincerity and consistency in your practice,
|Meditation, once considered an esoteric eastern practice, has now been adopted as a stress reduction tool by western medicine|
it is possible to notice an undeniable difference in your overall well-being and mental attitude within a week. Meditation can help heal your heart, and dissolve your emotional baggage.
Being in a structured environment of a meditation class, with teachers to guide you might be another avenue you might choose to pursue. A class-like environment could help evoke in you the healthy spirit, to give meditation sincerity and time.
Problem: I am not disciplined at all
No, it is not okay to miss a day. If you skip a day, you are most likely to skip another, and then another. This attitude opens the doors to indiscipline and sets the stage for failure.
Solution: Make a resolution and share it with someone. Knowing that someone else knows, will make your resolution even more real and pressurise you to take it seriously. Be specific in your resolution. For example: I promise to practise (meditation type) everyday for the next 40 days without missing a day. If I miss a day, I will have to start all over.
Consistency is the key to success in meditation. You are, after all, training your mind to adopt a new habit. You can even shuffle things around, and shift your session time, but do not skip it.
Problem: I feel restless and distracted and give up too soon
The mind is constantly ravaged by thoughts, but always remember, it is the nature of the mind to wander. Sitting down in meditation only brings you face to face with the state of your inner turmoil.
The first five minutes of meditation are always the hardest. The list of pending chores and temptations will race through your mind, and try to pull you away. You will feel restless and fidgety, and have a strong urge to flee. The reasons are the high frequency beta waves generated by an aroused brain. Beta waves are associated with alert working states, involving high mental activity. When you first sit down to meditate, your mind is still operating at this frequency level. It is hard to alter it immediately. Meditation helps alter your brain waves from high frequency beta to low frequency alpha waves. Theta waves, which are of an even slower frequency, are associated with deeper states of meditation, or relaxation. Low alpha and theta waves have been associated with creative thinking, inspirational ideas, and enhanced problem-solving abilities. If you can sit through the first five minutes, the next five minutes will be relatively easier, as your brain waves transition from high frequency beta to low beta and then slower frequency alpha waves. At the end of 10 minutes, your mind will calm down significantly. This calmness will act as a catalyst to keep you going longer and help you enter deeper meditative states.
Solution: Wrestling with your thoughts and trying to subdue them will only lead to further aggravation of your mind. According to ancient yogic texts, the mind and body are interconnected. A steady breath helps calm the mind and a calm mind helps steady the breath. Anulom Vilom (alternate nostril breathing) is a great technique to help steady your breath and mind. It balances the seven major chakras and the left and right hemispheres of your brain. Practising relaxing techniques that promote mind, breath and body co-ordination, like yoga or moving meditations like tai chi, qigong, activities like reading, listening to relaxation CDs, and guided meditation videos/CDs can gradually ease your brain waves from high frequency beta to a low frequency beta or alpha state, leading to a more relaxed state of mind and preparing it for meditation.
If you like, you may want to create a ritual to symbolise the beginning and end of your meditation. Simple rituals like dimming the lights, lighting a candle, and ringing a small meditation gong can help set the mental tone and help ease you into your meditation.
Problem: I feel discomfort in my posture
The traditional seated positions of meditation might pose some initial discomfort to aspiring practitioners, but should by no means become a reason to not meditate.
Solution: Since you will be required to sit still during your meditation for at least 15 minutes or more, it is important to find a position that would be most comfortable. The Burmese style (with both feet on floor without crossing) is a great posture to sit in as it doesn’t cramp your legs and is a relatively easier pose for beginners. If you find it hard to sit on the ground, you can practise sitting on a chair. Just remember to keep your spine straight. If you are unable to sit on a chair due to physical ailment, practise your meditation lying down. Just make sure you are on a flat, firm surface and your spine is straight. This will prevent you from dozing off. Although there is no need to invest in any fancy paraphernalia, if you are just starting out using adequate back support, meditation cushions, or other props could help minimise bodily distractions and make your meditation relatively easier. Avoid wearing clothes that are tight as they can interfere with your blood circulation and impede breathing.
Problem: My mental attitude seems wrong
Getting into meditation half-heartedly and resisting it with preconceived notions of doubt, scepticism, and a sure-to-fail “I told you so” attitude, is not the way to begin a session. Some get into it looking for amazing and immediate results without the desire to give it time.
Solution: Your mental attitude could set the stage for the success or failure of your session. It is advisable to keep an open mind. An open mind is associated with alpha brain waves, which are generated when one is relaxed. Consciously trying to cultivate attitudes of compassion, love, forgiveness, and gratitude can help you work synergistically with your meditation and make all the difference.
Problem: Where do I start?
If you dread meditation time, one of the reasons might be that you just haven’t found the one that is right for you.
Solution: Guided imagery meditations can be a great place to start until you feel you are ready to graduate to the next level. Meditation techniques like soham, zen, and vipassana, are all worth exploring. Spend some time sincerely experimenting with a few, and find the one that works best for you. If you find yourself struggling, you might want to consider joining a meditation centre and learning under the guidance of an experienced teacher.
No one else can meditate for you. Personal endeavour is essential. The benefits of meditation will stay with you throughout the day, day after day. Investing some genuine time and effort in your daily practice will undoubtedly help you reach your highest potential and bestow you with tranquillity, improved focus, better concentration, mental clarity, equanimity, and glowing health.
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