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One of the most common things we hear about people and their experience of meditation is that like most resolutions, they start of full of enthusiasm, and lose steam someone along the way. The time can vary from a few days to a few months, and with some even to a few years. And then, somehow, the love affair with meditation seems to fizz out.

These reasons are common with those who have only been meditating for a short period of time.

I get bored ‘doing nothing’:
This is a common reason given by people who never get started with meditation. It simply shows that the mind lacks discipline, and like any spoilt child, takes an active dislike to even the idea of discipline! Sometimes people do get started, but do not follow a methodical process, or simply sit and imagine everything will fall into place. In one sense, that is true: meditation is the art of not-doing. But there is a way to do the not-doing … otherwise everyone who just sat around idly would become an enlightened Buddha.

All it takes is a single intense experience, and we’re hooked; we’ll never agree to exchange those minutes of the day for anything else. The problem is, we never know when that experience will happen; for some it happens in days after starting, and for some, it can take a lifetime.

 

Physical discomfort:
This is a valid reason for not meditating for long periods of time. But then again, we’re not looking to sit for long periods from the beginning, nor is it necessary to sit for long periods further into the practice either! If we experience physical discomfort, it is an indication that we need to look after our body a little better; perhaps change some things in our life, stretch a bit before sitting for meditation and so on. It is said that the body cannot give us enlightenment, but it most certainly can prevent us from reaching it! It is also important to remember that the goal of meditation is not just sitting down for long periods of time. This article talks about what is important.

Falling asleep:
It is quite common for people to fall asleep in the earlier stages of their meditation practice. IT is a sign taht things are heading in the right direction. We are creatures of habit. Before starting meditation, the only time we completely relax is when we are about to sleep. Meditation relaxes the mind, and also the body. According to its usual habit, when we relax, the body thinks it is time to sleep! It is therefore recommended to meditate when you are fresh, such as after a bath or shower in the morning. At that time, having just woken up, the body is less likely to fall asleep on relaxing. After some time, it gets used to relaxing without falling asleep. If you continue to fall asleep, it is an indication that the body and mind are not getting enough rest.

 

The body cannot give us enlightenment, but it most certainly can prevent us from reaching it!

No time:
This another common (sorry to have to use this word) excuse. Everyone has exactly 24 hours in a day. Whether we are a busy mom with several kids living in a joint family, or whether we are a super entrepreneur with 5 businesses, guess what: we still get just 24 hours in a day. We always find the time to do the things we really want to do, no matter how pressed we are for time. The only question is about what we give priority. One of the reasons people don’t give priority to their spiritual practice is simply because they have no idea of the benefits it can bring (see article). One of the great yogis I know said: “Meditation does for you what nothing else can. It introduces you to yourself.

As far as time of day is concerned, it does not really matter. Any time of the day when we are least likely to be disturbed by external circumstances is suitable. Some people find early mornings convenient, because it is a quiet time of the day before the hubhub of daily life begins.

 

Distractions:
People often find that when they start a meditation practice, distractions start to crop up around the same time: someone at the door, an urgent phone call, or any number of things. Once again, I’d like to gently say that it is about priorities. If we simply decide that for the next few minutes (10 or 100 does not matter), I’m going to spend time for myself, doing something that gives me joy, and I’m not going to let anything else get in the way, the task is done. The disturbances may still show up, but we are no longer available to entertain them. And guess what: they go away. When the same disturbances (doorbell, children crying, phone ringing) turn up when we’re having a bath, we don’t take notice of those things, do we? When we come out of the bathroom, the world is still there, still okay, still spinning around the sun. Its the same if we take out a few minutes to meditate.

In one sense, meditation is the art of not-doing. But there is a way to do the not-doing … otherwise everyone who sat around idly would be enlightened.

Opposition:
Often, partners or family or friends oppose the idea when someone is about to start a meditation practice. Without being judgemental or defensive, ask them what the problem is. They may end up making a joke about it, but take it lightly, and say: “so you don’t have a real or valid reason, then” … and then get on with your practice. Try and understand that people fear something they don’t understand. Most people have no idea or practice of meditation, so they see it with suspicion or fear. Try and patiently explain that this is something you’d like to do for yourself, that it will take only a few minutes a day, and that it won’t interfere with your work and tasks around the home. Assure them that they’re not going to “lose you” in any way. Most importantly, explain that you think it will make you happy, so you wish to try it out. If someone genuinely cares about you, then they should not oppose the idea of you being happy! And if they do, perhaps it is time to look at the relationship in the cold light of day, and consider whether you wish to have such a negative person/influence in your life. Sometimes, it may come down to simply ignoring protests and doing what you wish to do. After a period, people learn to adjust.

Life event:
Sometimes a big event may come by, and break the continuity of our practice. There’s no need to worry, and no need to feel guilty about it. We can simply go back to meditating, starting as soon as humanly possible. The more we put off restarting for a ‘special date’ or ‘when its all resolved’, the more the chance of the break turning permanent. Even if it is a huge life churning event, we can take out a minute: just one minute if needed, to do our practice for the day. That is better than skipping a day, and then trying to make up by doing double the time later.

 

No experience:
Very often, people expect to see flashing lights, hear sounds, meet spirits and so on when they meditate. Truth be told, while that does happen to some people, it rarely happens to those who are unprepared. The mind needs a lot of training before it can comprehend the larger mysteries of the universe. By the time the mind is trained to that degree, it has usually lost interest in such experiences for the sake of experience. Mystical experiences can take place, but they are only useful as markers, to let us know we’re on the right path. An experience that inspires us to continue our practice is a good thing. That said, it is best not to run after experiences alone, as they can turn to into distractions that hamper further progress.

 

‘Negative’ experience:
Sometimes people experience seemingly negative things as a result of their meditation practice. For instance, they start feeling angry suddenly, or have disturbing visions and so on. Think of the mind as a basement that has not been cleaned in a long time. When we take a broom and start sweeping the basement, some dust is bound to fly! For a while, the swirling dust may make it seem it would have been better to leave the room untouched. However, if we keep going, the room eventually becomes clean and our efforts are rewarded. So rather than being discouraged, we should take encouragement from such experiences, since they indicate that our practice is having an effect.