You probably already know some of the amazing benefits of meditation…
But if you’d like to meditate regularly to reap those benefits, and you’re having trouble with your meditation practice, you might be using the same Top 4 Excuses I have used (and sometimes still use, until I dig into my tool box and remind myself otherwise).
I’ve noticed these excuses in myself and others while studying the benefits of meditation and practicing various forms of it for a long time –since I was in the seventh grade, actually!
Through my own practice and research, I’ve clearly identified the most common excuses I tell myself (and hear from others) and some true ways to dissolve them. The common excuses most of us use are based overall on misinformation and fear, so my tools are all about educating and dissolving fear and discomfort.
Here they are: The Top 4 Most Common Excuses to Avoid Meditating and some ways to dissolve them now!
Common Excuse # 1: I don’t have time to meditate.
I know sometimes I feel this way, but then I take a close look at how I’m spending my time. A few minutes here and there on Facebook, reading or chatting before bed, etc… Surely something could be traded out for 2-5 minutes of meditation time minimum. Maybe it can be done first thing in the morning, during a lunch break, or before going to sleep?
So it’s not really about the time, is it?
No, let’s face the facts. Meditation can be boring. And uncomfortable. And it’s easy to convince ourselves that there is something more “important” to do that requires activity. Our culture values movement and physical activity, so it can feel hard to justify being all still and quiet.
While meditation can lead to blissful feelings of euphoria, the ancients warned against becoming attached to that and expecting it all the time. So most of the time it’s not going to be super exciting…
That’s why it’s important to remember why you’re doing it, why it’s so important—more about this to come in my next article My Top 5 Meditation Motivators.
In the meantime, keep the benefits you’re already aware of in mind, even just the most simple one: that you deserve some down time and relaxation.
It’s a necessity. And it’s a different sort of relaxation than watching TV or drinking a glass of wine.
And remember, it doesn’t need to be a huge production like something you might see in a documentary about Buddhist monks.
Only have 2 minutes to spare? That’s enough!
I read an amazing book recently called Rewire Your Brain for Love by Marsha Lucas. She’s a neuropsychologist who teaches people the benefits of meditation on the brain and how these changes can improve your romantic relationships. While she recommends 20 minutes of daily meditation, she’s had clients report some benefits after only two minutes a day initially. It does get easier to expand that with practice as well.
Common Excuse #2: Meditation means I have to stop thinking—and I can’t do that!
While it’s true that experienced meditators are ideally entering a state where they focus on nothing but their breathing or a mantra, this is often unrealistic for the beginning meditator. And that’s perfectly okay!
It turns out that the goal of meditation is not necessarily to *stop* thinking but to increase the gap between thoughts.
The gaps are going to be much smaller for a beginner than they are for a seasoned practitioner, but both meditators who practice increasing the gaps are “doing it right.”
As you get distracted and come back to your focus, you are doing it right.
In fact, each time you catch your thoughts wandering off and bring yourself back to your practice, it’s like you’ve done a “rep” with your mind—the equivalent of lifting weights at the gym, for instance. So the more you are struggling to stay focused , the more intense your workout actually is. Drifting off with your thoughts does not make you a failure. Every time you redirect your focus back to your meditation practice, your mind is getting stronger.
This is expected to happen frequently in the beginning. This is the practice.
Common Excuse #3: Meditation means I have to sit up straight and feel tense
One thing I’m delighted to learn through my meditation research is that there are specific reasons why meditation is done a certain way.
For instance, the reason we typically think of meditation happening in a seated, Indian style position is that keeping your spine straight will help you stay focused and be less likely to drift off to sleep.
Some people also believe that keeping the spine straight helps with the proper movement of energy as you practice (which may be specifically important if your practice is to circulate chi energy for healing or to send a clear message out during a manifesting meditation, with your spine acting as a channel).
That being said, feeling stiffness and muscle tension is not the idea here. Some of us who are more perfectionistic might spend too much time worrying about perfect posture, holding the right mudras (finger placements), breathing a specific way, etc.
There are good reasons for all of these things, but if you’re getting caught up in doing them all “perfectly,” you are not going to have a pleasant and relaxing meditation experience.
Be gentle with yourself. This practice is about disciplined focus, but it’s also about gentleness and compassion. If you need to lean against something for support, do it. The most important thing is to get into the habit of doing it.
If sitting is just too hard (maybe for physical reasons or because of difficulties with attention), there are other ways to cultivate the benefits of meditation.
You can try lying down if you are able to stay focused without drifting off to sleep. This is particularly useful if you’re using a technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation, where you focus on relaxing every muscle in your body from head to toe.
If you need to stay in motion, consider that yoga is actually a meditative practice too, involving movement.
Finally, living mindfully is also a kind of meditative practice. If seated meditation is not for you for whatever reason, simply practice bringing mindfulness to daily activities like washing dishes, driving, working, having conversations with others, etc.
This is about staying present and gently bringing yourself back to that presence whenever your thoughts wander off on a tangent. Doing this mindfully throughout your day is like doing the same kind of mental “rep” workout you would be doing in a seated meditation practice.
Common Excuse #4: Meditation is too difficult and it probably won’t help much anyway…
The more I study meditation, the more amazing benefits I discover. I think just remembering these benefits and taking them seriously is a huge motivator to get through the initial discomfort many of us feel in our meditation practice.
When you think about it, it’s the same with any healthy habit we’re trying to cultivate. We all know diet and exercise are helpful , but they can be uncomfortable and challenging as well.
It’s easy to rationalize: “Well it probably won’t work anyway. Even though people say it works, who actually loses weight with diet and exercise and maintains it over time? It’s just not worth it—I might as well eat that donut.”
And what if it does work? How would that change the way you see yourself, the way other people see you, even your ongoing habits? Change is scary.
When you think about it, we’d have to truly believe the healthy solution doesn’t work to choose not to do it. We’d have to truly believe, maybe on a deep unconscious level, that change is just not possible, that our desires are unattainable.
Because if you really truly believed cultivating a healthy habit would help you attain your desires, you’d just do it, no questions asked. Wouldn’t you?
So that is my intention, to share with you all the amazing benefits I’ve discovered and the research and/or experience to back it up. So you know this stuff works and its worth whatever initial discomfort you experience. This is what works for me.
In my next article, I will share with you my favorite Meditation Motivators to help you get truly excited about your meditation practice and what you can get from it. “See you” then!
Leave a comment below and share what your most common excuse is if you want to cultivate a meditation practice, but struggle with it. What tools have you used to stay motivated?