By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
There are many styles of meditation, and all of them offer physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits. If meditation practice makes us happier and healthier, why is it so difficult for us to do? We are all trying to find a quiet place in the midst of our fast paced lives, but we resist sitting quietly even for brief periods of time.
There are several factors that make meditation practice a challenge:
• Although it is difficult to silence the thoughts racing through our heads, it is important to remember that the mind is just doing its job. When we panic and feel overwhelmed because we are trying to resist thoughts, we are creating the opposite effect – one of frustration and powerlessness. On the other hand, accepting that thoughts are normal and letting them pass without dwelling on them is the key to a peaceful mind. It also helps to focus on breathing.
• Another challenge is having expectations about what the experience of meditation is supposed to be or thinking there is a “right” way to do it. Not only is every person different, but every meditation session is different, as well. Becoming discouraged or giving up because we fail to follow someone else’s rules or advice can dampen enthusiasm and hinder progress.
• Most meditation and Yoga teachers recommend sitting with an erect spine while meditating, but comfort is essential in order to avoid distractions. Sitting upright with feet on the floor and the back comfortably supported may be the best posture for learning the practice.
• Restlessness is another hindrance to a successful meditation practice. Especially for beginners, the body needs some time to slow down and relax. Beating ourselves up because we cannot sit still or maintain a particular posture only makes the process more difficult. We can, however, feel the sensations without struggling to stop them, and they will eventually pass.
• When our minds, and bodies, manage to slow down, pent-up feelings sometimes arise unexpectedly. Often these are negative emotions being released as our defenses are lowered. If we are able to feel them and allow them to flow through our bodies without analyzing them, they will usually diminish within a few minutes. If a repressed memory surfaces, it may be wise to discuss it with a counselor.
Meditation has entered the mainstream culture, bringing with it an abundance of information that can seem both helpful and contradictory. If we stop worrying about whether we are meditating correctly and listen to our bodies, each of us will know what is working, while we learn what needs to be changed. After all, the goal is to benefit from a meditation practice that actually works.
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