Why beginners give up on meditation and why you shouldn’t

I don’t know whether you’ve considered adding meditation to your daily routine. Or even weekly routine. This post is for someone who is in two minds about starting their meditation practice. If you’re wondering whether it’s worth your time, or if you’ve just begun and aren’t seeing results. Or honestly, this is even for someone who’s a seasoned meditator. Maybe you need a reminder of meditation’s many miraculous benefits.

We live in a time where more and more people are spiritually inclined. It is estimated that 200-500 million people meditate worldwide. Throw in a pandemic, with its uncertainty, anxiety and even grief for so many, and you have large numbers of people desperately trying to find calm.

But beginnings are not always easy. There are lots of people who claim that meditation is just not for them. The reasons? Sometimes it’s boredom. Or that they can’t focus. Or that they feel it’s a waste of time. Or the most popular one, they just don’t have that kind of time. Few people LOVE meditation when they just get started. But you know what? Meditation is a practice. A practice is something that you only see results in when you’re consistent. Kinda like football. Missed football practice for a week? No sweat (unintended pun), try again next week. You will feel uncomfortable, just like you do when you re-start your workout routine after a long interval. You will doubt whether it was a good idea in the first place, just like you do when you start a new diet. But just like your workout and diet, YOU ONLY SEE RESULTS WHEN YOU DON’T SLACK OFF. Sorry for the caps, but I really want you to try this for 21 days consistently. For at least 30 minutes each day. Then tell me it’s not working. I guarantee you there will be progress.

Oh, there’s another catch. And this is a big one. The whole point of meditation is to NOT want to see results. Ok, now this whole thing just sounds silly, you say? I’ve got you. What I mean is that when you sit in meditation hoping to see something miraculous or waiting to feel better or get an aha moment; you’re defeating the purpose. The clarity will come. The fireworks will come. The manifestation will come. Sometimes during meditation, sometimes after. But it only comes when your mind is not waiting in desperation for it to happen. Yes, meditate with intention. Intention goes a long way. The intent for clarity, for manifestation, for reducing anxiety, for better focus. But don’t be hellbent on results and then give up when you don’t see any. The first step is always hard.

Here are some side effects of meditation for beginners and how to overcome them:

  1. You will get bored

This one is bound to happen. After a while, sitting in quiet meditation will bore you and you’ll want to get up and do something else. Heck, sometimes I get bored even now. Some days are just not meant for meditation. Our minds are distracted by something in our past or future and sitting in silence is the last thing we want to do. But as Joe Dispenza says, those are the days to power through. Solution? Give it 15 minutes. Sit for 15 minutes after you’ve declared yourself bored. You may get up frustrated after those 15 minutes. In fact, you almost surely will. But pushing through wires your brain to not be reactive. It trains your mind to treat boredom as a natural stimulus that can be overcome. Trust me, with passing time, those 15 minutes will not seem as hard.

2. Your mind will wander

The whole point of meditation is to calm your mind. And in self-defence, your mind starts to remind you of all the seemingly important stuff you need to think of. It happens to EVERYONE. The best thing to do in this situation? Tell your mind, “Thank you mind, for calming down.” This is not an order, it’s an affirmation. You’re not forcing your mind to calm down, rather you’re speaking it into existence. Repeat this three times. Then, if any thought comes up, and it will, just watch it. Watch it as you would a person entering a room. The room is the mind. You watch the thought enter the front door and you watch it leave the back door. Practising watching your thoughts leave is a powerful way to disassociate from them. You’ll start to enjoy the emptiness of the room with time.

3. Negative feelings might surface

When I first started meditating, I hated it. For this very reason. Meditation made me feel worse. Negative feelings about an experience or person would bubble up. It could be an unpleasant event, a grudge or simply an imagined situation. I read up one day about why this happens. Turns out, this is the soul’s way of cleansing guilt, fear and anger. Only when we release negative energies from the past can we bring a clean slate to the practice. So I started to sit with the feelings and not take them too seriously. That did the trick. The negative feelings would arise and then fizzle away. Over time, they stopped coming.

4. The bell will ring the exact moment you sit

Ever heard of Murphy’s Law? It states, “In an endeavour, anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. (I don’t believe in this law anymore, btw, especially since I started meditating.) But sure enough, this has happened to me many times. The minute I’d sit down in meditation, the doorbell would ring. Or my boss would ping me. Or the kids downstairs would start to wail. “Oh, the universe doesn’t want me to meditate then?”, I’d say. And then re-schedule another time. Like I said earlier, beginnings are the hardest.

5. You’ll remember your to-do list

OMG if I could count the number of times that I’ve added to my to-do list in meditation! It’s as if my inbuilt calendar comes alive with reminders for that very duration. And it makes sense. Because we’re sitting in silence, often our mind is highly functional during that time. What I do is I quickly grab my phone, make a note of the task and then put it out of my mind. I can always get back to that errand once meditation is over. In fact, it’s more likely I will since I’ve written it down. The hyper-productivity is a plus for meditation, as long as you get to your tasks afterwards.

6. You’ll want to relive your ‘good’ meditation moments

Maybe you had a great session last week. You felt euphoria, or you managed to sit for a long time without distraction. Well, stop trying to recreate your past meditations. Remember, advancement in meditation is about stepping out of your comfort zone. If you felt surreal and happy in your last meditation, great. Don’t put performance pressure on your current one. Often, feeling a range of emotions or thinking different thoughts is our intuition’s way of signalling us. Don’t suppress your intuition with expectations. As I said earlier, meditation is a practice. One great session doesn’t mean much if you’re not consistent.

Finding time to meditate is hard since we’re all busy individuals. We all have bills to pay, families to tend to, and tasks to complete. So don’t be hard on yourself. If the inspiration to meditate has come to you, follow through. Find whatever time you can. Meditation need not be perfect. You just need to make progress, little by little. And trust me, you will. Even when you feel you aren’t.

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