Shutting up and sitting is so much more than shutting up and sitting…
What I’m about to say might surprise you, but…
I have a problem with meditation.
I know, I KNOW! Me—the person constantly reminding you to shut up and sit has a problem with shutting up and sitting. At least, sort of.
If you’ve ever begun a meditation practice, only to realize that meditation “just isn’t for you,” you’re not alone. Of the countless forms of meditation to choose from, many folks just don’t resonate with the practice. I get it—meditation is hard! It can be scary. And boring. And there’s always something on Netflix you could be watching instead.
In fact, a 2014 study at Oxford researched the five most common reasons people don’t meditate. Believe it or not, I’ve heard them all before and more.
- Difficulty learning meditation.
Here’s the scene: you’re wearing your Lululemons and sitting on the cushion. All the lights are off, your Nag Champa incense is dropping ash all over your Berber rug, and the only thought running through your mind is: What the actual f**k am I’m doing here? You feel ridiculous. The idea you have about the “kind of person who meditations” and the image you have of yourself don’t align. That’s the end of that.
- Trouble experiencing the “self.”
If you’d rather undergo dental surgery than answer the question: Who am I? you’re not alone. Most people don’t have any idea how to begin to answer that question, let know what it’s like to truly live their lives present with the experience of their most authentic selves. If the idea of sitting in silence with such wildly existential a concept is uncomfortable, overwhelming, or downright panic-inducing, of course, you’re going to quit before you even begin.
- Psychological problems can be exacerbated.
So much of mindfulness is about learning to sit with your own suffering—something Western culture and the average human being, in general, will do practically anything to avoid. When you begin to meditate, one of the first things that can happen is all the feelings you’ve been avoiding and repressing suddenly start to bubble up and boil over. And that HURTS.
- Your reality is challenged.
Whatever it is you do and whoever it is you believe you are—a business owner, a boss, a spouse, a parent, a son or daughter, a leader—mindfulness asks you to examine who you are when you aren’t any of those things. For many people, that thought can be utterly terrifying.
- The problem of subjective happiness.
It’s nearly impossible to quantify joy on any universal level. Many people confuse other feelings—like relief, comfort, happiness, ecstasy, or intoxication—for joy and don’t even know how genuine joy feels. It’s entirely subjective. Every person who touts the success of their sitting practice will be experiencing something different from it because every psyche is unique.
The good news is if you believe meditation will improve your life (if only you could get it to stick!) and you’re committed to nurturing a sitting practice, I’ve got an easy technique for you to try whenever one of the above challenges completely derails your plan—and it’s something you can practice anytime, anywhere, both on and off the meditation cushion.
When faced with one of the struggles above—or any challenge, for that matter—instead of giving up on your practice or resorting to one of your less-than-healthy coping skills, pause and ask yourself this simple question: Can I sit with this discomfort for just one breath? Can I sit with it for five breaths? What about a minute?
At the core of all suffering are lessons and opportunities for growth. By breaking your discomfort down into small, breath-by-breath moments, you’ll protect yourself from taking all your suffering on, all at once, while offering yourself sustainable, incremental ways to grow and evolve your practice. Maybe the first time you try this technique, you’ll only be able to withstand two breaths. Hey, that’s great!
Next time, try three.
Want to learn more? There’s a book for that! Click here to take the first step towards greater awakening, awareness, self-love, and personal transformation.
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