Many of you reading this blog right now learned to meditate one-on-one with me, and some of you continue to enjoy the benefit of this amazing practice. We can testify about the positive changes it has brought to our lives.
The most important eye-opening realization for me was to witness our capacity to lie to ourselves, to lose awareness of what’s going on in our lives. Let me tell you my story so you can understand better.
Approximately sixteen years ago, I was hospitalized with a full-blown panic attack. I entered a bright room and a young psychiatrist asked me what was the reason for my stress. “I don’t know what you’re talking about? I have no stress. I’m married to a man who loves me, I have a dream job, I finally learned German enough to work professionally, and I just bought a brand new car, I don’t have stress. He smiled with tenderness and asked, “If tomorrow you would fall backwards, who would pick you up?”
The answer to this question was the catalyst to the most profound transformation in my life. There was no one key solution to all the problems in my life because every decision I made counted as a step toward the solution. However, the lamp that lighted my journey on the road to liberation of much of my pain was definitely my meditation practice.
You will find many definitions for the term meditation. The way I’ve come to understand meditation is “The act of consciously observing our mental activity from a witness perspective or choosing instead to direct one’s thoughts with a personal purpose.”
The many benefits to the practice are well documented by prestigious institutions and recognized neuroscientists who state that meditation promotes healing of the body-mind, improves concentration, relieves mental and emotional stress, achieves balance between home and work, and improves mood.
But even with these vast benefits, people don’t do it. Why?
In this blog, I’m focusing on some of those obstacles to the practice that I encountered in others and myself. Understanding them can be powerfully educational, and that can bring empowering tools for growth.
What are the most common obstacles to the practice of meditation?
Fear of it being a religious practice
We were given a superpower as our birthright that no one can take away from us, except ourselves. I’m referring to the power of giving meaning and value to things and people. What one person is ready to die for is absurd to another. I could have a discussion and explain why meditation is a philosophy or lifestyle and not a religious practice. However, the only one who can choose the significance of the practice is you. You are always in control of the meaning you give to things.
Considering the amazing benefits of calming the mind, it’s wise to adapt it to your life and the belief system that you feel is right for you. You can choose to practice a quiet time, a “me” time, or anything you wish. It’s your call. The important thing is that you use it to address an undisciplined mind that’s out of your control.
Fear of the unknown
When I first began my practice, I was afraid of many things, especially the dark, the unknown, and heights. One thing meditation did for me was reducing my fear response to nonthreatening life situations. We do so many strange things because of fear such as hide, attack, procrastinate, and get sick.
Will Smith has an amazing video on social media in which he talks about facing his fear of skydiving and receiving wisdom from that experience. His conclusions were that we don’t need that sleepless night and upset stomach for something we don’t know but only imagine, and at the point of maximum fear when we face it and go beyond, we find bliss because on the other side of your maximum fear are all the best things in your life. Here's the link to this powerful video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHnYpcmc2m0
The consensus is that doing exercise is good for your health, and it will give a better quality of life, a healthier and stronger body, self-esteem, and a sense of wellbeing. However, we don’t do it. Why? For the same reason we can’t seem to start meditating: because we have an undisciplined mind, yet aren’t willing to take responsibility to train it. I always dreamed of having a fit and strong body, and I pursued doing exercise hundreds of times. In spite of my desire, my efforts ended in frustration. To illustrate this, I’ll use my morning self-talk I had some years ago.
Me: “Mind, we need to exercise.”
Mind: “We’re sore from yesterday; let’s do it tomorrow.”
Me: “You’re right, mind; let's take it easy, but tomorrow we’ll exercise.”
Early next morning, Me: “Mind, we really need to exercise, so let’s get out of bed.”
Mind: “But it’s too early; let’s try in the afternoon. Sleeping is also important.”
Me: “You have a point, mind.
Next day, Me: “Mind, today for sure, we need to exercise.”
Mind: “Twice a week is perfectly fine; let's do it on Friday.”
Friday comes, Me: “Mind, we promised we would exercise today.”
Mind: “Oh, but it’s the weekend; we only get to live once. Let’s take it easy and start strong on Monday.”
Me: “Mind, we need to get up; it's Monday and we said we would meditate and exercise,
Mind: “But it’s Monday. We’ll be rushing if we do, and then it won’t help to be all stressed out. Maybe once a week is enough”
Me: “I guess you have a point; let's try on next Monday.”
Does this sound familiar?
The truth is that what we need is to develop character to lead our mind.
Today this is my self-talk.
Me: “Mind, we’re going to do exercise, so get ready.”
Mind: “But we’re so tired from the weekend.”
Me: “I’m not asking for your opinion; I’m telling you what we’re doing today, so get up and get moving.”
“Too difficult for me.”
There’s a major misunderstanding in life. Good things take time and effort. Acquiring a new discipline, regardless of what it is, isn’t meant to be easy. No one is saying waking up earlier than usual will be easy, or building concentration is easy. In case you were told otherwise, it’s not easy to discipline your mind, but it’s possible. And. even better, it’s worth it.
“I don’t have time”
The wisdom of how we manage our time and invest our time will help us succeed in business and in life. We pay a price for everything we do in life; meditating has a price of 15 to 30 minutes a day. Taking this time will provide you a relaxed mind that will help you see your goals clearly and improve your mood and wellbeing, and help you have a more effective day. It will put you in touch with the most powerful psychotherapist, your higher self. It will empower you in so many ways and reduce your fear response to nonthreatening situations in your life. Are you willing to pay the price for this with your time?
Our undisciplined mind has an addiction to instant gratification. This doesn’t affect everyone, but most people struggle with this. Somehow, we believe in short goals, and as soon as we find the first obstacle, we give up. We’re wired to dream with our eyes open. When we stop dreaming, we lose faith and love for life and find decay. When this happens, we meet unhappiness. Meditation, like any other discipline, requires patience. Patience is sour but its fruit is juicy. Only patience and determination will help you succeed.
What to do to begin my practice successfully?
1. Start by answering, why you want to meditate. You don’t want to settle with only one answer. Dig in at least 6-8 levels down. Why do you want to meditate? Once you have the root reason, see if it’s powerful enough for you to want to change.
For example: Why do I want to meditate?
I want to calm my mind from my excessive demands.
Why do I need to reduce my demands?
Because I expect too much from myself and others, causing me to feel constantly frustrated and become impatient, exploding easily on others.
Why am I impatient?
I was always like that; I felt frustrated when things didn’t come fast and in a right manner.
Why do I get frustrated with that?
Because I do my best effort and I expect the same in return.
Why do I feel that way?
Because making mistakes isn’t allowed.
Why do you believe that?
Because I grew up believing that way.
Do I want to keep on believing that?
No, I want to be more flexible because I’m very hard on myself as well. It hurts me and it hurts others.
2. Choose your practice. You can explore different forms of meditation that are appropriate for you. You can choose to observe your breath, pray, or repeat a sound.
3. Realize that to meditate, you don’t need motivation; you need self-discipline. Become determine that you’ll meditate and get up every morning regardless of the excuses your mind will give you.
Establishing the discipline to meditate is part of developing character, and developing character is perhaps the ultimate goal in life and the path of evolution for a new consciousness, a new generation.
Be patient and let the magic enter your life.