We have often heard that there are untold benefits associated with the practice of meditation. Problem is, those of us who could most benefit from this practice are the least likely to understand it, and also the most likely to have any number of excuses as to why they can’t make it actually happen.
There are tons of misconceptions about what meditation is, as well as habits and environmental factors that will actually work against your success in meditation practice.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is so often misconstrued. While it may seem complex, the idea is actually incredibly simple. Basically, meditation requires conscious focus on the here and now. It allows us to both focus inwardly as well as to clear our minds of conscious thought. This is very powerful and psychologically and physically soothing to many people.
Known mostly as an Eastern philosophy, mediation is actually common in many parts of the world and has been for millenia.
The idea behind meditation is that if we can focus our consciousness, we can still our minds and become present in the moment. When we are actually present in the here and now, there is no anger or unhappiness, just honest acceptance of what is and everything that comes with it. This can provide immense calm, clarity, and peace of mind, especially in today’s incredibly fast-paced environment.
Why Can it Be So Difficult?
The design of the mind and modern culture are, in large part, why people seem to find the practice of meditation so difficult. The idea of turning off our thoughts or focusing inwardly on one specific idea seems almost impossible to people nowadays.
This should not be surprising with our emphasis on fast-paced lifestyles, efficiency, and productivity. These traits are not conducive to the quiet, still mind. Meditation and the quiet mind do not necessarily come easily or naturally, especially to those from western cultures where these traits are highly lauded.
The world of fast food and sound bytes is not suited to conscious reflection. So, from the outset, we face significant barriers to our success with meditation practice.
Certain habits, however, will hinder our ability to clear our minds even more. What follows are some of the habits and environmental elements that are likely working against your efforts at mediation.
Common Habits that Impinge on the Success of Our Efforts
While it should seem obvious, a bad habit that will seriously limit the effectiveness of your meditation efforts is choosing an inappropriate environment to meditate in. Obviously, due to the nature of trying to quiet the mind, a quiet place will be most conducive to being able to really clear your head.
We do not have to have a perfect environment to have success with meditation though. Even those of us who have full houses or live in noisy areas can find ways to get peace amidst the chaos. When the kids are at school, before they get up, or before the hustle and bustle of the day are likely to be great opportunities to meditate, as this is when your environment will be most peaceful.
Self-doubt is a habit that needs to be broken for a number of reasons as it is a hinderance to more than just our ability to get the most out of our yoga practices. Many of us think that “we aren’t cut out” to “be Zen,” or that it takes years of education and effort to actually have any success.
Not only are these things not true, they can act as excuses or justifications for not actually trying. We have to have confidence in our ability to transcend these issues. We are all cut out to “be Zen,” it just takes some of us longer to get there than others. Even for people who are already fairly centered, meditation is something that they have to work at. Yes, it takes time and effort, but we do not have to have years of practice for it to be beneficial to us.
There are many misunderstandings about what meditation is and what it is not. Many people fear that it is, in some way, against their religious beliefs. Meditation is not affiliated with any religion and is not a religious practice. It is more akin to yoga or other mind/body pursuits. There is not conflict between Christianity and meditation.
Meditation is not a cult practice. Again, there are no formal ties between this practice and any form of organized religion. There are people from many different faiths who practice and it does not conflict with their religious world view in any way.
One of the so-called “five hinderances” to meditation is restless energy. You cannot clear your mind if it is running a mile a minute.
Restless energy is not just a mental phenomena either. The body can be full of restless energy as well. We often see this manifest in behaviors such as shaking a leg, fidgeting, or the inability to sit still.
This is a habit that pretty much all of us have to learn to contend with when learning how to properly meditate. It is not easy to, at will, shut down the mind and body to focus on the inner self and the here and now, but it is possible. It takes practice and regular effort and diligence to be able to contend with our restless energy.
The present moment and the here and now are probably the hardest things to become conscious of. Our minds are constantly running a mile a minute, from thinking about mundane work tasks or even pondering existential questions about human nature. This can lead to stress and mental fatigue that really compound to equal a problem.
Meditation is the practice of consciously focusing your thoughts on the present moment and learning how to connect with the here and now. In this moment, peace and clarity are easily attainable. This is, however, often easier said than done. Our very nature puts up obstacles to the success of our meditation efforts.
Understanding the common habits and environmental elements that act as barriers to our getting the most out of meditation will help make getting into the present moment much easier. It takes effort and a lot of work to clear our minds, especially in today’s super busy world, learning how to break bad habits and find a few minutes each day to step back and just be is so very therapeutic and can make all the difference in our mental mindsets.