The biggest reason that meditation can be so difficult—at least initially—is that people are misinformed about the nature of meditation itself.
Meditation can be fun. Meditation can be easy. Really!! In this post, I’ll share three simple tips for how to enjoy meditation. Through these tips, I’ll simultaneously clear up some prevalent myths that often cause us so much confusion and difficulty.
Tip #1: Meditation is like dating. Keep searching around until you find the perfect partner—for you.
If meditation has felt like a chore, or perhaps super confusing, I can promise you one thing: You haven’t yet found a technique that suits you.
There are thousands, literally thousands, of meditation techniques. Some involve sitting, some involve walking, some involve chanting or visualization. And even within a single technique, the way that various teachers will teach it are always varied. The permutations of meditation are seemingly endless.
Keep searching, my friend. I promise, you will find one (or two, or three) that you adore.
About eight years ago, I started my meditation journey. It began with Reiki. Yet, my teacher never called it “meditation.” As the months passed, however, I realized that Reiki (a form of hands-on healing) was a powerful form of meditation.
I was absolutely in love with Reiki. It was literally something I could do for hours and hours and not get tired or bored. Reiki was my meditation: it helped me clear my mind of worried thoughts, it helped my nervous system decompress, and it helped me tap into an inner reservoir of self-love that I never knew existed. It was wonderful! It was amazing! My life began to change in innumerable ways.
Reiki was my doorway into meditation. Before Reiki, I had tried to meditate a number of times and “hated it.” I tried going to Zen centers, only to leave in annoyance. I tried using techniques I found on Youtube or that I read about in books. All of them felt weird. Nothing clicked. But then I found Reiki, and everything began to flow. Eight years later…and I’m now teaching meditation!
My Reiki journey led me through my transformations. And, over the years, I’ve ventured into other meditation techniques. Some have felt wonderful; some have felt tense or awkward. And, I have fallen madly in love with other practices, too. Every day I do a combination of mantra chanting, singing, prayer (yes, this can be a form of meditation), yoga, dance, and transcendental meditation. All of these bring me inner peace and help me remember my true self.
Tip #2: Meditation is NOT about trying to stop our thoughts. Rather, it’s about noticing our thoughts.
No wonder people try meditation a few times and then quit! If meditation was about stopping thoughts, I’m sure there would only be only two or three people on the planet who would persist in the practice!
Simply put, the human brain does not have an “off” switch. That’s not how it works.
Meditation is not about stopping thoughts. In fact, this view is a very violent way to look meditation. Why would we want to stop something that the brain was designed to do?
Instead, there is a more compassionate, gentle way of viewing meditation. What we are doing in meditation is simply noticing our thoughts. We learn to watch them as if we are a detached observer. As if we are a neutral witness.
As we learn to observe our thoughts, we can choose to gently (and lovingly) release them. As we release them, we are choosing to cultivate a calm, clear mind. This kind of mind is like a beautiful, blue, pristine lake on a cool spring morning. With that kind of beautiful mind, our sadness, worry, and suffering is also released. In its place, there is a natural, radiant joy.
This is our true state. Our true nature.
When we realize that meditation is not about stopping our thoughts but rather about patiently noticing our thoughts, we stop judging ourselves. The practice of meditation then becomes sweet.
When we become a witness to our thoughts, we cultivate compassion for the human predicament. We realize the veil of illusion in ourselves, and on this planet, is so thick. We realize how fortunate we are to be one of the lucky ones who have found meditation.
This kind of awareness is intoxicating! It’s incredible! We find ourselves drawn to meditation again and again, because it feels so good. It’s like a safe cocoon. We want to go to that cocoon as much as possible. In comparison with the rest of the loud, busy, harsh world—meditation seems like heaven!
Tip #3: More meditation is not always better.
When beginning a new meditation routine, it’s good to start small, with easily-attainable goals. We don’t want to try to run a marathon before we can crawl.
In the beginning, I recommend simply practicing for 5 minutes every day. No matter how busy you are, I know you can attain this goal.
After a few months, you can check in with yourself and see if it would feel good to increase your time spent every day. If it genuinely does not interest you to increase your time, then don’t do it.
Only increase your time when you have a natural urge to want to do it.
Too often, spiritual teachers drone on and on about the value of discipline and hard work. But does this really work? I suspect not.
Human nature is both cautious and passionate. Most people will happily invest hard work into things that we know we enjoy and that we know will reap benefits. Yet, in the beginning, when we are warming up to meditation, we probably aren’t certain if we enjoy it yet. We probably are still testing the waters. Thus, why would we invest so much time in it?
In the beginning of our spiritual journey, to force ourselves into meditation for long periods is a premature act that can actually be counterproductive. When we are too stern with ourselves, this creates a subtle feeling of tension and self-judgment, which then can create a backlash. The annoyed ego might then decide to quit meditation altogether!
At the beginning of my Reiki journey, I remember that my teacher advised me to practice every day. But she did not recommend a precise minute count. She just said to practice. Looking back, I really appreciate that she framed her guidance in that gentle way.
In effect, my beloved teacher gave me permission just to explore. To play. And, in relatively short period of time (just a few weeks), I found myself doing two-hour Reiki sessions. This was completely natural and not forced in any way. It was simply a natural desire pouring forth from the depths of my heart.
Your situation will be unique to you, dear friend. It may take you some time to test out various techniques. As I mentioned, it’s good to keep seeking until you find one that resonates with you. Once you do find a technique that calls to you, then allow yourself to gradually expand your practice at your own pace. Don’t compare yourself with others. Spiritual practice is not a race. Just have fun with it. See what happens. See what evolves.
The choice to begin meditation is one of the most important moments of a human life. You are choosing to venture into territory that most human beings do not yet have the courage (or leisure) to choose.
This life of yours is blessed.
No doubt, on your journey, there will be times that meditation seems challenging or scary. It will not always be peaches and roses! For me, for example, there have been many Reiki sessions where I have cried tears, allowing many old, toxic emotions to be released. Practicing Reiki is not always blissful or easy.
But even when meditation is challenging, it is always something we want to do. It’s something we appreciate, something we gravitate toward, even when it’s hard. This is what is so remarkable about meditation. Once we taste the sweetness, the tenderness, the love of the practice, then we long to return to its arms, again and again and again. Meditation becomes our dear friend. Meditation becomes a blessing.