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Why Your Meditation Practice Isn't Working

I remember when I first started trying to meditate. I hated it and kept thinking "This shouldn't be so hard" and "I am awful at this!" My mind was wandering, I couldn't clear my head, I kept figeting, and I was waiting for the alarm to go off so I could get up and get on with my day. If this sounds like you, keep reading and see if any of these common reasons why people (including myself) say that they are "bad at meditating"... and what to do about it!

1. You can't stop thinking

Wait until you hear this... the purpose of meditating is not actually to stop your thoughts, it is to watch them without judgement or attachment. (Mind blown!) When I first learned this, I finally had permission to think and I stopped beating myself up when thoughts kept coming into my head. I heard about the practice of RAIN Meditation and began to Recognize, Accept, Investigate, and Nourish my thoughts instead of judging them. Now I let my mind wander and roam wherever it pleases and often get moments of inspiration while meditating. The practice has become one of my greatest teachers about how my mind works, what is bothering me, what I can let go of, and what I need to focus on.

2. You are fidgeting or have a hard time sitting still

This was a big one for me. My natural tendency is to go, go, go and get shit done! I was reminded recently that we are human beings, not human doings (Thank you Mr. Vonnegut). We need to take time to just BE instead of always feelings like we have to be DOING something. Since I know I have a hard time being still, I will often meditate at the end of a yoga class when I have burned off some excess energy or I'll do a walking meditation. But my favorite way to use my restlessness to my advantage is by bringing chanting into my meditation practice. I love music so the rhythmic singing of chanting is appealing to me. Plus I have a small obsession with mala beads so I need to actually put them to use! Think outside the box especially in the beginning of your practice as you are finding what works for you. A moving meditation still provides many of the same benefits as if you were sitting still.

3. Your back or knees hurt, or your feet fall asleep

It can be hard to sit in one place, especially when you are first starting a meditation practice. (Side note: Did you know that the original purpose of yoga asana was to prepare your physical body for meditation, not to give you a reason to wear yoga pants all day long?! Who knew?) If sitting is painful, try laying on your back, using a meditation pillow, or sitting with your back against the wall for support. If your knees hurt or your feet fall asleep, try sitting with your legs extended. Eventually you will likely find a position that works in your body. If you are experiencing chronic pain, there is evidence that supports using meditation for pain management. And of course, see your doctor and don't just take my advice! :)

4. You don't have time or you practice inconsistently

It is often said that we make time for the things that are truly important to us. When I started using my Time Saver Template on a regular basis, I began to realize how much time I was really using effectively and how much time I spend scrolling through social media looking at my friends' kids and puppies. I decided that I could find 10 minutes a day if it was really important to me. I blocked off my calendar for the same time every day, and then here's the biggie... I set an alert to go off 5 minutes before I was supposed to start. This allows me to finish whatever task I'm in the middle of and take a break. While there are days I may skip it, once I began using my alarm I became like one of Pavlov's dogs! Now it is a (mostly) daily habit.

5. You get bored or fall asleep

Since we are used to being entertained all day long, you may begin to get bored or even drift off to sleep when you sit still and allow your mind to slow down. Although with the number of people who experience insomnia these days, maybe you should keep doing meditating if it gets you 8 hours of ZZZs each night! (I'm only half kidding.) If you are not able to stay awake and engaged, try a guided meditation or repeating a mantra so you aren't in total silence. If you are able to meditate in the morning, this may be helpful as most people tend to be most alert between 8am and noon. If it is still not entertaining enough for you, try some of the other ideas in my 20 Days of Wellness Guide as way to ease into your own unique practice.

Happy Meditating!

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