I’ve been a yo-yo meditator for a very long time. I go through phases when I’m really consistent, followed by long stretches when I don’t meditate at all (other than the mindfulness I practice on my yoga mat, during a run, as I’m rocking my daughter to sleep, etc.) That brings me to the most common mistake I’ve made as an aspiring meditator.
1. Believing that meditation has to look a certain way. In an video a while back, yoga rebel Tara Stiles said, “You don’t have to sit up like a Buddha statue to meditate.” (Check out her 4 biggest meditation myths here.) This is something I try to remember during the phases when my meditation cushion isn’t getting much use. I can meditate as I move through Sun Salutations, take a shower, or even drive my little one to her ballet class. It might not be the same as those times when I sit for 20 minutes, completely focused, but it COUNTS because I’m in the present moment, slowing down, paying attention, just the same.
2. Beating yourself up when it doesn’t go how you hoped. Think back to why you want to meditate in the first place. Chances are, you want to find a little more peace in your life—maybe you want to be more compassionate, increase your focus and productivity, and improve your health, too. Do you think getting upset with yourself over a wandering mind or a missed session or two is going to help? Of course not! If you miss a session or have a particularly rocky one (we ALL have times when it’s hard to turn off the monkey mind!), use it as a way to practice compassion toward yourself. Be gentle. Accept it as a part of the journey. Try again tomorrow.
3. Expecting it to be easy. Meditation is sitting still and paying attention to your breath. How hard can it really be? Ummm.. Crazy hard! But it’s SO worth it. Here’s the deal: Meditating is deceptively simple. And that is what makes it such a challenge. It seems like it should be a piece of cake, so when it isn’t a lot of people get frustrated and give up. Lose the expectations of what it’s supposed to be like and try to go with the flow and accept what it—that’s a practice in itself!
|Photo by Robert Bejil|
4. Going it alone. I’m a DIY kind of gal. While there are definitely some positives to that attitude, it also means I do a lot of things in isolation. I depend on Google and YouTube tutorials to help me figure out new things instead of signing up for a class. That works out when I want to learn how to sew a seam, but when it comes to mindfulness practices, it’s really nice to have a group of people who I can call on to compare notes. Do your hands ever feel huge when you meditate? Do you ever get disoriented and feel like you’re facing a different way? How do you manage to fit it into your busy schedule? Google doesn’t have all the answers. Your friends might not either, but it definitely helps to have someone to bounce ideas off of and laugh with when you’re feeling stuck.
5. Sticking to one meditation method. For the longest time, the only way I knew to meditate was to sit quietly and follow my breath… Breathe in. Breathe out. But there were times when it was a REAL struggle to sit still. That’s when I started researching mantras (I have a LONG list of different ones I use different days. I will share those in another blog post). I bought some beautiful mala beads. I tried meditating with music. I found some amazing guided meditations online (I’ll share these in a different post, as well.) Now, when I sit to meditate if one thing doesn’t work after a few minutes, I switch gears. It has helped me SO much!
Right now I’m obsessed with mindfulness. I am meditating twice a day, making it a top priority over everything else, and I’m reaping the benefits. Obviously, I’m super inspired right now, but I know from experience that it will get harder for me soon enough—it always does.
So, I’d love to hear from other meditators our there—what are some of the biggest booboos you’ve made in establishing a meditation practice? How have you overcome them?