Why Can’t I Meditate?

Me:  “Observe yourself without judgement.”

You:  “It’s not working!”

It’s natural to encounter challenges in meditation, such as restlessness, physical discomfort, or racing thoughts.

When your mindfulness meditation sessions are not working as expected, approach the situation with patience, self-compassion, and a willingness to explore potential reasons for the challenges you’re facing. Here are some troubleshooting steps to consider:

  1. Evaluate your expectations: Reflect on whether you might be placing unrealistic expectations on your meditation practice. Remember that meditation is a skill that takes time to develop, and progress may not always be linear. Be open to the possibility that your sessions may look different from what you initially envisioned.
  2. Assess your approach: Consider whether you’re approaching your meditation practice with the right mindset. Are you striving too hard to achieve a certain outcome? Are you becoming frustrated or self-critical when your mind wanders? Shift your focus from trying to control your experience to simply being present and observing whatever arises with acceptance and curiosity.
  3. Examine your environment: Take a closer look at the environment in which you’re meditating. Is it conducive to relaxation and focus, or are there distractions that may be hindering your practice? Experiment with creating a more supportive meditation space by minimizing noise, reducing clutter, and adjusting lighting as needed.
  4. Check your posture and technique: Pay attention to your posture and breathing technique during meditation. Poor posture or shallow breathing can contribute to feelings of discomfort or restlessness. Make sure you’re sitting comfortably with your spine straight but relaxed, and focus on deep, diaphragmatic breathing to promote relaxation and presence.
  5. Explore different techniques: If you’re finding that a particular meditation technique isn’t resonating with you, don’t be afraid to explore other approaches. There are many different types of mindfulness practices, such as body scan meditation, walking meditation, and loving-kindness meditation. Experiment with different techniques to see which ones feel most natural and effective for you.
  6. Address underlying obstacles: Consider whether there are underlying factors outside of your meditation practice that may be impacting your ability to focus or relax. Stress, anxiety, fatigue, or physical discomfort can all affect your meditation sessions. Take steps to address these factors outside of your practice, such as practicing self-care, seeking support from a therapist or healthcare professional, or making lifestyle adjustments as needed.
  7. Practice consistency and patience: Like any skill, meditation requires consistent practice and patience to yield results. Commit to establishing a regular meditation routine, even if it means starting with just a few minutes each day. Be patient with yourself as you navigate the ups and downs of your practice, and trust that progress will come with time and dedication.

An important thing to remember: repeating and repeating the same cycle of…

  1. thoughts & sensations arising
  2. observing, but not trying to push them away & not getting caught up in them

…is the whole point. If you are practicing that, you are doing it right. The whole thing is a journey, not a destination.

Take a gentle approach – being kind to yourself – while troubleshooting your meditation practice.  You can identify potential barriers and make adjustments that support a more fulfilling and effective experience on the cushion.

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