Is this why meditation isn’t ‘working’ for you

meditation

For years, I’d been told by all manner of people: ‘You should try meditation.’

And several times, I’d given it a go via:

  • The Headspace app.
  • Guided meditation programs.
  • Meditation classes.

I tried all of them and none of them ‘worked’ for me. In the end I decided ‘Running is my meditation,’ and since I ran pretty much every day … I was meditating every day. Right?

Then a few things happened all at once that changed my thinking on meditation:

  1. I listened to Dan Harris (who wrote 10% Happier) on a podcast (he was a cynical news anchor who had a panic attack live on air and meditation changed his life).
  2. My anxiety ramped up to crippling levels and I heard from a number of people that daily meditation was a non-negotiable for people with anxiety.
  3. I had a conversation with Brooke, my Let It Be podcast co-host on the topic.

The conversation with Brooke was the real game-changer. She mentioned most people undertake meditation thinking two things:

  1. It involves completely emptying the mind and if you can’t empty your mind of thought, you’re doing it wrong.
  2. It makes you feel amazing in the moment.

These are the reasons I’d never felt meditation ‘worked’ for me.

I’d spend the whole time I was meditating feeling frustrated at my inability to ’empty my mind’.

And I certainly never finished any session of meditation feeling amazing!

After chatting with Brooke I changed my approach:

  1. I set the bar low with regard to time. Instead of telling myself ‘If it’s not a 20-minute meditation it’s pointless’, I gave myself permission to do as little as two minutes. The only thing I mandated was I had to do it every day.
  2. I meditated to music. Some people like guided meditations. I hate them. I don’t like people telling me what to do (!!). So I found some music I liked and meditated to that. (A favourite was the Pentatonix cover of Hallelujah … but I also found some nice meditation music in the Insight Timer app.)
  3. I stopped trying to clear my head of thoughts. Instead, I noticed they were there, but didn’t engage with them. When I didn’t engage with them, they floated on by.
  4. I stopped aiming to feel like the Dalai Lama-like whenever I finished.

And finally, meditation began to ‘work’ for me.

It certainly didn’t happen overnight (it took over six weeks from memory), but eventually, I began to notice more calm in my days.

Practically speaking, what did this look like?

In challenging moments, instead of losing my temper or running from the challenge (my usual approach), I found I was better able to sit in the moment and … observe.

Take a second.

Be a little less reactive.

That ability to ‘take a second’ when experiencing anger, frustration and the like? It’s saved me a lot of time, (time cleaning up from thoughtless comments or actions I regret).

Meditation has also dulled the power uncomfortable feelings wield over my life. I now experience less anxiety, overthinking and stress because I’m able to sit with uncomfortable thoughts instead of trying to ‘do something’ with them, (interrogate them, run from them or rationalise them away).

If you’ve tried meditation in the past and decided it’s not for you, might it be time to re-visit it in light of the two things Brooke pointed out to me?

Just take it slowly and approach the experience with an open mind. You might be surprised at what you find 🙂

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If you’d like some support or instruction around tackling meditation again – feel free to join the Better Than Yesterday group here (it’s free). We’ve been tackling a series of mini ‘make life better’ habits challenges over the course of the year and our next challenge (starting Monday 18th September) is a 21-day meditation challenge.

Know someone who’s keen to try meditation too? Why not share this post with them 🙂

 

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Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash

Comments 12

  1. Really looking forward to this challenge. I’ve tried lots of meditation in the past and it didn’t really work for me. So I did just as you suggested and started out 1 or 2 minutes at a time – much better!

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  2. Love this Kelly. Just what I need as I’ve been struggling with meditation too. Which dan Harris podcast was it that you listened to? There’s a few…. I’ve joined your group too xxx

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      Yay, so glad you’ve joined the group! Do you know I cannot remember which podcast Dan Harris was speaking on that piqued my curiosity?! I have been madly trying to find it but no luck.

  3. Thank you, you’ve described exactly why thoughts about why meditation seemed a waste of my time. I am actually excited to try again now.

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  4. Oh I like the idea of meditating to music. After listening to Allison Davies, a musical therapist I am trying to encorporate more so this may be more helpful as really need to slow to be in the moment more.

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  5. Great Article Kelly!

    To be faithful with the little things
    1. Set the bar low
    2. Listen to music (or guided meditation ect if that works for me)
    3. Stop Aiming to be a spiritual Guru “Be True To Me”
    4. Do aim to clear your head but notice thoughts without engaging (“What you resist, persist” -unknown)

    You continue to inspire me to greater levels of self-acceptance and confidence. Keep leading us by your example to become BETTER THAN we were YESTERDAY. – Las Vegas, NV

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  6. I can very much relate. I wrote something a few years ago… wondering if there was a ‘wrong’ way to meditate or relax. I definitely felt I wasn’t getting it right. Ultimately I realised that even a few moments of peace, slowing my thoughts or even the act of trying to clear my thoughts (making way for new thoughts that are usually buried) is probably an okay thing anyway.

    That being said, I still don’t do it enough.

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