It’s not always easy to relax during meditation. And you’ll find that every time you meditate that it’s not going to be like the ‘best time’ you ever meditated. Therefore, it’s helpful if you understand that your practice will vary from day to day.
Expecting it to be better each day is a sure way to set yourself up for disappointment. Because if today is not as good as yesterday, and you want it to be, but it’s not….. you’re going to become agitated and restless. And from here, things will just go downhill as your ‘monkey mind’ will be telling you that you are doing something wrong!
Anyway, let’s explore some reasons why you can’t relax, and also discover some methods that may help you to become more at ease with your meditation practice.
Why Can’t I Relax During Meditation?
As physical, mental, and emotional beings, we have issues…. Today we may have trouble settling down because we’ve argued with someone we love. Yesterday, our agitation may have been due to our sore knee. And tomorrow…. well, has anyone ever suffered financial stress, problems completing an assignment, or the loss of a loved one? There are many reasons why we can’t relax during meditation. And it’s all ok…. It’s all part of the “Life On Planet Earth” experience!
4 Reasons It Can Be Difficult To Relax During Meditation
1) Maybe you are uncomfortable in your own company.
Meditation is a process during which we come to know ourselves more intimately. And if we don’t like certain aspects of ourselves, they will tend to surface….
Thinking about how you snapped at your work colleague, how you need to lose a little weight, why you can’t afford the new car you want, etc. doesn’t make it easy to relax. And once our minds latch onto some of these negative habitual thought patterns, it can be a challenge to let go of them.
2) Maybe the meditation technique you are using is not the best one for you.
We are all different. And just because one technique works for some others, doesn’t mean that it is going to work for you.
Choosing the best technique, location, teacher, music or not, posture, etc. will have a big impact on the results you achieve. If you are not able to relax, don’t give up, but instead, alter your practice until you find some ways to make it work for you. However, don’t ‘chop and change’ as a habit. Give things a proper try before determining that it’s not working for you.
3) Are you entering into your practice in an already agitated state?
Meditating with a full stomach, a tense body, or a busy mind is going to affect your experience. And although there is no ‘best way’ to meditate, we do have preferences. However, it’s not our preferences, our expectations, or our desires, that are the problem.
Being aware of them and wanting things to be different is the reason why we can’t relax. And then when we are restless and are thinking negatively about our restlessness, it just compounds the problem!
4) Are you setting unrealistic goals
Attaining ‘enlightenment’ is a common reason people begin a meditation practice. Others may be improved health, a better connection to the ‘higher self,’ inner peace, etc.
However, while these things, and more, are attainable, they don’t happen overnight. Expecting too much, too soon, will only lead to frustration and disappointment. After all, even the enlightened masters had to meditate for years on end, or even decades, to ‘escape their suffering.’
Is Not Being Able To Relax During Meditation Really A Problem?
Meditation as a practice is learning to ‘be with things as they are.’
This means that if you’re calm and relaxed one day, and you’re aware of it, you’re meditating. If you can’t sit still another day due to physical pain, and you’re aware of it, you’re meditating. And if your monkey mind is worrying about the three things you need to do following your meditation session….. and you’re aware of it, guess what?……. Yes, you’re still meditating!
The point of meditation is to cultivate an ability to be more aware…. And this includes awareness of not being able to relax. So, today you’re not as relaxed as you were yesterday…. SO WHAT! Just get over it, and just experience it as it is, at this moment!
Tomorrow your experience will be different again, as will the next day and the next. Yes, and you’re aware of it…. If you can observe the things that stop you from relaxing …. without becoming mentally and emotionally attached to them, then congratulations, you’re meditating.
OK, OK, yes, I’m as human as you are and I know when learning to meditate it can be VERY difficult to ignore all the things that are annoying the hell out of us and preventing us from relaxing…. So, here are nine things you can do that can help you become more relaxed and improve your experience…..
9 Things You Can Do To Help You Become More Relaxed During Meditation?
1) Minimize distractions. I say minimize because it’s almost impossible to eliminate all the things that bother us (especially if there is something we don’t like about ourselves!) Outside sounds, the kids, the temperature, the hard cushion, the sore back, the itchy nose….. you name it, and I’m sure someone will be annoyed by it!
2) Do five or ten minutes of Yoga, Tai Chi, or some similar relaxing movement. Gentle movement helps release the tension from your body and mind before you begin meditating. This will make your transition into a relaxed state much easier and quicker.
3) Take a few long slow deep breaths at the beginning. Breathing is a much-underrated way of calming our body, mind, and emotional states. It is actually surprising how few people take regular deep breaths…. or are even aware of their breath. Breathing is a really powerful tool to ground us in the present moment. Explore it and use it!
4) Release all expectations that things need to happen a certain way. As already discussed, our experiences will be ever-changing just as our daily lives, feelings, and thoughts are not always the same. If we can let go of our expectations and trust in the process, we will have a much better experience.
5) Don’t react to your frustration or anxiety about not being relaxed. It’s easy to get caught up in a destructive cycle of not being happy because you’re not able to relax. However, this just adds to the problem instead of alleviating it.
The way out of this cycle is to allow anxiety to exist without judging it as either good or bad. Because the reality is that it is neither. It is just something that you are aware of at this moment. And as with all things, “This too will pass!”
6) Imagine your stress flowing away. Everything changes. You know that the feeling you are experiencing now, or when you are meditating, will not last forever. It may help you to imagine your stress flowing away like water down a stream……. Don’t think about it, just observe, without attachment, as it gently flows away…..
7) Try a different posture, room, or meditation technique. I say this because there may be something wrong with the technique or location you are using… so change it.
However, it’s important to realize that meditation is not about the stuff that is happening outside of us…. it’s an internal experience. And this means that as we become more comfortable with our practice, we can make anything work! We will eventually be able to practice anywhere and anytime without complaint, even on the busy subway…
8) Focus on something else. I find using Brainwave Entrainment apps like NitroFocus a really quick and easy way to achieve a deep meditative state. The MP3s contain sounds that align with deep meditative states and listening to them gently guides our brainwaves into a matching state. Meditation achieved!
9) Stop trying to ‘DO’ meditation…. Instead, just allow a meditative state to unfold within you… when, and if it does. And if not today, tomorrow is another opportunity to begin again…
Be patient with yourself! It’s natural for us to want to achieve ‘results.’ And if we don’t, we somehow think we are failing. If this sounds like you, you will benefit from releasing all expectations about what you think meditation is and how you think your experience should be.
Every time in the past when we have learned something new, there has always been a natural learning curve. At first, things may seem difficult or even impossible. However, if we continue to practice, things will naturally fall into place….. as they always do.
So be patient and understand if you stop now because of a few ‘difficulties,’ you will be missing out on the best self-transformational tool available to humankind.
Remember what it was like when you were learning to walk, ride a bike, ski, or learn the times’ tables…. You never got it all right within the first few attempts. So why should meditation be easy?????
Learning is a natural process that you need to go through……
So you may as well just relax and enjoy the journey!