When we begin our meditation journey, it’s quite normal at some point to ask, “Why Can’t I Meditate For long?” However, the reality is that we have probably been doing a lot better than we think we have.
How can that be? The confusion comes about because we don’t yet understand what meditation is really about. And we have expectations and goals in our minds that are not yet manifested as reality in our lives.
Some misconceptions I hear often are that we have to sit for twenty minutes at a time and empty our minds of all thoughts. The reality is that beginners (and many experienced meditators) just can’t do this. And when you expect it to happen, and it doesn’t, you falsely believe that you are not meditating correctly or for long enough.
Well, I’ll suggest to you again that you are probably doing a lot better than you think, and in this post, I’ll explain why……
Why Can’t I Meditate For Long?
Worrying about how long you are meditating is the problem, not the actual minutes you are meditating. You don’t need to be sitting in a lotus posture with an empty mind for 20 minutes to “be meditating.” If you can sit comfortably, with a relaxed attitude, free of judgment, you are meditating. And if you can do this for thirty seconds, that’s awesome…. then do it for another thirty, and another…. This is how we teach ourselves to meditate for longer.
Often It’s The People Who Are Asking “Why Can’t I Meditate For Long” Who Are Making The Most Progress!
For some reason, we tend to think our opinions are true, even if we don’t know anything about a subject. This causes us unnecessary problems including stress, anxiety, and depression. And meditation is a good example of a subject that many people have misconceptions about.
So, we are new to this, we have expectations (often outrageous, and sometimes wrong) and then we meditate…. AND…. things don’t happen as we expected them to…..
OMG, it’s time to panic, meditation doesn’t work, I can’t meditate, and there is something wrong with me….. Our ‘monkey minds’ lose the plot, throw a fit, and we come down hard on ourselves…..
But that’s all good because it’s just part of the process that many of us need to go through. It’s the starting point of much better things to come. And you must accept this stage. The sooner you realize that it is ‘normal’ for most people, the sooner you can relax into it and then pass through it.
This means that it’s for your benefit to stop thinking that you can’t meditate for long. Instead, just be at peace at this moment, and in the next moment, and the next…..
Every time you catch your monkey mind having a thought, don’t attach yourself to it, just let it pass through. Because the reality is that nothing lasts forever, and you will eventually become comfortable with your practice and begin looking forward to it….
….. So, why don’t you begin believing this now? After all, it’s truer than the thoughts you are having that make you think you can’t meditate!
Whatever we pay attention to grows stronger, and if we withdraw our attention away from that which we don’t want, it will grow weaker!
Therefore, place your intention and attention on the fact that you can meditate, that you are meditating, and that you are getting better at meditating…..
…. and as you continue to practice, over the years, you will reach a state where “the meditative state” is a normal part of your waking life. It is here that you are at peace and are fully content with your life and the world at large. (Something to look forward to!)
Possible Reasons Why You Think You Are Not Meditating For Long May Include:
1) Your mind is racing at 100Mph
The function of our conscious minds is to think. So, why do we naturally consider it a problem when it is carrying out its most basic of functions?
The problem is that our mind is not thinking the thoughts we want it to think, or slowing down to a relaxing speed.
So, you’ve been out all day, racing around to get 101 things done, and for this, your mind needed to be in hyper-drive mode. Now, you come home and sit to meditate, and it won’t slow down and think about gratitude, bliss, and peace…. what a surprise???
Wait, wait, wait….. I think I know what the problem may be….. Have you trained your mind, at any stage in your life, to slow down, be at peace, and imagine angels and fairies dancing all over the place? No, not yet???
This is what your meditation practice is all about…. Training your mind, which currently doesn’t know how to do things differently than you have been doing them until now. And this is a journey that takes time…. just like going to the gym and building muscles takes time, so does retraining your mind to behave differently.
2) Your body is restless and moving around
Relaxing does not come naturally to many people. Our bodies have memory and they behave in habitual ways. And if your habit is always to be actively fidgeting around when not meditating, it’s going to continue to do the same when you try to meditate.
It sometimes takes months or even years to overcome our habits, and this is to be expected. Why? Because it’s taken us all of our lives until now to create the habits we have…. and we cannot possibly expect to break them overnight.
So give yourself a break. And if you feel agitated, uncomfortable, or need to scratch an itch, just acknowledge the feeling and let it pass. You don’t need to respond to everything out of habit. Sure enough, another ‘disturbance” will present itself, and then another….
Maybe you’ve eaten too much or are hungry before sitting to meditate…. it’s a good idea to try and time your sessions for when your body is already comfortable so you are able to relax as quickly and easily as possible.
3) You are expecting unrealistic results
Are you expecting to achieve enlightenment this week? Ummm…. Slightly unrealistic, but not impossible! However, for the average human on the planet who is just beginning a meditation practice, it’s asking a bit much.
Maybe you have heard that meditation is a good alternative to medication for anxiety or depression. Yes, in the medium to long term…. However, it’s not a great idea to throw your medication away and stop seeing your therapist after two sessions of meditation.
While some short-term benefits of meditating will make you feel and think better, the sustained long-term benefits do require that you continue to practice regularly.
Make sure you are getting enough sleep at night so you can remain alert during the day. Maybe you can meditate earlier in the day when you are still mentally alert and not prone to falling asleep. Choose a posture that is not too comfortable. A little stress kept in your body by sitting upright will cause you to focus instead of nodding off to sleep.
Meditation isn’t something we have to ‘actively do.’ Sure, we have to choose to sit and set aside the time…. and then it’s simply a matter of observing things as they are…. or maybe engaging in quiet contemplation or reflection. And we can all do that!
So do it for as long as you can and then just repeat. You will find that you can keep building upon your practice until you reach a point when you are satisfied with the time you can meditate….
But remember, it does take practice because it’s not something we have trained ourselves to do yet. Meditation is a new skill we are learning, and as with anything new, we will stumble and fall over a few times before we can walk and then run.
If you learn to be kind to yourself and allow things to unfold naturally at their own pace, you will make progress a lot quicker than if you are worried about the length of time you can meditate.