When we begin our meditation journey, it’s quite normal that You Can’t Meditate For long. However, the reality is that you have probably been doing a lot better than you think you have.
How can that be? The confusion comes about because you don’t yet understand what meditation is really about, therefore, you have expectations and goals in your mind…. but they are not yet manifesting as reality in your life.
Some misconceptions I hear often are that we have to sit for twenty minutes at a time and empty our minds of all thoughts. However, the reality is that beginners as well as many experienced meditators just can’t do these things. 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 many 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…..
You can do this every time you catch your monkey mind having a thought, by not attaching yourself to it, and instead just letting it pass through your mind like a cloud in the sky. 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 you pay attention to grows stronger, and if you withdraw your attention away from that which you don’t want, it will grow weaker!
Therefore, you will benefit when you begin placing 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 time when “the meditative state” becomes a normal part of your waking life. And it is in this state that you will find peace and become fully content with your life and the world at large. (Something to look forward to!)
However, until then, let’s explore why you cannot meditate for long…
Possible Reasons Why You Think You Are Not Meditating For Long May Include:
1) Your Mind is Racing at 100Mph
The problem you may have is that your mind is not thinking the thoughts you want it to think, or that it is not 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…. Really, 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.
So, what are some techniques you can use to train your mind to slow down?
- Meditation: Obviously, meditation is a great way to train your mind to focus and be present in the moment. And if the method you are using is not working for you, you can try a different method of meditation to see if you get the desired results.
- Breathing exercises: When your mind is racing, it can be helpful to use your breath as an anchor. There are many different breathing exercises you can use in conjunction with meditation that will help your mind to slow down. Headspace has some great guided meditations that will teach you how to breathe to relax your mind.
- Yoga: Yoga and other forms of relaxing exercise are a great way to get your body and mind to slow down before meditation. They will help to improve your focus and concentration, and they can also help to reduce stress and anxiety levels.
- Nature: Spending time in nature can help to slow down your mind and relax your body. If you can, go for a short walk in the park, hike in the woods, or simply sit in your backyard and enjoy the fresh air and use that as a prelude to meditating or let it become your meditation.
- Avoid multitasking: Multitasking makes it harder for you to focus and be productive at any one task. When you’re trying to do too many things at once, your mind is constantly racing and you’re more likely to make mistakes. If you’re wanting to slow your mind down, prior to meditating, make sure that you are not splitting your energy between many tasks… just do one thing at a time and try and focus all your attention on it.
- Get enough sleep: A good night’s sleep is very important for our overall well-being, but sadly many people are not getting the 7 or 8 hours of rested sleep they need each night. When you’re well-rested, your mind is much more able to focus and concentrate. Headspace also has amazing apps that will help you get a good night’s sleep, every night.
- Eat a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet will improve your overall health and well-being, including your mental health. By eating plenty of natural foods, you will be giving your body and mind the nutrients and minerals they need for optimum performance.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol: Caffeine and alcohol both interfere with your ability to sleep, which makes it harder for you to focus and concentrate. If you’re struggling to slow down your mind, maybe it’s a good idea if you cut out or limit these substances and other stimulants.
- Get regular exercise: Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, improve your mood, and boost your energy levels. At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week is recommended for the average person.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. There are many different ways to practice mindfulness, including meditation, yoga, or simply walking with breath awareness.
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, 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…. just let them go and return your attention to the thoughts floating through your mind, without judgment of them…
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 feeling comfortable so that it is one less issue you ‘have to think about’ when you are meditating.
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, the research shows that it definitely is… 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.
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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.
5) You Are Bored
If you are not used to sitting still for minutes at a time, free from distractions, your mind will tell you that you are bored. It may take a week or two of you sitting regularly, returning your thoughts to your practice or an anchor, before you mind gets it that you want to meditate. However, if you stick with your practice you will eventually defeat you busy ‘monkey mind.’
6) You May Be Experiencing Physical Pain
If you’re in pain because you’re not used to holding a particular posture, like sitting upright, for any length of time, it can be difficult to focus on your reason for meditating. However, as with learning any new physical activity, the physical discomfort experienced when adapting to new postures will ease over time as your body gets used to it.
So, just keep practicing, and again, if you keep returning your attention back to an anchor (if you are using one) or just keep ‘letting go,’ you will get used to the experience and begin to look forward to your meditation sessions.
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.