Sometimes when people have tried to meditate and then lost interest, they wonder “Is it really possible for anyone to meditate? Or is it just the chosen few?” According to meditation experts, just about anyone can learn how to practice meditation. Individuals with serious mental illnesses are an exception in that they should be closely monitored to see if meditation is a good fit for them or not.
The ancient art of meditation has been practiced by millions of people across the globe. Mindfulness, for example, was first practiced in Buddhist countries before it spread to different lands around the world. Just about anyone can benefit from meditation practice, regardless of age, spiritual tradition, or physical profile. And with the proper guidance, meditation can be incorporated into almost any busy schedule.
Who should meditate?
It simply isn’t true that only a select few can meditate successfully. Unlike what some people believe, you don’t have to have exceptional spiritual abilities to practice meditation. Meditation can be practiced by anyone! It only requires some training before you start feeling comfortable with it, just like riding a bike. Meditation requires a little bit of effort and a lot of conviction, but there are definite rewards. There are times when the results of meditation will be instant, but more often you’ll need lots of patience to experience the long-term benefits. So yes, it requires work, but you’ll be surprised by how much good a 20-minute daily meditation regimen can do you.
For those who sit down to learn to meditate but find it hard to settle, guided meditation is a great option. In this type of meditation, you listen to an instructor as he or she guides you through a refreshing meditation session. Once you’ve found an instructor who inspires you to practice, the rest is a picnic.
How to clear meditation hurdles
Sometimes you just can’t bring yourself to settle down and meditate. Here are a few of the more common meditation hurdles and advice on how to get around them:
- You can’t quiet your mind
So you’re ready to start meditating – your eyes are half-closed, your legs crossed and your body calm. But you keep thinking about unfinished errands, pending assignments, or conversations that should have gone differently. As soon as you’re done with one subject, your mind jumps to the next one. You start wondering what you’ll cook for dinner, what you’ll say to so-and-so next time you meet, or what you’ll pitch to that new client. Does this sound familiar?
It feels frustrating and counter-productive when you can’t calm your mind. You may conclude that trying to meditate is futile and you’d do better to get up and check off the next item on your to-do list. But maybe you need to revisit just what to expect from meditation. Qualified meditation teacher Rachel Parrish suggests that mindfulness practice holds the answers. Mindfulness is about devoting your attention to an object, such as the breath or physical sensations, while remaining aware of the present feelings, thoughts and sensations that arise in the mind. Notice when your mind wanders, and avoid stressing about it – just gently bring your attention back to the breath. When you don’t really give mental distractions your consideration, they eventually calm down of their own accord. That act of noticing and coming back is meditation!
- Sitting is physically painful
Many people imagine that the ideal meditation posture is the lotus. And indeed, if you can comfortably achieve the lotus and stay there, it’s awesome. But virtually no one – save for the occasional yoga instructor or gymnast – can sit comfortably in a lotus at first. While this is a classic pose for some seasoned meditators, you don’t really have to sit on the floor with your legs crossed like a pretzel and grin and bear it.
Look for a comfortable position that lets you breathe naturally. Relax but keep your spine straight. You can try different seats – chairs, meditation cushions, benches or mats – to avoid unnecessary physical discomfort. Lie down, stretch or walk if you need to, as long as you’re comfy. Breathe deeply and try to maintain alignment and awareness.
- You’re always out of time
If you feel like you never have enough time to meditate, you need to think about why you’re meditating in the first place. What are you hoping to accomplish? According to studies, consistent meditation reduces anxiety and depression, improves quality of sleep, sharpens the memory and brings an overarching sense of calm and self-awareness.
And surprise: anyone who meditates consistently actually finds more time in their day to get things done. Needless to say, meditation revolves around making a firm commitment to taking care of yourself. You don’t need to spend hours meditating. For new meditators, a 10 to 20 minute daily meditation practice is a great start. Even 5 minutes a day can make a profound difference over time. It’s not really how long you sit that’s important, but how regularly and resolutely.
If you’re looking to develop your meditation practice, the Mindworks App is an exciting resource that’s chock full of ideas and inspiration. It contains an array of Mind Talks, Guided Meditations, tools and teachings that will enrich your practice and your life.