Why Can’t I Meditate?
You Can Meditate
Have you tried to meditate and decided that you just can’t do it? I’ve heard countless hypnosis clients of mine tell me that, while it seems that most people can meditate, their minds are just too busy for them to do it.
What if you went to the gym and observed that many people there seemed to be able to curl 50-pound dumbbells? You decide you want to get stronger so you give it a try and discover that you can’t do it. Is this the time to quit? Or would you simply start with a lighter weight and work up to the 50-pound dumbbell? If you truly wanted to lift the heavier weight it would require you start with the lighter one.
Likewise, we make the mistake of thinking that it should be easy to take control of our minds and focus them on some particular thing. This, after all, is what meditation generally requires. When we finally get around to sitting down and meditating, it takes about a fraction of a second to realize that we have a lot going on inside our heads. If we are practicing a zen-based form of meditation—which generally requires focusing on the breath—it’s not long before our minds have bounced to other thoughts. We then drag our attention back to the breath and it stays there for a split-second before it has ventured on to a new topic.
At this point, most people give up and decide they just can’t do it. What they don’t realize is that THEY DID IT! Sure, it was a fraction of a second, but they willed their minds to focus on their breath for a fraction of a second! That’s huge! Eventually they’ll be able to double that time and eventually triple it. The point of people lifting weights is to create resistance so their muscles can exert effort and become stronger. In fact many people lift a weight until they can’t lift it anymore—and they rightly consider that a success. When they try to exercise the muscle of mental focus and reach a place where they can’t stay focused any longer… well, that means they just can’t do it. It doesn’t make any sense, does it?
Us, Dogs and Evolution
This ability to direct our attention where we want is an amazing development in human evolution.
Do you think a dog could decide to focus on his breathing? Probably not (of course your dog could because he’s such good and smart boy. I’m talking about other dogs). Generally speaking, a dog’s mind goes where it’s drawn. When the mail carrier arrives at our house, our dogs don’t seem to be able to distract their attention from her presence. They can’t step outside of themselves and decide that this mail carrier returns almost everyday regardless of how much they bark at her so maybe they’ll sink themselves into finishing up that piece of rawhide instead of wasting their energy barking.
Their minds just go where they go without conscious direction; like we tend to allow our minds to do. I have noticed that my dogs seem to have unwavering focus when there is a possibility I might drop some food on the floor, but even that is simply the result of their attention being drawn to something their DNA tells them should be focused on. They aren’t “choosing” to meditate on where the food might land.
Where Is Reality Really?
Your life is the result of your thoughts. Your experience at this very moment is the result of what’s taking place within the neural networks of you brain. In short, that which is in your awareness right now is your entire “reality” right now.
For those to whom the world seems like a bleak and depressing place—it is. That is what is in their minds and that is what they “know” reality to be. Chances are that they go through life struggling with negative feelings. They might wonder what’s wrong with them. They might think that their is some chemical imbalance that is causing them to feel so badly. If they were to sit down and meditate, they would soon discover the possible root of their negativity. They would observe the parade of negative thoughts and expectations that is always winding through their minds; so constant is that procession that it happens unnoticed until they sit down and start noticing it. The important thing is that, to some degree they can choose to change what they are thinking about. And how they feel is the result of what they decide to think about.
Meditation To Master “Reality”
Emotions are the result of chemistry. But you could close your eyes right now and, with some effort, try to imagine that you are in some happy memory or desired future. As you make this experience as real as possible—imagining that you are looking through your own eyes at the people or objects in the scenario or maybe hearing the sounds you would hear—you would start to feel DIFFERENTLY. You would start adjusting the neurotransmitters that determine your feelings and to a greater or lesser degree you would start feeling better.
I’ve invited clients who struggle with perpetual negative feelings to try this in my office. As they took control of their thoughts and directed them to something positive, I could see a marked “lightness” come over their faces. In some cases, they have even smiled. From unhappy to feeling good in a matter of seconds. Their thoughts altered their chemistry and they felt better. This is why you want to meditate and this is why any effort will yield results—just like lifting the lightest weight in the gym will still help you grow stronger.
When you can recognize the thoughts that are dictating your concept of reality and subsequently your emotions, you can change them and in no time start to experience a different and better reality. This is why ANY effort you apply toward meditation is beneficial; even if you can’t stay focused on your breath for five seconds, you can still start discovering your automatic thoughts and—most importantly—you can change them.
How To Meditate
Now that you know the importance of meditation in taking control of your life, it’s time to start. There are countless books out there about meditation. There are countless apps that are supposed to help you meditate. There are many audio recordings of “guided meditations” out there. YOU DON’T NEED ANY OF THEM!
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, so media and technology are clearly not required to achieve results; in fact I’m of the opinion that they can hinder your progress. The more time you spend reading about the intricacies of meditation the less time you are actually meditating.
As for guided meditation, that might be compared to asking your personal trainer to do your bench presses for you. It requires effort on your part to reap the rewards.
The actual act of meditating is so simple that I can tell you everything you need to know in the following few paragraphs. It is very easy to learn the ropes… climbing them is a little more difficult. Here it is:
- Sit Down: You can sit cross-legged on a small pillow or you can sit in a chair with your feet on the ground, hands in your lap and your back straight.
- Close your eyes: Pretty straight forward here. Just close your eyes and eliminate the distracting visual elements from you awareness.
- Breathe and count you exhales: Breathe in and take note of how the breath feels as it passes through your nostrils and into your sinuses. As you breath out, silently count “One.” Feel the next inhale and as you breath out silently count “Two.” Continue until you reach seven or nine (you decide as it really doesn’t matter. Some schools say seven, others say nine but the idea is that once you hit that number you return to “One” and do it again. Keep this up for the duration of your meditation period. Start by doing it for five to 10 minutes each day and you might find that it feels so relaxing that you want to keep going.
That’s it! This is a very effective form of Zen meditation. It’s simple to comprehend yet you will discover some things as you do it. Good luck getting to the first count of “one.” Our monkey-minds are so active that you probably won’t complete your first inhale before your mind has scrambled off to some random thought that has nothing to do with something so boring as counting your breath.
When this happens and you notice it, REJOICE! You have begun. Now you lovingly bring your untamed attention back to your breath and, if you remember where you were in the count, keep going. If you’ve completely lost track just start again at one.
This is where most people erroneously start to think that they can’t meditate. They don’t realize that the idea of meditating is to catch it when their monkey-minds goes running to things other than what they want to focus on—in this case, your breath. To get upset about your attention wandering off would be like getting upset that there are weights on the ends of your bar bells.
The reason you cycle from one to nine is so you don’t start competing with yourself to go higher in your count. This is not a competition with yourself or anyone else. You are simply training your mind to stay attentive to whatever you want to attend to. It could take you years to get to the count of three without monkey-mind running away with you. The goal is to observe when your mind drifts and then LOVINGLY bring it back on track. I’ve emphasized “lovingly” because you are not to beat yourself up for failing to stay focused. Just be happy that you are mastering your “reality creator.”
I meditated this morning and took note of what distracted me. In the first few moments I was wondering if my back was straight enough. (That’s not counting, so I got back to the count.) Shortly after that I started thinking about how I would observe the things that distracted me and report them to you in this blog post. (That was a distraction in and of itself so I got back to counting my exhales.) Then I started pondering the little blue lights I was observing on the back of my eyelids. (Again, that’s not counting so I got back to it.) You get the point. Some of the things were RELATED to meditation but they were actually distractions. That’s how tricky our minds can be. I could have easily convinced myself that I was doing it right because I was thinking about meditation… I was not, however, actually keeping my attention on the thing I wanted to focus on.
This is hard work, but if you are doing it a catching your wandering mind you are doing it right. This means that you CAN meditate. Before long you will start to feel a greater sense of peace. And I mean you’ll most likely feel it even during your first attempt. The world might start to feel like a more tranquil place. Others in you life might seem to transform into “better” people. It’s amazing what changes when you start taking control of you conscious attention. You are, after all, taking control of the wellspring of your very life experience.