Meditation. Some of you probably do it regularly, and some of you may have tried it once and never did it again. Either way, I can guarantee there will be things you did wrong which put you off it or are doing wrong but you don’t realise it.
What Exactly is Meditation?
There are many different forms of meditation, including (but not limited to) mindfulness, spiritual, focused, movement, mantra and transcendental meditation. They all have levels of skill required, which means that they all need practice regularly. No one type of meditation is better than the other, what is important is to find whichever technique works best for you.
No matter the type of meditation, there are many proven benefits to practicing it. It lowers stress levels, helps us tune in with our bodies and improves concentration (read my full article on it HERE). So you can see it’s important to try and get it right in order to get the most out of it.
You might think it’s impossible to meditate wrong, but how many of these things can you honestly say you have never been guilty of?
So How Are You Meditating Wrong?
In case you hadn’t gathered, this website usually focuses on Mindfulness Meditation. All of the points listed below are aimed at this, but if you practice any other forms of meditation you might find some of these apply also.
1. Putting too much pressure on yourself
This isn’t just something newbies are guilty of. As someone who meditates regularly, I know I certainly have done this in the past! I sit down determined to find my ‘zen’, and instead of being calm and collected, my brain won’t stop spinning. It’s like when you’re trying to get to sleep and keep telling yourself ‘if I go to sleep now, I’ll get 6 hours sleep’. You inadvertently put too much pressure on yourself and end up being more stressed than when you started.
It’s so easy to have an ideal picture in our heads of what meditation looks like. We see images and videos of Zen masters sitting in silence on hilltops for days on end and assume this is the only way to successfully meditate. Much like the airbrushed supermodels of Western society, this exaggerates a small minority of people.
As a result we think that sitting in our bedrooms with Enya on in the background whilst we try to calm our hectic brains cannot possibly be called Meditation.
How do I stop this happening? Well, it’s not easy, but basically you have to accept what is going on in your mind and let it go. If I know I am particularly laden with thoughts, I will offload them into a note on my phone or a notebook before I start meditating. It’s amazing how effective this can be.
The important thing is to not judge yourself for having these ‘busy thoughts’. Acknowledge them and let them go. By telling yourself you will think about them later, it’s a lot easier to free your mind from them whilst you’re meditating.
And if all that fails, stop! Don’t force the situation, try again later in the day. The more you force it, the less likely it’s going to happen.
2. Doing it at the wrong time
I am NOT a morning person – FACT! So meditation in the morning would just end up in me being so relaxed I would probably go back to sleep (especially as I usually meditate next to my very comfy spare bed).
Equally, I am my most productive after 4pm, so I would not be able to switch my brain off enough to centre myself. I would spend more time writing down random ideas I’ve had instead of being in the moment as intended.
After many years working it out, the best time for me to meditate is either late morning or early afternoon. I am awake but my brain isn’t going into overdrive. The perfect balance.
So have a think about when you are meditating and if it is the best time for you. Try some different times of the day and then reflect on your practice afterwards. Are you struggling to stay in the zone or are you too relaxed?! Find the best time to meditate for you and you will benefit so much more from it.
3. Meditating in the wrong place
It has taken me a loooong time to find the best spot in the house for me to meditate. Bedroom? Too comfortable! Kitchen? Too messy! Lounge? Too noisy!!
I have finally found our spare bedroom is the best place for me to meditate. My husband doesn’t really go in this room so I don’t get disturbed by him and I have a lush rocking chair from Ikea in this room which is comfortable without being sleep inducing. If this is too comfortable (i.e. I’m likely to nod off!) I now also have a mediation cushion which I can sit on.
I light a couple of candles, put on the twinkly lights (even on a sunny day!) place a few crystals next to me for good vibes, and very quickly find myself meditating with ease in this cozy room.
Have a wander around your house and see if you can find a little nook you can tuck yourself in whilst you meditate. Maybe try a few different places and reflect on it afterwards. Is your front room to light? Do your kids disturb you in the kitchen? Can you turn the cupboard under the stairs into a sanctuary?! Experiment and see where you feel most comfortable.
4. Trying to meditate in silence
This might be obvious to some people, but trying to meditate in silence is asking for trouble in my opinion! My brain wanders off into all sorts of directions and it’s a hell of a lot harder to let go of these thoughts without some relaxing music in the background.
Music can have a massive effect on our emotions. Have you ever been driving along, happy as larry, and suddenly a song comes on which makes you so sad that suddenly you’re in floods of tears? Equally, we all have the one song that reminds us of that dodgy 18-30 holiday which always puts a smile on our face.
I have a few playlists which I go to when I’m meditating. Some of them I have compiled myself and some of them are created on my Apple Music app. There are also many meditation apps, which have their own collection of white noise sounds and music to help create a calming atmosphere.
Have a think about what sort of music or sounds help you feel calm. Don’t think you have to play rain noises if it’s going to make you want a wee! Equally, meditation music might actually be more annoying for you than the twentieth rendition of Gina G. Have a play around with different music and sounds until you find the one that works best for you.
5. Not meditating often enough
It is too easy to say ‘oh it didn’t work’ or ‘it’s too difficult’ when it comes to meditating. You sit down and try to empty your thoughts for what feels like five minutes (actually was more like thirty seconds) and give up because you expected to be perfect at it straight away. The hard truth is, just like learning a language or an instrument, you have to keep practicing!
You are not going to be an expert overnight, and you’re certainly not going to be ‘fixed’ after one session. The more often you meditate, the easier it becomes and the more you get out of each session. Ask any meditation masters and they will tell you that the more frequently you practice, the better.
So how often should you meditate? Well as often as possible really. Ideally daily, but doesn’t have to be. Obviously you don’t have to. If you can only fit it in once a week that is still better than not doing it at all. If you push yourself to do it daily and you stress out because you’re not achieving that, then you’re already onto a losing battle. Do what is realistic for you.
Now Go And Relax!
How many of those can you relate to? More than you want to admit to? It’s ok, we’ve all been there. If you can implement these simple changes I can say with absolute certainty you will find you get so much more out of your meditation sessions.