For those of us who decide to commit to a regular meditation habit, it can be a truly life-changing process if we don’t let some of the most common pitfalls get in the way of being consistent. Meditation is meant to be simple, but it doesn’t come without certain frustrating aspects of it.
Distractions happen during meditation, and that’s okay, because meditation is not a road that leads us to to some destination. What we really must do is learn to embrace the process — challenges and all.
Here are just some of the most common challenges/distractions you can expect to experience when you meditate — especially if you’re a beginner!
In a meditative state, the idea is to be completely alert. However, closing your eyes and sitting still while doing absolutely nothing can certainly be interpreted by the mind and body as an invitation to go to sleep. You may find yourself starting to drift off, dream a little, and even nod your head from side to side.
Tip: Pick a time to meditate when you know you’re most alert. Avoid meditating after eating a meal since digestion uses more energy and can enhance drowsiness. You can also choose to meditate with your eyes open.
2. Songs, words, or images that play on repeat in your head.
If you were listening to music before you sat down to meditate, don’t be surprised if one of the songs you just heard plays on a seemingly endless loop as you become aware of your mind’s activity. It’s essentially the same as getting a song stuck in your head, but during meditation, it might feel several times more intense as the mind uses it to distract you with something that’s still fresh in your mind. This may also apply to TV shows, online videos, news broadcasts, and other things you watch before meditation.
Tip: Try to avoid listening to music (especially super catchy music) or watching anything super stimulating at least an hour or so before meditating.
3. Thoughts about what you have to do after meditating.
You likely have things to take care of after you’re done meditating, and your mind is very good at keeping that running list in your awareness. Whether it’s something as simple as what you’re going to eat for lunch or something as complicated as all the little, tiny tasks you have to complete for a work project, your mind will try to throw those things right out there into your awareness when you’re trying to meditate.
Tip: Well before you meditate, take a detailed to-do list do a little mindful ritual of mentally letting go of all those things you have to do.
4. Twitches, itches, cramps, and general uncomfortableness.
As you increase your awareness through meditation, you naturally get much more in touch with your physical body, and bodily sensations you weren’t so aware of in your regular, everyday state could start to distract you. An itch on your nose or a leg that falls asleep will be hard (maybe even unbearable) to resist itching or moving.
Tip: Prepare to get as comfortable as possible before you sit down to meditate, and use what you felt in your last session to plan for better comfort during the next one.
5. A very strong desire to check the time.
If you’re meditating by sitting quietly with your eyes closed, you may notice your mind becoming absolutely obsessed with trying to figure out how much time has already passed and how much time is left. These types of thoughts may be triggered by some of the distractions mentioned above. After all, it would be nice to know the time so you could finally scratch your leg or get back to answering emails.
Tip: Start with short meditation sessions and work your way up. Use a timer and keep it away from you so you can’t grab it or glance over at it.
The above challenges are all a part of meditation. Don’t let them discourage you. While you may feel like you’re going backwards instead of forwards, bear in mind that there’s really nowhere to go — you’re just here, experiencing what there is to experience — even if that does include the pull of distraction!
Image (edited) via Sonia Belviso