By Lisa Hepner
I've struggled with meditation most of my life. Over a span of 15 years, I purchased meditation CDs and Mp3s, attended meditation classes, and read books on meditation, yet was still unable to incorporate it into my daily life. The meditation CDs usually put me to sleep and the classes and books made me feel like a failure! In fact, my first meditation was quite painful and I always felt like I was too busy to meditate!
The sad truth is that while most of us are aware of the benefits of meditation, very few of us actually have a regular meditation practice. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome in order to incorporate meditation into our daily lives. I overcame those obstacles and have been meditating daily for two years as well as meditating periodically throughout the day! Through meditation I have experienced more peace and joy in my life, I've become less reactive and less stressed and I have more energy and creativity! And I know you can experience these benefits as well!
But first, I think it's important to define what meditation is? Many of us have misconceptions about meditation. The most common misconception is that meditation is about getting rid of thought! That would set anyone up for failure! Meditation, rather, is about becoming the observer of thought rather than the reactor to thought.
Meditation, pure and simple, is being fully present at the moment! In this meditative state, you are aware of the truth of who you are beyond your body and your mind.
Have you ever been in awe at a beautiful sunset? So much so that you forgot about what happened 5 minutes ago, and you weren't thinking about the future? You were completely in the moment and had this sense of aliveness inside? Well, that's meditation!
So now that we know what meditation is, how do we incorporate it into our daily lives? I knew the reasons why I had struggled for years before I developed a regular meditation practice, but I was curious to see if others had the same reasons, so I conducted an international survey on the biggest obstacles to meditation and received over 400 responses from people in 46 different countries. Below are the TOP SIX biggest obstacles to meditation, and how you can overcome them!
Obstacle #1: Not having enough time
The biggest obstacle people face in developing a regular meditation practice is TIME. We don't have enough time to meditate! (Interestingly enough this wasn't just an "American" phenomenon. People from all across the globe mentioned they didn't have enough time to meditate).
Yet there are 4 simple ways to incorporate meditation into your life without taking ANY time out of your current schedule!
First, I invite you to convert your waiting time into meditating time.
The average person waits 45-60 minutes a day. We wait for appointments, we wait in traffic, we wait in line at the grocery store and we wait on hold on the phone. Yet those precious "waiting times" can be converted into meditating times.
So next time you are waiting for an appointment, take a moment to notice your breath. Or next time you are waiting in line at the grocery store, take a moment to smile from the inside.
Second, have a daily activity be your meditation. You can incorporate meditation into any of these daily activities:
*brushing your teeth
*emptying the dishwasher
*folding laundry, ironing
As you brush your teeth, notice your breath. Or notice the aliveness in your hands and mouth. As you empty the dishwasher, feel the aliveness in your hand as you put each dish away.
Third, have your dog or cat be your meditation! Have you ever noticed when walking your dog how your dog is completely in the moment, taking in its' surroundings? Well, you can join your dog in this blissful state. When walking the dog notice the aliveness in your feet with each step. Notice the aliveness of the trees, birds, your surroundings. While petting the cat, notice the softness of the fur. Be completely present with your dog or cat!
Four, meditate while driving! Now, of course, do NOT close your eyes and meditate while driving. But you can be completely present while driving, with your eyes open. While driving, notice the aliveness in your hands as you touch the steering wheel. Or at a stop sign or in traffic, notice your breath.
These are simple ways you can incorporate meditation into your daily life without taking ANY time out of your current schedule. If we all did these simple things, we'd have a daily meditation practice!
Obstacle #2: Lack of Self-Discipline
The second biggest obstacle people face in incorporating meditation into their daily life is a lack of self-discipline! Meditation takes discipline. I know many of us to start out with great intentions to meditate daily or to exercise daily and we might do it for a couple of weeks, but then we lack the discipline necessary to continue.
That's why life coaches, personal trainers, and other professions have been created! To hold us accountable and to keep us focused!
So if you lack self-discipline, find a meditation partner! Ask your spouse, partner, friend, coworker to join you in incorporating meditation into your daily life. Hold each other accountable.
Or even if you can't find someone that wants to meditate with you, tell your spouse/friend/partner/coworker of your intention to meditate daily and ask him/her to check in with you and ask you how you are doing.
Just as an exercise partner is beneficial and productive, a meditation partner can be too!
Obstacle #3: Not having the right place or space to meditate
The third biggest obstacle people mentioned is NOT having the right place or space to meditate! This is a "perceived obstacle." You can literally meditate anywhere; while driving a car or walking through a crowded mall.
People often use not having a special place or specific area as an excuse to NOT meditate. If we continually wait for the right circumstances to meditate, we'll never meditate.
I give people a meditation assignment: to meditate in a public place! They can walk through the wall and notice people and places while observing their breath or noticing the aliveness in their feet.
Obstacle #4: Falling Asleep
The fourth most common obstacle to meditation is falling asleep. And yet many meditation CDs say that it's okay if you fall asleep because you are still receiving the benefits of meditation...The only benefit you're receiving is a peaceful sleep! And yet, that is a benefit too! Meditation is awareness. It's being fully present at the moment. When you're asleep, you're asleep, not meditating.
Here are some tips if you fall asleep while meditating:
*Don't meditate at night before bed. So often many of us want to meditate daily but don't think about it until we are in bed or getting ready for bed and then we try to meditate. Of course, we'll fall asleep.
*Try meditating in the morning or mid-day when you are alert.
*Meditate in small increments throughout the day. Again, notice your breath for a couple of minutes while brushing your teeth or showering.
Obstacle #5: Too many distractions
The fifth most common complaint from people is that there are too many distractions to meditate on. Yet distractions don't have to be distractions.
For example, during one of my meditations, my cat Vinnie came up to me and started meowing. He wouldn't stop either. He wanted my attention. Now to most people, this would be a distraction and a reason to stop meditating. Instead, I opened my eyes, sat down on the floor with him, and petted him while noticing my breath. I incorporated my cat into my meditation. Instead of allowing him to become a distraction, he became my meditation!
If you are meditating and a distraction happens. Just notice it. Allow it to be. If it's something that needs your attention, tend to whatever needs to be done, while still observing your breath!
Obstacle #6: Not knowing how to meditate
So many people feel that they don't know how to meditate. We make meditation more complicated than it really is! Again, meditation is about being present in the moment. It's really about finding what works for you!
Again, you can incorporate meditation into your life without taking time out of your schedule. Your life can become a meditation. It is those moments throughout the day that we are fully present in the moment that matters. And through meditation, we discover the bliss of being that we are!
Lisa Hepner is an author, speaker, and meditation facilitator. She is the creator of the international "Don't Wait-Meditate" campaign which gets people to pledge to convert their waiting time into meditating time. She is the creator of Project Meditate whose goal is to help people develop a daily habit of meditation.