I Can't Meditate

As humans we are wired for mastery and generally don’t like to fail. For some, when they have tried something new and have limited success they often give up and move on to something else. Meditation frequently falls into this category.

At least every other day someone tells me, “I can’t meditate! I want to and I’ve tried but I‘m just no good at it!” What I have discovered is that there is frequently a misunderstanding of what mediation is, accompanied by a belief that the only way to meditate is to sit in an incredibly uncomfortable cross-legged position, be really quiet and still then clear your mind. Meditation is not about clearing your mind; it is about being in charge of it. It is learning how to control and manage the incessant mindless chatter that goes on all day long.

During a workshop I taught a few years ago I had a room full of people who believed they couldn’t meditate. I had to be creatively instructive to get them to recognize that they could easily meditate if they chose to so I deceived them into meditating by first discussing that as we age we loose the acuity of our hearing especially in the low and high registers. Then I asked if they wanted to try an experiment to help improve their hearing and all readily agreed.

I asked everyone in the room to raise one hand and instructed them to put their hand down only when they could no longer hear the sound I was going to make. I then struck a metal meditation bowl with a wood dowel. As the pleasant ringing sound emanated forth each participant listened with intense focus and one by one after about 1 1/2 minutes all the hands were down. I looked at my non-meditators and asked, “How was that meditation?”. The surprised looks of confusion were priceless. “Yes”, that is a form of meditation. By focusing on the sound they were controlling their mind and their ability to stay present. Try meditating yourself by listening to the hum of your refrigerator, a clock ticking or simply the breath going in and out of your lungs. As your mind wanders gently bring your focus back to the present.

Getting better at meditation just takes practice. There are many ways to meditate and I suggest you explore different methods to discover what works best for you. One thing you can count on is your mind will wander especially initially. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It is normal for this to occur. When you find you have drifted a little, don’t judge it. Just bring yourself back to the present and start over.

Begin with smaller amounts of time initially. Trying to meditate for a half hour or more with no experience is a sure way to defeat yourself before you even get started. Try 5-10 minutes at first then gradually increase your time. Practice anywhere you have a few minutes. Car pool lines, waiting for the coffee to brew, waiting for an appointment or waiting for friends to arrive are just a few that come to mind.

If you have a brain you can meditate. Give it a try. The benefits are numerous and controlling your mind……priceless.