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January 9, 2023

Why Can’t I Sit Down & Meditate? 5 Tips to Help.

There are a number of reasons why we don’t meditate.

Sometimes, we feel we can’t or don’t know how, and other times we plan to, but it just never seems to happen. Despite the good intentions, we get side-tracked with procrastination, fear, priorities, time constraints, busy schedules, and forgetfulness.

Firstly, let’s acknowledge that these are merely excuses, not actual reasons (gulp). Nonetheless, this is where we are.

Meditation can feel daunting because so many of us think that the intention is: to “clear the mind,” “empty your mind,” or “be still and quiet.”

This is enough to turn us off, already.

Tips to sit (or stand or lie down) and meditate:

1. Stop Trying!

Don’t try to meditate. Don’t try to empty your mind (this doesn’t work, anyway). Just be. Just sit, stand, or lie down. Just be. Don’t worry about racing thoughts, rather accept the mind for what it is. That is the point: acceptance, non-judgment. We cannot fail at meditation. If we intentionally sit for just five minutes in silence, even if the mind is in a spin, and we continue to sit there, then we are successfully meditating.

2. Congratulate Yourself.

When we have continued to stay in the space of sitting, standing, or lying for either two minutes, five minutes, or 30 minutes, congratulations are in order. Yes, even if the mind was busy! Maybe we felt distracted or ran through the day’s to-do list, but if we intentionally stayed present in that space, despite the noise of the mind, then we must congratulate ourselves. Why? Because it is hard, and we stayed there anyway.

Too often we try to meditate and then say:

“I can’t do it.”

“I don’t know how to quiet my mind.”

“But, I’m still thinking.” 

“I’m not doing it right.”

This self-talk only stops us from sitting down for another time. Few people when they begin meditating for the first time(s), can sit quietly and meditate. It takes time and practice. We are learning a new thing. If we want to be a marathon runner, we don’t just become one. We need to stretch and practice running first and congratulate ourselves every step of the way—I ran 1km, 2kms, or 10kms.

3. Start Small.

If we are new to meditation (or coming back from a hiatus), start small. For many, turning up to a 60 or 90-minute meditation class once a week can create more frustration and disheartenment than peace and calm. This completely defeats the point. So, start small. Small can be one minute, five minutes, or 10 minutes, and increase as you feel more comfortable. This is also a great way to get us to actually do it. The excuses of time constraints, busy schedules, and even fear and anxiety can go away when we set ourselves up for just five minutes. We can do anything for five minutes.

4. Do it Regularly.

No one can honestly say they don’t have five minutes available every day, or three to four times a week. Doing meditation once a week is nice but doesn’t do anything to truly calm your nervous system or train your brain to slow down and feel peaceful. Consistency is the key. Meditating for five or 10 minutes a few times a week will do a lot more for our frame of mind than 60 minutes once a week.

5. Where to Focus.

It can be difficult to know what or where to focus our attention, and if we are new to the practice this alone can be distracting. But, as I said in tip #1, do not try and force the focus to be on clearing your mind.

An easy focus point is to create a triangle. Starting at the top of the nose, out down the right and left sides to our upper lip and across to each other. Focus solely on this triangle and feel the breath come in and out. It often feels cool on the upper lip and nostrils as we inhale and warm as we exhale. Notice, acknowledge, and let the mind do whatever it is doing, without judgment, and then bring the attention back to the triangle.

Bonus Tip: if you can’t feel your breath or it is not obvious enough, wet the upper lip and the outsides of your nostril with a drop of water. Or, put some tiger balm, Vicks, or something similar there. This will enhance the sensation of this area and make it easy to bring the focus back to this triangle.

Bonus Tip: keep forgetting to meditate? (It happens, I know). Try attaching it to a habit that already exists. For example: “I’m going to meditate for five minutes before brushing my teeth,” or “I’m going to meditate for 10 minutes whilst my dinner is in the oven.” Find a habit and attach a few minutes of meditation to create a new habit.

Try the above tips to meditate and see if meditation becomes easier. See if you feel calmer, maybe even motivated, about the idea of meditation.

Happy Meditating.

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