Meditation has proven to ease our daily stress, reduce anxiety, enhance our self-awareness, and promote overall emotional health. Even though all these benefits are so obvious, some of my clients struggle and tend to ask me one common question:
“ Is it possible for everybody to meditate?” My simple answer has always been: “Yes, everybody can meditate, without question!”
No matter, your gender, age, job description, or whatever label our society has put on you, believe me, you can meditate. We’ll just have to clarify some things beforehand!
Many people find meditation challenging to begin with, but like any skill it just takes time. This is often to do with the feeling of expectation. When "nothing" happens, we lose some of our enthusiasm. We forget that it is not about making something happen, but simply being present for the exercise. Meditation isn't about trying to control or quiet the mind. It is about being at ease with your mind. My tips for beginners are to think, "same time, same place", to get into a good routine. If possible, don't meditate before bed. Do bring your attention back to your breathing if your mind wanders. Lastly, just don’t try to force it! Keeping this in mind will help you find your very own meditation routine and will make it easier. However, during my years of coaching and mediating myself, I figured out why my clients think, that they are not able to meditate or why mediation is not beneficial to them. The simple and honest answer is, people, do find excuses for themselves all the time!
Six common excuses and how to eliminate them!
So, I decided to tackle the six most common excuses and to give you some perspective, why everybody can mediate!
No. 1: “What’s the point, it is just a New Age fad?” One of the most common excuses I get is the explanation that meditation is just like any other trend. Well, you are wrong :)
It’s something that individuals have been practicing for thousands of years. Practicing meditation in search of peace, happiness, transformation, or to have more control over their lives.
The point of mediation is to gain control of our most precious tool: Our beautiful mind.
The state of our mind is the most crucial factor in determining our success and our happiness. A person can have “everything” and yet feel miserable, anxious, inadequate, or any of a host of negative internal states.
Conversely, a person can have very little and yet feel at peace and content in their mind. In athletic performance, business, career, and relationships, we see this again and again: no amount of skill or resources will bring us success and happiness if our mindset does not allow for success and happiness.
Meditation helps us master our mind by working on one of its key aspects: our attention. You can think of attention as a sort of “flashlight” of consciousness. Whatever we shine our attention beam on will be noticed and given a chance to grow. Whatever we withdraw our attention from is left in the dark and begins to wane.
By mastering our ability to put our attention on the things we want (and keeping it there), and removing our attention from anything that is negative or not serving us, we gain the ability to create what we want in our minds and in our lives. No. 2: "Meditation is too hard. I can’t calm my mind."
Another interesting reason why clients believe they are not able to meditate is because they feel like they can”t calm their minds (see my latest blog article). Unlike many other endeavors in life, the success of our meditation efforts depends entirely on our attitude. It doesn’t matter how much skill we have or how much we’ve practiced meditation; if we go into it without strong expectations or an attachment to rigid goals and “timeframes,” then meditation will be a success.
Meditation is not a thing – it’s a process. This process brings several benefits, but it is also its own benefit. The key is to learn to enjoy the process. Practice letting go of self-criticism, comparison, and expectations as soon as they arise. Once you figure out that meditation is not an achievement to collect, you’ll find that it’s not hard – nor is it easy – it’s simply an enjoyable and wholesome process.
Often people feel that meditation is hard because they believe they should be fighting their thoughts, or actively trying to empty the mind.
“The only thing we do in meditation is to consciously withdraw our attention from engaging with thoughts by focusing it on something else.”
There is no fight, no repressing, and no forcefulness about meditation. Fighting with thoughts will simply strengthen them and lead us to an agitated state. The only thing we do in meditation is to consciously withdraw our attention from engaging with thoughts, by focusing it on something else. With this gentle refocusing, the mind slowly calms down.
Meditation is simply the process of continuously regulating our attention. The emptying of the mind may happen as a result of that, but we should not be holding on to that expectation or working towards it as a goal.
We are not actively trying to “empty the mind,” but merely placing our attention on a single point, moment after moment. As a result, our consciousness gets stabilized, and we arrive at a calmer and more enlightened state.
When someone tells you they don’t meditate because it’s too hard, give them this mental exercise:
Imagine you are trying to get some work done, and suddenly some music starts playing next door. You can hear it clearly, but you can’t do anything about it, so you try to “stop hearing” it. The more you try to stop hearing it, the louder and more obnoxious it seems. However, if you make an effort to focus your mind on something else, you will eventually find that you forgot all about the music.
Don’t think about emptying the mind or making it quiet. Simply follow the meditation instructions and let everything else be.
Related to the “it’s too hard” response, some people believe that they need to have a quiet mind to meditate.
They’ll say, “My mind is too restless, there is no way I can meditate.” Does that reasoning ring any bells?
Yet, this is like saying that being fit is a requirement for going to the gym.
Having a “calm mind” is not a requirement for meditation. In fact, having a restless mind is even more reason to meditate!
Saying you need a quiet mind to meditate is like saying you need to be fit to go to the gym, or you need to be relaxed to go to the spa.
When you meditate for a while, you will realize that nobody has an inherently calm mind. Everybody can benefit from some meditation.
No.3 : "It takes too long to master." This is a very common one and a false excuse as well. Research shows that meditation results in significant physical and mental health benefits after as little as eight weeks of daily practice (Horowitz, 2010).
Of course you shouldn’t be comparing yourself to a Buddhist monk, which has been reaping the benefits of over 20,000 hours of meditation. Nevertheless it is a given fact, that mediation benefits every level from rookie to guru. If you want to attain enlightenment or achieve a fearless state beyond all suffering, then it will likely take a long time to reach your goal. However, if all you want is better health and a bit more peace and balance in your life, then here’s the good news: many people start experiencing these after a few weeks!
Let me repeat this: Everybody can meditate, you just have to set your goals for yourself and not stick to someone else’s routine.
So, if someone laments the long-term nature of meditation’s impact on your life, remind them that at least some of meditation’s many benefits are immediate, for the practice itself is the benefit.
You will find that you feel at least a little bit better after each meditation session – whether you feel more relaxed, more focused, more rested, or all three. And the even better news: this life-changing tool is free; all it costs is your attention. No. 4: "The classic. I don’t have time."
Honestly, this is the classic excuse for claiming not being someone that is made for meditating. If you are telling yourself that you don’t have time, let’s try a simple game: For a couple days right down when you are being “unproductive”, like when you are watching tv, looking at your smartphone or are focusing on any other screen. Just take 20% of that time for a meditation and you will still have enough time to look at funky social media posts. It is simply not about not being able to find the time and taking it as an excuse for why meditation is not for you. I met countless executives that haven’t missed mediating in years. It is about your mindset and your priorities. If meditation becomes a priority, you will find the time, trust me! And the funny thing is, most people feel that they even have more time when they meditate!
No.5: "Meditation is boring!"
If you expect meditating will be like bungee jumping, you will of course not achieve these exact same feelings. Meditation is not about being an adrenaline junkie and that is not a bad thing.
We, in modern society, think that everything is about fun. We can even get our entertainment on demand. And there is plenty of people, who want a little more peace and quiet in their lives and attract it by meditating.
They stick to it, because it is unlike any experience we get from our daily lives. Meditation is like a rare pleasure, that is not dependent on anyone else and is never repetitive.
It’s easily explained with a little brain chemistry:
Dopamine, our fun brain hormone, is released when we encounter fun and pleasurable things. The downside is that in order to keep this state of mind we need more and more activities.
However, research has shown that the dopamine produced by meditation does not suffer from the “down-regulation” of pleasure experienced in sex, food, money, etc. (Sharp, 2013). Unlike these other sources of pleasure, meditation is not only free and easy but gets better the more you do it. No. 6: "I am not spiritual, so I can’t meditate."
Last but not least, let’s dispel another rumor.
Clients believe that not being spiritual makes them worse meditators. Some might even be put off because they confuse meditation with spirituality and religion. Meditation is an ancient practice, and it was indeed created/discovered within religious contexts, to achieve spiritual goals; however, for most techniques – especially those prevalent in the West – there is nothing inherently religious about them. If you solely want to see it as a body-mind practice, there is nothing wrong and you are in good company. Many people practice it for the sole purpose of health and well-being. You can practice meditation without believing in something particular and if you do believe it- it will not conflict with your faith. Practicing meditation will not make you religious, just as stretching won’t make you a yogi. I can guarantee every skeptical beginner, that you don’t have to wear special clothes or follow a certain ritual. You don’t even have to include mantras, it is up to you. Some people include certain practices because it helps them prepare for meditation or deepen their practice. Everybody can meditate! I hope that tackling these excuses and clarifying to you, why they don’t hold up has clarified the question, whether meditation is for you. We all make excuses, but stop making them for meditating. You can meditate. It is about finding the right mindset and sticking to your routines. Like any other skill, you can’t master it, without putting effort into it and believing that you are capable of it.