Why does meditation stress me out?
5 WAYS TO START A MEDITATION PRACTICE
WITHOUT THE STRESS
Ever sat down to “meditate” only to find yourself more stressed at the end of class than when you began? There is so much hype around “meditation” and “mindfulness” now days that it’s easy to feel like it’s a bit of a competition. It can almost feel like a “Keeping up with the Jones” kind of situation. If you aren’t meditating, if you aren’t blissed out and zen, then you are clearly behind the ball! No wonder you are feeling stressed! Read on to find out 5 ways to start a meditation practice without the stress.
My first experience of “meditation” in my early twenties was exactly that. Wanting to find more peace in my life, I tried a meditation class. For the hour class I sat in a state of anger and frustration. I was itchy, I was hungry, I was fidgety, I was frustrated with the stranger next to me because they didn’t seem to be struggling – I absolutely hated it. I vowed I would I never try it again, simply, meditation was not for me.
Now, 10 years later, as a meditation and yoga teacher, I like to emphasise the word ‘practice’. Meditation is a ‘practice’. Like any other ‘practice’, meditation takes time and isn’t always comfortable. Whenever you sit to practice meditation you are essentially sitting with yourself and your thoughts. So if you are stressed out and your mind is running at 150%, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath is not likely to stop these stressed out systems. In fact, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath in this state will more likely illuminate how stressed you are and stress you even more! So what is the solution? Give up and let our mental chatter and stress rule us, or begin our meditation journey another way.
Now if you are new to meditation, it’s gonna take some time to get used to. Unless you are on a holiday with zero work, responsibilities or conflicts in your life, you are most likely going to find some struggle in meditation. Yet there are so many other ways to ease into a meditation practice.
1. Start with a physical practice
A physical practice of yoga is a wonderful way to start slowing down the stream of thoughts in your mind. As you turn your awareness in towards your body, you become aware of your thought patterns. I love to practice and teach in a yoga flow style where each breath is connected to a different movement so your awareness rests upon your breathe rather than thoughts. Generally I find after a physical practice my mind is a lot calmer and I can enter into more meditative states. Try out some free yoga classes here at omunay.com
3. Take a guided meditation
Meditation is a tough gig. It is so easy to get distracted. Starting with some guided meditations will not only help you to focus your mind but it will give you different meditation techniques that you can eventually do by yourself, anytime, anywhere. Try out some different guided meditations at omunay.com or participate in an event like those being held around the globe this Sat 21st September for International Day of Peace
2. Get Comfy
If you are going to sit and meditate, take the time to find a comfortable seat or lying position. If you are uncomfortable from the get go, guess where your thoughts are going to go to? And if you are in the middle of a meditation and you become uncomfortable, take the pressure off and just move into a more comfortable position. You do not need to be a martyr. Give yourself the best opportunity to enjoy the meditation
4. Use an Anchor
When we meditate, we usually use an anchor, something we can concentrate on. It is usually the breath, sound, a guiding voice, mantra etc. Thoughts will generally keep coming but essentially what we are practicing is slowing down the amount of thoughts that come through. We might even intercept these thoughts by coming back to the anchor before the thought is fully developed.
So although you may not become thoughtless or enter into some sort of state of bliss you are practicing connecting to the breath and slowing down, detouring or even changing these thoughts. This is usually the difference between “mindfulness” and “meditation”. When we are concentrating and placing our awareness on something we are being “mindful” and this helps to lead us into “meditation” where the flow of thoughts actually do cease and concepts such as time and space lose their meaning.
5. Let Go of Judgement
As you practice meditation you will become more aware of your breath and thoughts. Let go of the urge to judge how you breathe and how you think. Instead, trust that your natural breath is good enough (it’s kept you alive without much thought before). Our mind is just trying to comprehend the world around us but this doesn’t mean we have to listen to it all the time. Hear it, acknowledge it and then let the thought go.
Like most of us we have been fed ideas through our consumerist culture that states of bliss, happiness, peace etc can be achieved through external sources and with minimal effort. Buy X and you will be happy! Unfortunately I feel meditation, this ancient and wise ‘practice’, has been turned into such a commodity and therefore there is some sort of misconception that meditation is easy. No wonder so many people, curious to know what all the hype is about, attend a meditation class, have a terrible experience and never go back.
I have experienced first hand the power of meditation. From anxiety and depression, I have found tools to help me navigate tumultuous times. Having a meditation practice has made me more peaceful, courageous, resilient and open-minded, and it continues to work its magic. Yet this has taken time and struggle and is a continuous journey. In the words of my first meditation teacher “it won’t happen overnight but it will happen” (or maybe that was a Pantene ad, I’m not quite sure).