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Whether you’re just learning to meditate or you’ve been practicing for years, there are a few common mistakes that are important for anyone to avoid. Meditation is like any other new skill or sport, it’s a discipline, and one you will only improve upon through active practice. It’s easy to see why more and more people are learning to meditate. Meditation lowers stress levels, improves concentration, increases self-awareness, increases happiness, benefits physical health, and even slows aging. And best of all this magical little boost is free and available to anyone, anywhere. So, now you’re interested? Let’s dive into some common meditation mistakes you can easily avoid to further your practice.
Being too hard on yourself. Love and compassion are at the core of meditation, especially when it comes to the way you treat yourself.
It may seem simple, but meditation is far from easy. Clearing your mind in this ever chaotic world that bombards us with advertisements and worries almost around the clock may seem next to impossible. Every time that you sit down to meditate, especially in the beginning, is going to look different. One day you may feel enlightened and “successful” while the next you feel it was a total waste of time. It’s easy to find self-blame here and get mad or frustrated. This will only push you further back. Try to remain compassionate and patient with yourself. After all, your mind has been through a lot today!
Being inconsistent. The best way to improve your practice is to incorporate it into your daily routine.
A common meditation mistake people make is to meditate at random times each day. You’ll quickly find that more times than not, the practice gets skipped for one reason or another. Consistency is key when learning to meditate. The easiest solution to this mistake is to make meditating a part of your daily routine. Whether it’s right when you wake up or as your day is winding down, find the right time for you to set aside 20 minutes a day. These 20 minutes of stillness may open you up to possibilities you never thought possible before. Meditation will quickly become second nature and forgetting to do so will leave you feeling as off balance as you do when you forget to brush your teeth in the morning!
Forgetting about the environment. Just as important as the meditation itself, is finding a space your comfortable in.
Equally as important to finding consistency in your practice, is finding consistency in the environment of your practice. Distractions are one of the biggest setbacks to meditation, as the goal is to clear your mind completely. If you try to meditate in your bedroom after dinner time with three screaming kids in your living room, you may find it difficult. Make meditation something to be excited about, a place you look forward to going both physically and mentally. Find a space where you can completely relax; whether it’s a small corner of your room with some candles or inspiring decorations, or a shady spot under a tree outside, find YOUR space. If you truly make a space your own, you will be more inclined to meditate there.
Setting expectations. Don’t expect changes overnight.
So you’ve heard all about meditation. Maybe you even took a class or attended a meditation retreat. Now remember it takes time, dedication, and will power. A common mistake people make is to expect immediate results. Just like any other practice, the power of meditation will come but with patience and practice. Setting expectations can be dangerous because it may encourage negativity if those expectations are not met. Everyone’s meditation experience is different, so don’t expect something of the unexpected.
Looking for perfection. Don’t seek perfection when it's not necessary.
In our everyday life we may strive for perfection, society says, “be better, be faster, be bigger.” When we meditate we take a step back from the craziness. There is no perfect, there is no good meditation or bad meditation. As meditation becomes more commercialized and “trendy,” it's a common mistake for people to search for this idea of nirvana. There is nothing to search for; you have everything you need already. So sit down, make intentions for your practice, practice, and there you have YOUR perfect meditation.
Preaching to others about your newfound hobby. It’s important to respect meditation as a personal process and an individual journey.
Regardless of whether or not meditation is changing your life, it’s changing YOUR life, not others' lives. Let it remain that way. Preaching may be the fastest way to do just the opposite of what you intend. The best way to let your friends and family know about meditation and how it’s changing your life is to quietly practice and bring awareness to your life. The changes around you will speak for themselves.
Comparing yourself to others.
Along the same lines as number six, comparing yourself to others is common mistake. You don’t have to look a certain way or live a particular life to meditate. The practice is available for all people, no matter where you are in your life. Find the practice that's right for you and only you. It’s a process, don’t rush it. If listening to music feels right, listen to music; if keeping your eyes open feels right, keep your eyes open. This means you certainly don’t have to be sitting in full lotus position. Sit in a chair or on a pillow! The most important thing is that you’re comfortable with a straight spine to allow the energy to flow freely.
Drifting into your thoughts.
Possibly one of the most difficult but important parts of meditation is to control your thoughts. Your mind may tell you otherwise, but there’s no need for a narrator in your head here. Allow yourself to sit with the stillness and become aware of the moment you are in. When thoughts enter your mind, which they inevitably will, don’t punish yourself. Recognize the thought, but don’t dive into it. Think of your thoughts like passing clouds in a bright blue sky. Don’t engage in them, but also respect them. For example, you suddenly remember the doctors appointment you forgot to schedule. Acknowledge this and then allow yourself to move on rather than diving into the “what if’s” or “oh no’s.” It’s completely normal to have thoughts bombarding your mind when you try to meditate, but the mistake people make here is allowing yourself to drift into them, rather than allowing the thoughts to drift out of you.
Meditation is a process, a loving, amazing, daring process. The possibilities and benefits of the practice are endless and it's something that can truly improve anyone’s well being. That being said, clearing your mind and engaging in stillness is not an easy task. Always find patience and compassion and remember that you will make mistakes like these and other common mistakes, but you will sit back down and try again.