The 4th of 4 Segments on the topic of “Why Meditate?”
Now that the case has been made for the paramount importance of meditation, I will attempt to address the resistance to practicing it consistently, and possible solutions.It is quite perplexing when you think about it. Why is this simple practice that yields infinite gains met with such a high degree of resistance? I can only speak from my personal experiences as a practitioner and coach; and even then, it’s impossible to give clear-cut answers, because a person’s reasons will come with their own set of nuances.
Nevertheless, shining a light on certain possibilities, with the intention of ushering more people to practice, is the inspiration behind this entire article. So, here we go!
As a coach, I have lost count of the number of people who have expressed that they know practicing meditation would be good for them. Their usual follow-up is a short list of reasons why they can’t do it. Some of them commit to a private class or show up at the workshop. Many times,I have witnessed that yes, they could really benefit from a qigong and meditation practice. I even see them transform from a bundle of agitated nervousness to a display of flowing calmness in one or two sessions. This always excites me, for I wish for everyone to find their Flow.
I’ve seen people, who would be deemed highly functional in today’s society, struggle immensely to allow their breath to flow in a slow rhythmic fashion. I also see them, and others, unable to facilitate flowy arm movements due to their inability to release tension. These observations inspire me to continue the work, because they reveal the necessity to practice more. Unfortunately, quite often, that translation does not pan out. Many attendees have quickly discontinued their practices.My assumption is because the level of discomfort in the beginning tends to outweigh the desire for change.
I find it very interesting that a lot of the people I work with are seemingly very committed to controlling almost every aspect of their environment, wherever they are, but display little to no commitment to developing control of their breath or their ability to relax their bodies. Ancient wisdom declares this way of functioning to be fundamentally at odds to a life of wellness.“We can never control what happens in the world outside us 100% of the time. But, we can and should 100% of the time control our inside world” …Sadhguru.
Commitment and priority“ I don’t understand why I still experience lulls in my practice.“That’s what I would tell myself when in the middle of a said lull. My usual excuses when the time came to practice,were:“I don’t have the time right now” –or I just don’t feel up to it.”However, I came to realize that the underlining reason was simply my lack of commitment.I decided twenty plus years ago to implement meditation into my life. I felt strongly that it was essential for my evolution. Since then, I’ve made a thousand decisions to not meditate. Although it happened subtly, after a few years, it became quite clear what the repercussions were for my choosing not to practice. I’m happy to state that as more time passes my lulls become shorter. It’s no surprise that this correlates with my increasing commitment.
The obvious lesson here is that making a choice and committing to that choice are two separate processes. I think if we are able to distinguish that separation, it can help bring clarity to our necessary steps moving forward. But before we choose our commitments, we must first establish a hierarchy of our priorities. Well-established priorities fuel specific habits and habits are the building blocks of our lives.
Since our lives are generally compartmentalized (work, home, relationships…etc.), setting priorities can be complex. For example, we may assign a priority order to the different life categories themselves, as well as sub-set priorities within each category. It’s assumed that a healthy balance across the board is the way to go, but finding that balance can be subjectively ambiguous. And since life is always in motion and unpredictable, priorities tend to become fluid. All these factors can make choosing clear-cut priorities quite challenging. However, putting in the time and effort it takes to set a strict priority order helps us live with self-fulfilling purpose, instead of defaulting to the demands of the day.
If you are unclear to what your present priorities are, just reflect on where or what you spend most of your energy on. Our lives are nothing more than a string of choices and we make thousands of them a day. Each action or non-action choice we make, triggers the Law of Cause and Effect one way or the other.
Continuing to explore other possibilities for the resistance, I’ve come up with a short list of what I feel are the most common issues:
2. Lack of patience
3. Fear of being vulnerable
Let’s address them individually.
Over-stimulation is the understatement of our times. We live in a very noisy world, inside and out. The hubbub of cities has dramatically increased and is spilling over to what used to be quiet suburbia. Our TVs are feeding our addiction to entertainment with a constant stream of fast-food programming romanticizing vileness, violence, and dysfunction. Political and media systems have consolidated to manufacture a constant climate of fear(my guess is to secure their power, and revenue). The modern ideology of success and achievement creates overwhelming anxiety for most people. On top of that, the technology made available to the masses over the past quarter century has mushroomed into a volcanic eruption of inter-cranial chatter. It appears that the main purpose of this new technology is to acquire every second of our attention, leaving no room for quiet contemplation.
It is easy to see the negative effects these components have on our ability to be comfortable with silence. Have you ever heard the term sedatephobia (fear of silence)? I hadn’t, until I read this article: https://themapsinstitute.com/how-30-minutes-of-stillness-can-improve-your-relationship-with-uncertainty-and-ease-your-stimulation-addiction/
Lack of patience is arguably an epidemic these days. It’s an obstacle in almost every process. The convenience phenomenon is getting a little ridiculous, in my opinion. If left to continue at this pace, it won’t be long before we will be able to sit on our backsides all day and receive everything we want or need without lifting a finger! Imagine the devastating physiological effects that will have on us.
But for now, it seems that speed equals happy.It’s conceivable that this way of life will certainly diminish our ability to persevere through long-term processes. This would be very unfortunate because all significant life achievements have a natural step-by-step process to them that, for the most part, cannot be fast-tracked. The speed of results is always directly correlated to the amount of time and effort put into it. The propensity to discontinue any path of development solely on the basis of the length of time it takes to unfold, is surely a self-sabotaging habit.
Fear of being vulnerable is a big one, with complex layers. I wasn’t tuned into it as an obstacle until I had a conversation with a client who was a professional cellist. At one point in her career, she taught musicians who needed to improve their skills. She made some interesting observations connecting anxiety to inferior performances. She even used biofeedback instruments to pinpoint the exact moment that their anxiousness interfered with their playing. As she was telling her stories, I found the similarities to coaching qigong and meditation fascinating. We both had the task of helping our students to relax in order to allow for Flow. She told me that biofeedback shows us that it is physically impossible to be anxious and relaxed at the same time. That piece of information deserves a respectable amount of pondering.
She began to feel that her student’s anxiousness was tied to some form of GAD or PTSD, and the music lessons became more like counseling sessions. This exchange was very eye-opening for me. I came to understand that this was the case with some of my attendees as well. It would explain the expression I often see on the faces of those who appear to struggle intensely to let go, and/or relinquish control. It is a look of fear; unshakable fear, coupled with anxiety — as though they are being forced to jump off a cliff into treacherous waters. However, all the while, we’re just moving our arms in a specific way, and synching the movement with breath.
Of course, we all get somewhat nervous when doing new things, especially with an audience. It doesn’t help that we tend to do the new things badly, at first. It often takes some time before we get better at it and the nervousness diminishes. But the fear I’m referring to is different; the insecurities being triggered are noticeably inordinate. Some people are able to break through it, but most simply refuse to totally let go. My guess is that the extent of past psychological trauma effects the level of the challenge., Research indicates that almost 20% of all American adults live with an anxiety disorder of some kind and some are unaware of how they are being affected by it. Fear of vulnerability, that’s rooted in trauma, can have a very powerful grip on a person. There are several processes one can engage with to loosen the grip, and eventually release it. Mindful meditation is one of those processes.
To purposely put oneself in a vulnerable position for a greater good takes enormous courage — Maybe the greatest courage there is. Any process that puts us eyeball to eyeball with our fears will be met with enormous resistance. Which brings us to the choice of a) succumbing to the resistance and continuing to live with the fear, limiting our potential for fulfillment or b)accepting the resistance as part of the process. The moment we accept and allow, the energy of the fear begins to change. Energy always chooses the path of least resistance, and the only way to get through it, is to go through it.
“Any change that is going to elevate you to a higher state will feel uncomfortable, and will require self-discipline…Accept and persevere.” …unknown.
The tangible results of practicing meditation are peace of mind and equanimity, improved clarity, focus and physical health, and increased intentional manifestations. I’d say that’s a pretty good return on investment.
The word meditation translates to…’becoming familiar with’. It is a process of becoming familiar with our old self and developing the awareness of who, and what we really are.
Our brain is wired to resist ANY change and will prompt us to stay as is. Therefore, we should question EVERYTHING we think and feel. We are not our thoughts or our feelings, they are our guidance system. Essentially, we are ‘The Observer’- purely conscious awareness.
I’d like to leave you with an excerpt from Sharon Salzberg’s book, “Real Happiness”.
WHAT MEDITATION ISN’T
IT ISN’T A RELIGION. You don’t have to be Buddhist or Hindu; you can meditate and still practice your own religion or no religion at all.
IT DOESN’T REQUIRE SPECIAL SKILLS OR BACKGROUND.Meditation isn’t only for certain talented or already serene people. You don’t have to be an ace at sitting still; you don’t have to wait until you’re un-crazed and decaffeinated. You don’t need to study anything before you begin. You can start right now. If you can breathe, you can meditate.
IT DOESN’T DEMAND A HUGE CHUNK OF YOUR TIME EVERY DAY.You can start with five minute sessions and work your way up. You’ll probably want to lengthen your practice sessions, because you’re going to like the sense of well-being they generate but, you don’t have to. Establishing a regular practice, whatever the length of the session, is more important than striving to devoting hours a day.
IT DOESN’T ELIMINATE SADNESS OR ROUGH PATCHES FROM YOUR LIFE.You’re still going to have ups and downs, happiness and sadness. But you’ll be able to roll with the punches more and feel less defeated, because meditation teaches us new ways of coping with difficulties.
IT ISN’T AN ATTEMPT TO STOP THINKING OR INSIST ON ONLY POSITIVE THOUGHTS.That’s not humanly possible. Meditation is a way to recognize our thoughts, to observe and understand them, and relate to them more skillfully.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO RENOUNCE YOUR OPINIONS, GOALS, OR PASSIONS; YOU DON’T HAVE TO SHUN FUN. Adding meditation to our lives doesn’t mean withdrawing from the real world of relationships, responsibilities, careers, politics, hobbies, celebrations. In fact, it frees us up to be more engaged with the things that interest us, often in a healthier way.
IT’S NOT NAVEL GAZING. Meditation isn’t self-indulgent or self- centered. Yes, you’ll learn about yourself-but it’s knowledge that will help you better understand and connect with people in your life. Tuning in to yourself is the first step towards tuning in to others.