5 answers to the most common fears about meditation

1. I don’t have time and I don’t know how

Meditation does not take much time. Even short periods of meditation can be transformative. Just 5 minutes a day can produce noticeable results, including reduced stress and improved focus, says meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg.

Start by taking some time out to meditate each day. Sit comfortably in a quiet place, on the floor, on cushions or in a chair, with a straight back, but without straining or overexerting yourself. Lie down if you need to, you don’t have to sit down. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, feeling the air enter your nostrils, fill your chest and belly, and be released. Then focus on your natural breathing rhythm. If your mind wanders, don’t worry. Notice what caught your attention, then let go of those thoughts or feelings and bring awareness back to your breath. If you do this every day for a certain period, you will eventually be able to regain awareness in any situation.

2. I’m afraid to be alone with my thoughts.

Meditation can free you from the thoughts you are trying to avoid.

Jack Kornfield, author and teacher, writes in his book, “Unhealthy thoughts can trap us in the past. However, we can change our destructive thoughts in the present. Through mindfulness training, we can recognize bad habits in them that we learned a long time ago. Then we can take the next critical step. We may find that these intrusive thoughts hide our grief, insecurities, and loneliness. As we gradually learn to tolerate these core experiences, we can lessen their pull. Fear can transform into presence and excitement. Confusion can generate interest. Uncertainty can be a gateway to wonder. And unworthiness can lead us to dignity.”

3. I’m doing it wrong

There is no “correct” way.

Kabat-Zinn wisely wrote in his book: “In fact, there is no one right way to practice. It is best to meet every moment with fresh eyes. We look deep into it and then let go in the next moment without holding on to it. There is much to see and understand along the way. It’s best to respect your own experience and not worry too much about how you should feel, see, or think about it. If you practice that kind of trust in the face of uncertainty and a strong habit of wanting some authority to notice your experience and bless you, you will find that something real, important, something deep in our nature is really happening at this moment.”

4. My mind is too distracted, nothing will work out.

Let go of all preconceived notions and expectations.

Expectations lead to emotions that act as blocks and distractions, so try not to have them, says author Fadel Zeidan, assistant professor of anesthesiology at UCSD, who is famous for his research on meditation: “Don’t expect bliss. Don’t even expect to get better. Just say, “I’ll spend the next 5-20 minutes meditating.” During meditation, when feelings of annoyance, boredom, or even happiness arise, let them go, because they distract you from the present moment. You become attached to that emotional feeling, whether it is positive or negative. The idea is to remain neutral, objective.”

Just go back to the changing sensations of the breath and realize that being aware of your busy mind is part of the practice.

5. I don’t have enough discipline

Make meditation a part of your daily routine, such as showering or brushing your teeth.

Once you make time for meditation (see “I don’t have time”), you still have to overcome erroneous assumptions and unrealistic expectations about practice, self-esteem, and, as with exercise, the tendency to stop meditating. To hone the discipline, Dr. Madhav Goyal, known for his meditation program, says to try to put meditation on par with showering or eating: “We all don’t have much time. Give meditation a high priority to be done daily. However, life situations sometimes get in the way. When skips of a week or more occur, make an effort to continue meditating regularly thereafter. Meditating may or may not be more difficult for the first few days. Just as you don’t expect to run 10 miles after a long break from running, don’t come into meditation with expectations.”

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