So you’ve read as much as you need about meditation and have decided to make your entry into it.
You have already gotten enough information about the type of meditation you will be immersing yourself in and have learned how to do it theoretically, and what to expect from it.
Now you are ready to build the habit of meditation in your life so that you get to reap the benefits that the meditation style you chose has to offer.
But now your biggest trouble is trying to get the best way to make meditation a daily habit for you, right?
Well, this is a piece you want to read if you want to make your life fairly easy and be well-prepared for what is going to come as you do that.
I will be sharing what my meditation journey has been like in terms of habit building, the challenges along the way, the 2 biggest challenges of them all, and how to get through that and succeed.
What My Meditation Journey Has Been Like Thus Far
Before anything else, I would like to point out that meditation is a very personal experience for every person who meditates.
We don’t always have exactly the same goal in mind and we end up getting into different types of meditation and therefore bound to have different experiences as well.
People take up the practice for various reasons and they have different things that motivate them to keep going, so my journey, which includes how I started, how I have been working with it, and how it makes me feel, might be entirely different from someone else’s.
And this is okay and should be that way since we are different from others and there are many aspects about the meditation that differs with every meditator.
That being the case, I will be talking about my experience and what I have also found to be fairly similar with others who meditate in the way I do, which might help you in a way or two with making your practice a regular thing.
1. My beginning phase of establishing the meditation habit
I began doing meditation to raise my level of awareness. When I came to know about mindfulness and what it does, I became hooked completely.
In the first few weeks of learning more about it and trying to understand it and how it can make my life better, I was excited and inspired by it.
The more I learned about it, the more I felt it was exactly what I was looking for in my life.
Hearing mindfulness meditation teachers and figures like Jiddu Krishnamurti, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Andy Puddicombe of Headspace, who I respect, talk about some experiences about mindfulness that I could relate with was fascinating and it cemented the fact that this meditation style was made for me.
After getting myself acquainted with the theory part of the practice, it was now time to start practicing it and make it work in my life.
I got some guided mindfulness meditation resources to help me through the first few weeks so that I would then do it by myself when I had mastered how it is done from beginning to end.
This is something I recommend doing for beginners who don’t want to spend a lot of time learning how the practice is done and want to learn as they have a feel of it all at once.
My first day of meditating was very satisfying and fulfilling.
I got to have a new experience that I had long waited for and which I was very certain was the beginning of a better life.
I still remember my first day of meditation like it was yesterday.
It was like an explosion of this calming yet wakeful effect that was quite profound, which make you feel like you are just where you need to be.
The second day was the same although I felt it at a lesser degree.
On the third day, the inspiration was higher than the second day and I felt almost like I did on the first day.
2. The intermediate phase
After a week, the inspiration was there but a bit diluted.
I could still feel that mindfulness meditation was the right meditation style for me but the way I had been doing it for the last few days didn’t seem mesmerizing as before.
And this is where reality sets in.
My natural state, that is, who I was before meditation, slowly took over the new feeling that meditation had brought to my life and the daily worries started getting in my way.
Although not to a huge extent, I could still feel like I was on to something great and my level of peace and calmness was getting deeper but immediately after the session was over, my worries and anxiety would come crawling right back and cover all the good stuff I had gained from my session.
In my first few days of meditation, this was not the case.
I could meditate and carry the meditative feeling and effect with me a few hours after the session.
This got me worried and I thought I wasn’t doing it right.
So I went back to researching and found out that this is part of the process and growth with meditation.
So I kept on doing it.
As weeks went by, I noticed that I would sometimes sleep halfway through the session or have my mind wander away completely to various areas of my life such as the tasks waiting for me, people I am planning to meet or have already met who got me thinking about other things.
Also, there were times I would finish my meditation session full of energy to tackle the rest of the day, and other times, I just felt like I had come out of a long tiring task and needed to rest.
Needless to say, I had one hell of a roller coaster during this period.
3. The advanced phase
After some months of meditation, thoughts of giving it up were starting to populate my mind.
Things weren’t going as I expected and the inspiring touch of the practice would only come to me once in a while.
I questioned the essence of meditation and really considered dropping it.
However, after some deep thought and consideration one evening, I decided I would first combine doing meditation with watching videos, listening to podcasts, and reading resources about meditation so I would still be in the meditation loop.
I thought this would help me keep going.
And fortunately, it did.
But not in the way I thought.
As I was making use of meditation resources, I stumbled upon a piece that talked about holding the purpose of meditation always in your mind as you go to meditate.
It said that when you go to your daily sessions, you should first remember why you are doing it and what you hope to get from the exercise.
The meditation expert who had been featured in this peace said that doing that would help increase the value you get out of your sessions.
And this was true.
The first time I did that, I got almost the same effect I had gotten on my very first day of meditation.
I thought this was a one-time thing, but it persisted.
Every time I meditated using that strategy, I would soak myself deeply into the session and would have an effect when I was done.
The effect was and still isn’t standard across all sessions but it is there in varying degrees that are noticeable.
From then, I am always excited and anticipating meditation.
List of Challenges You Face Through These Phases
As you are aiming to meditate on a daily basis, there are always hurdles you have to overcome. Some roadblocks are there to make you want to keep doing the things you are used to as opposed to meditating, which only makes your life worse.
And these are the challenges you have to deal with so that you can remain disciplined enough to meditate every day and get value out of each session.
Based on my personal experiences as well as what many people who meditate have reported, these are some of the common challenges you face as you try to establish the habit of meditation:
1. Mind wandering – All of us have many things in our lives that we are always thinking about. Work and finance, family, personal life, happiness, health, and many other thoughts are always rising in our minds.
This is normal as we have all these areas which we need to keep in mind and make sure they are running well for the sake of being peaceful.
However, when you go to meditate, the idea is to try to minimize these thoughts so that your attention is entirely on the practice and what you are required to do.
This is often hard, especially in your beginning phase.
You have probably never had to need to reduce your thoughts to do anything. Having to do that for the first time means to go against the natural human tendency, which is a real struggle.
When you begin your meditation session and you are about a minute deep, some crucial thoughts start coming up and you are tempted to pursue them and figure something you have been planning to for a long time.
If you do, you end up drifting off and wasting time instead of meditating.
However, if you decide not to explore your thoughts, you remain on the right path for another few minutes or seconds and another thought arises.
This is often the cycle of thought during meditation.
2. Sleeping – This is a common occurrence for people who meditate when they are exhausted or those who meditate in their beds having covered three-quarters of their body.
Also, people who meditate when they have overfed as well as the beginners who choose to meditate for long hours and are not used to it, tend to fall asleep often during meditation.
Personally speaking, there is no worse feeling for me than getting into my meditation session, and then drift off to sleep only to wake up 30 minutes later and realize I never got beyond the first two minutes of my session.
I am more of a perfectionist and this really bothers me.
While there are many reasons people sleep through their sessions or appear to sleep when meditating, it is important to avoid sleeping during meditation.
3. Being overstimulated – There are times when you sit down to meditate and feel supercharged with energy that seems to be overwhelming you instead of empowering you.
This is a weird feeling that can be quite uncomfortable but it is part of the process.
Have you ever gone to work on something and decided to first watch a couple of motivational videos on YouTube or listen to motivational podcasts to get you all geared up for the task and then you ended to listen to more of that than you actually should have?
There is a feeling of energy that boils up in your body and also kind of makes your mind foggy.
I remember there was a time I listened to more than 3 videos from Ben Lionel Scott, my favorite YouTube creator of inspirational videos, before getting to work and it was a very unpleasant feeling.
You feel like you have the physical energy to work but your mind seems a little bit beyond you.
In the same way, there are times when meditation can make you feel very awake with a level of wakefulness that is slightly above optimal.
4. Feeling low while or after meditating – Contrary to the previous point, meditation can also make you feel super low in terms of moods and energy. After completing your session, you feel like you don’t want to do anything else.
I’ve happened to experience this feeling once and by accident, I slept even before I had completed the session.
Surprisingly enough, I woke up feeling very refreshed. (although I did sleep for a couple of hours)
5. Doubting the practice is actually helping you – This challenge normally happens within the first few weeks of beginning meditation, when your sessions take a nosedive and you no longer feel inspired and deeply moved by any of them.
This also happens when you lose sight of the bigger picture of meditation and start feeling like meditation is becoming a tedious task for you than it is helpful.
However, there are also times you start doubting the practice when you learn something new about it that you didn’t know before that changes your whole perspective on it.
And when you get in this position one day, where you discover that the meditation style you are doing has something about it that you didn’t know and which could affect your life in a way, it is better to listen to that doubt and take your time before continuing.
Other than that, you should not really pay attention to the doubts.
6. Restlessness – If you find it hard to stay in one place in the same position for a long time, there is a chance you are going to have a difficult time with seated forms of meditation.
Unless you choose to become decisive about directing and maintaining your attention on the practice you are going to keep moving about as you meditate.
You will want to move your leg to another position on the ground or your whole body. This is common as you commence your sessions but it fades away with time.
7. Feeling lazy – You normally start feeling lazy about meditation around the second phase. This is when the reality of the practice has hit you.
The fact that you have to balance your life and what it demands of you with having to take time off to meditate.
Generally, people are opposed to change mostly if they are used to a certain daily routine. Accommodating meditation seems like the right thing to do for your health and well-being but your body won’t always be happy about doing it.
My 2 Biggest Meditation Challenges
The challenges I have mentioned above are somewhat a big deal but there are 2 others that really stuck through and gave me a headache as far building the meditation habit is concerned.
These are consistency and purpose.
Starting with consistency, we have been told that it takes about 21 days to build a habit.
So this means you have to meditate for 3 weeks straight to make it stick.
This, on the hearing, might seem very achievable but it is actually harder than it appears.
If you are someone who has a lot going on in their life, you would attest to it.
Say you have work, a family to take care of, and also evening classes you are taking to advance your career.
You wake up early in the morning, prepare and go to work, and then in the evening go to college or university to study. After that, you go home and find your spouse and children waiting for you to tell you how their day was and help around the house.
You may also have some work you have to finish up, some studying and maybe some assignments too.
Before you know it, it is already bedtime and you have to wake up early in the morning.
You may be able to do meditation for the first week and a few days of the second week, but more often than not, life always has a way of making you slip up on meditating a day or two before the 3 weeks are over.
It literally took months before I could do meditation daily for 21 days without skipping a day.
This required a lot of discipline, sacrifice, and a couple of days of waking up late for work.
The second biggest challenge is always remembering and being aligned to the purpose of meditation whenever you are meditating.
This challenge is closely linked with the mind wandering, and feeling like meditation is a tedious task.
See, when you are used to meditating every day, it becomes a natural thing for you.
At a given time of the day, you have to spare some time to meditate.
And if you are from a challenging task or had to pause it to meditate and then get back to it, you can easily lose sight of the essence of the practice.
You might find yourself wanting to meditate faster so that you can go finish up on the remaining work and rest or sleep thereafter.
You might also find yourself getting carried away by the thought of something related to what you were doing before meditation or what you are going to do afterward, and waste the entire meditation session thinking about it.
These are some of the things that make you divert from the main reason you are meditating.
They are normal for us human beings but we should not allow them to destroy the meaning of this valuable practice in our lives.
The 2 challenges I have mentioned can make it hard for you to create and maintain a meditation habit that is designed to constantly improve the quality of your life.
How to Overcome All The Challenges
When it comes to working your way around the challenges I mentioned, there are many ways to go with.
Here are my personal techniques to handle these problems and get to remain really dedicated to meditation:
– For mind wandering. Consistently direct focus on your practice. When you notice you have chased a thought and you have diverted, take a mental note and say mentally, “that was a thought” and then redirect your focus to the practice. Do it every time a thought, feeling, or sensation comes up and gradually you will be able to detect them and let them go without getting soaked in by them.
Also, try to aim to have a mind that is free of thoughts by training yourself outside of meditation to not think about anything when you are resting. For example, what I do is, after work, I take about 20 minutes to think about the different needing aspects of my life and then another 10 minutes where I try to keep my mind free of thoughts.
You do that by being aware of thoughts while having the intention of not thinking about anything. Just simply remain aware of the present moment without processing what you are seeing or hearing. This is a good relaxation method too.
– For sleeping. Try to get enough sleep before you meditate. And when you decide to meditate when you are exhausted which could also make you sleep, have a section of your meditation when you are seated, and when you feel sleepy, stand up and try to do it while standing or when walking, but make sure you do it in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
– For being overstimulated or feeling low. Just keep doing the practice to the end. When you are done, take some time off. Take a long walk, sleep or do anything that is not related to meditation for a long time after that. This will bring you back to balance.
– Doubting the value of the practice for you. If you got to know the practice well enough before you got started with it and you were able to determine it is what you were looking for, then you should just keep going. It may be a phase and it will go away in good time.
However, if you do it for more than 3 months and you are giving your all and still feel it is not helping you, try to consult a meditation expert for the style you are working with, and ask for their advice. You can also join meditation communities, social media pages, or go to the official website that is known for that meditation style and use the Contact page.
If you realize something crucial about the practice that changes your whole perspective on it and feels it is not in line with your goals, you should take time to consider if you want to keep doing it, consult with other people and then make the final decision.
– For restlessness. This is all about giving your meditation sessions your full attention and being aware of restlessness. If you do that as you meditate, the restlessness will eventually go away.
– For feeling lazy. Whenever the lazy feeling overwhelms you when it is time for meditation, remember why you started meditation and what you hope to get from it. Then be aware of the feeling of laziness and go meditate despite that feeling. It goes away when you begin to meditate.
Try it and see.
– For consistency. This may prove to be tricky if you have a hectic schedule. However, you can try to meditate during your breaks. If you have a tea or lunch break, you can have your tea or lunch quickly, and meditate for a few minutes before going back to work.
If that’s impossible, when you are done working or before you even begin work in the morning, do your meditation. If all things don’t work, any time you get during the day or night, use it to meditate. The time may not be set every day but ensure you have done your practice every day.
If you are doing awareness meditation or focused attention meditation, you can aim to be aware throughout the day or keep directing and maintaining your focus where you want it to be. You could even be aware of your breath if you are doing another form of meditation that works with the breath. This goes a long way too.
– For forgetting the purpose. Surround yourself with meditation energy by reading meditation books, watching meditation talks by respected meditation figures, listening to podcasts, reading meditation websites, attending meditation webinars, and any other activity that constantly reminds you of meditation and its essence.
Most important, remember why you are meditating before you get into your session, and as you meditate try to do each step required as part of the meditation style with all your heart. You can even create your meditation blog and be blogging about it in your spare time. That’s part of the reason I launched a meditation blog and it has really helped me stay on track.
Ideally, you are bound to experience many hardships while aiming to create a meditation lifestyle. All days won’t be the same.
You will be filled with motivation to keep meditating on some days and feel super disappointed by others. That is the nature of this practice as well as life.
But the most important thing is not to take your eyes off your meditation goals and don’t stop chasing them.