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Why so many people drop out of meditation?

What support may be required for this discipline?

Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

With the rising levels of education, exposure and entrepreneurship, the world today has far more number of people showing interest in meditation. This is a big contrast from the past when the subject was restricted either to the limited community of monks or a few self-motivated householders.

Instead, now the world is trying to see meditation as a means of restoring your mental health, seeking relief from stress, to detox and improving emotional robustness as well.

Still, when it comes to meditation, the drop-out rate too would be significant; thus while more people are learning meditation by joining good schools or the best retreats and such places, yet a big number among them also find that sustaining the practice is a difficult thing. Why does this happen? And what simple measure can stop that? This is what we discuss in this narration.

Let’s begin this discussion by drawing a few parallels so we may understand the things in perspective:

> How do you recover from a fracture? Of course, you go to an orthopaedic, get the stuff plastered and then come to a physiotherapist. Now this physio works with you through specific exercises to help you resume your natural movement, while the bone heals in the backdrop.

> Who do you need to be a good tennis player? Thus, after your basic training, you get yourself a practice coach who can make you run around the court for hours. Plus you may find yourself a wall, to keep banging the ball until you learn to place it the way it should be on the court.

> What makes you learn mathematics? Definitely, your teacher or tutor explains you the concept and then you get yourself a book containing umpteen unsolved problems or sums. Now you get cracking on them one after another, taking support from the tutor for the ones which may get you stuck. Further, as you practice more, you are able to solve most.

Thus whether you are making a recovery or learning a new skill or trying to gain expertise in something; in every scenario you need some guiding support; something which can help you in the most practical way through your initial stages of evolution.

Now think, what may be your support system for gaining proficiency in meditation?

Most people learn meditation through short courses offered by some training facility and thereafter presume that they shall be able to maintain their practice all by themselves and this is where the discipline slips out of hand.

Meditation means control of mind, which by itself is an extremely challenging thing. Even the ancient scriptures like Bhagwad Gita accept that the mind being fickle is free-flowing like wind. Hence everywhere it is recommended adopting specific measures for this work. (Chapter 6 – The yoga of meditation, verse 33-36).

Further, the interruptions in the regular practice of meditation come mostly out of a combination of following 3 reasons, which are all relatively complex in themselves, namely:

1. Confusions related to the basic science of meditation itself. Hence, questions like:

  • Where is this taking me, actually?
  • Is anything worthwhile really happening?
  • How long would it be before I see some enlightenment? Etc.

2. Disturbances from the surroundings, thus issues like:

  • That sitting posture isn’t comfortable; the body starts paining.
  • Where is the time; I can’t quit my job or family for doing this!
  • This is not possible at home; will do, when travel to retreat. Etc.

3. Hidden fears and subvert currents that rise from within. Thus challenges like:

  • Latent fears rising from your own sub-conscious mind.
  • Behavioural tendencies like anger, frustration and restlessness.
  • Poor habits and surprise gifts like unwanted sexual thoughts, etc.

To handle these issues and be guided in the proper manner every seeker would need a reliable and regular support. Thus while some things you may be able to solve by reading from the books, further others, by listening to the experts; nevertheless, eventually, you shall have to have one person to guide you in person.

Conceptually, this person should be able to help you in 3 ways:

  1. Like a physiotherapist, when you may be struggling to recover your movement;
  2. Similar to a tennis coach, who will keep returning the ball for you to practice as much;
  3. And as a mathematics tutor, explaining the core concepts when you get stuck or as required.

Thus a meditation companion who has been in the discipline for significantly long number of years; basically, it should be a person who must have seen the complete life-cycle of meditation.

Once you have this person in place, it’s unlikely that you shall fall off the radar in this discipline.

Please note: This person may or may not be a full-fledged guru or teacher, still someone who can be looked up to with trust and reverence.

25 years ago when I first learned meditation, I had no support by myself. Thus, not surprisingly, I fell off the hook within a short time. Yet, because I would keep thinking about meditation often, possibly hence some years later, I met my revered teacher and thereafter there was no looking back ever.

Somehow, I was always inspired to do my best, despite the various limitations and now I have come to a level, where I am able to guide others as well, having comprehended the challenges and identifying feasible methods. This is how things move in this discipline.

Plus now I have friends who stay in touch with me on a regular basis and accordingly they have advanced in the discipline, while overcoming their prevailing hindrances and obstacles. 

Thus I have seen the efficiency of this mechanism from both the perspectives.

The Sanskrit term for this phenomenon is called satsang. In simple English it means company of the noble. This is the most elementary requirement for long term success in this discipline.

This requirement would otherwise be very similar to making the ground ready for sowing a seed or the sapling. Thus, just like you don’t put a seed or sapling in middle of a rocky terrain, instead you put it is the best soil even when contained in a small flower pot, likewise, you must create a fertile social and mental ground for yourself to sustain your practice of meditation and this is done via satsang.

Further, for the purpose of meditation, this satsang has to be achieved at the two levels:

1. Externally, through the company of meditation companion/s.

2. Internally, by cleaning the mental space with thoughts which are naturally peaceful.

So, while today we talked of this simple way of finding external-satsang, in the previous discussion last week, we had spoken about internal-satsang.

If you recall, there we had gone listening to the birds for achieving our meditative experience – that was an easy and effective method for cleaning your thoughts, so that the mind may feel relaxed and refreshed.

Both these types of satsang have to be practised in tandem. Once done even with a little diligence, there shall be no failure in meditative advancement.

Meditation isn’t about doing too many complex things in the name of practice. Instead it is about doing a few simple things that create the right momentum. 

Moreover meditation is a self-propelling mechanism. Eventually, it takes you towards your own peacefulness. Yet, at the initial levels it will demand some structured support and this truth must always be remembered by every seeker, if they want to be successful in this discipline.

To be continued…

Next week: The life-cycle of meditation… And who shall eventually stay in this discipline…

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