I felt like a meditation fraud for years. As a yoga teacher, meditation is practically in my job description. Only problem was, I had an extreme aversion to sitting still. Every time I sat down and closed my eyes, my thoughts would begin spinning in a million different directions. I would squeeze my eyes shut even tighter, convinced this would somehow magically silence the voice in my head. When this inevitably failed, I would beat myself up for not being "good" at meditation.
I used all of the excuses in the book to avoid meditation, until life intervened. Years of trauma chipped away at my emotional resiliency and I began having debilitating panic attacks and crippling anxiety. The anxiety got so bad that I was afraid to drive my car, go to the grocery store or get on an airplane. The official diagnosis was Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia. Determined to avoid anti-anxiety meds, I turned to meditation as a natural cure. There were other powerful natural tools I used along the way (including changing my diet and getting in ample exercise), but meditation was one of the simplest and most effective practices that offered the most profound results. My panic attacks disappeared, my emotional resiliency strengthened and I was able to find the space between response and reaction.
The 8 Most Common Excuses Not to Meditate:
I don’t have time. If you have time to look at Facebook or Instagram for more than five minutes a day, you have time to meditate. Start small and build from there.
It’s not a priority. Is stress reduction and lowering your blood pressure a priority? Is boosting your immune system a priority? Is helping to alleviate anxiety and depression a priority? Is happiness and contentment a priority? Is fostering more loving and compassionate relationships with yourself and the people around you a priority? If you answered yes to any of the above, meditation should be at the top of your priority list.
It’s too hard. Yes, meditation takes consistent practice and discipline, but so does anything of value. A simple trick is to focus on the breath. On each inhalation, mentally repeat the word In. On each exhalation, mentally repeat the word Out. You can also try a simple concentration exercise of counting the breath. Deeply inhale. At the bottom of your exhalation, mentally count one. Take another full inhalation. At the bottom of your next exhalation, mentally count two. Continue counting your breath all the way up to ten. Then start again from one.
There are too many distractions. This is an excuse I hear all the time. And I understand that it can certainly be challenging to create quiet space when your kids are pulling at you, your dogs are barking, and any number of other reasons that get in the way. But you don't need long. Even 5 minutes is enough. Life is distracting. Meditation helps you deal with those distractions in a healthier, less reactive, more productive way.
I can’t turn off my thoughts. Neither can I. The goal is not to stop your thoughts. The mind is wired to wander. Cultivating a meditation practice is about observing when the mind wanders off, and catching yourself, before it wanders too far. The simple act of observing the fluctuations of the mind anchors you back into the present moment.
I can’t sit still. Do you do that heavy breathing, not moving for 6-8 hours every night, wake up with a pillowcase imprint on your face, thing? You know, sleep? Then your body innately knows how to be still. If you find it hard to sit still, cut yourself a little slack and try meditating lying down. The worst that’s going to happen, is you’ll fall asleep.
I’m not a religious or spiritual person. You don’t have to be religious or spiritual to meditate. You don't have to chant or speak in sanskrit. Meditation is a science backed-practice that has been shown to significantly alleviate anxiety and be effective in treating depression and physical pain, no dogma attached.
There aren’t any meditation teachers or classes nearby. While there is great value in learning to meditate from a trained teacher, it is certainly not a requirement. The beautiful thing about meditation is that it can be easily learned on your own at home. Pick up a meditation book to kickstart your practice. Or find a guided meditation online. You can also check out apps like Headspace or Insight Timer, which offer free guided meditations and instructions for beginners.