The No-Excuses Guide to Meditation — Calm Blog
Most meditation teachers, especially the polite and reassuring ones, will tell you there’s no such thing as a badmeditator. Distraction is in our DNA, they say. “We’re all trying to tame our monkey mind.” That’s a nice, welcoming sentiment for fairweather students like me.
It just isn’t a true one.
The reason I’m a bad meditator, as I see it, is because I don’t really meditate. I think about meditation, and I talk about meditation. I even download meditation apps, and give them valuable real estate on my homescreen. But I rarely get around to actually meditating.
That’s not to say I’ve never practiced at all. Every so often, the stars and planets will align, and I’ll find myself in a mindful groove that will last a few weeks, or a few months. I’ll start burning incense. I’ll drink loose leaf herbal tea. I’ll be kinder to others, and myself.
Then, just as suddenly as I started, I’ll quit.
Wellness practitioners love to talk about all the reasons to start meditating—managing stress, improving focus, boosting creativity. But they don’t often talk about the reasons to stop, and there are plenty—uncomfortable positions, busy schedules, chaotic environments.
Fortunately, for every good excuse, there is an even better remedy. This guide is for anyone who is serious about starting a daily meditation practice (for real this time) but needs to get out of their own way first. The key, of course, is mindfulness. So, take a deep breath with me.
1 | “I can’t sit comfortably.”
For those of us with poor posture or unusual anatomy (I’m 6’4” with disproportionately long legs) traditional meditation poses can feel more like torture than tranquility. I’ve long used my inflexibility as an excuse to stay away from yoga, but it’s really impacted my meditation practice too.
The most obvious solution is to simply move to a chair, or a couch. After all, you don’t need to be in lotus to meditate. If you’re a romantic like me, then a firm, uplifting meditation cushion may just change your life. Mine is from Tuft & Needle x Calm but there are plenty of options out there.
2 | “I don’t like sitting still.”
I have an office (aka living room) job, which means I spend the majority of my day sitting in front of a computer. I often have a lot of pent up energy when the day is done, and am a pretty fidgety person overall. So, the idea of sitting perfectly still for a silent meditation isn’t always appealing to me.
You wouldn’t know it if you did a Google image search for meditation, but you don’t actually have to sit to meditate. In fact, some of my most powerful and memorable sessions were walking meditations that invited me to take in the sights, smells, and sounds of my neighborhood. (You can also meditate in the morning to set you up for the day!)
3 | “I’m too busy to meditate.”
As a childless 30-something who is spending most of his time at home right now, I’m amazed by how little free time I seem to have. Truth be told, I don’t make good use of my mornings or evenings. In any case, I have managed to make myself believe I just don’t have time for mindfulness.
Meditation often conjures up visions of wise mystics in mountain temples, sitting in contemplative silence for hours on end. The reality is that any amount of practice is (much) better than none at all. Even a one minute breathing bubble exercise before bed each night can yield substantial benefits.
4 | “I always forget to meditate.”
I have executive function issues, which makes it really hard to remember to do things I want to do. I regularly find myself lying in bed at night, remembering that I forgot to meditate again. I also have object permanence issues. If my meditation cushion ends up in a closet, I’ll forget it even exists.
Fortunately, there are tons of memory tricks you can use to remember to meditate. You can set visual reminders (I keep my meditation cushion where I can’t miss it). You can set app reminders (Mindfulness, Bedtime, Reflection, etc). You can even ‘bundle’ meditation with an existing routine.
5 | “My environment is too loud.”
I live in a big apartment building on a busy street in a bustling neighborhood that is always under construction. It also happens to be New York, the noisiest city in America, and quite possibly the planet. Nothing yanks you out of a meditative state quite like a jackhammer, or a car alarm.
The obvious move is to invest in a pair of noise cancelling headphones, unless you have tinnitus, like I do (it’s a wonder I’ve ever meditated). The better move is to try a soundscape meditation, which will teach you to observe your surroundings with non-reactivity.
6 | “My mind is too noisy.”
I am one of those people whose inner voice, for better and worse, never stops talking. My mind is especially active when I am trying to slow it down. It asks, “Am I meditating yet? Am I meditating yet? Am I meditating yet?” with the persistence of an impatient child on a long drive.
This is the cruel irony of meditation—the ones who find it hardest to do are also the ones who need it the most. It’s important to acknowledge that these struggles and annoyances are incredibly common. In fact, they are downright human. So if you can relate, then we’re both in good company.
The good news is that the mind is like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes. My mind, then, isn’t too noisy to meditate. It’s too noisy not to meditate.
I’ll try again tomorrow.