Answers to Common Questions About Mindfulness and Meditation
Answers to Questions About Mindfulness
When you practice mindful meditation, you might encounter some difficulties or have questions.
So, here are the answers to some of the most common ones.
Question #1. What should I do if I keep forgetting to meditate?
Answer: This is a very common problem. Many of us simply forget to meditate. You tend to get better at this over time as it becomes more of an automatic response or a daily habit, but until then there are solutions to help you remember to meditate.
Try creating both electronic and physical anchors or reminders.
Stick a big paper note somewhere obvious, or put a meditation cushion in your doorway where you can’t miss it, or write your meditation plan on your whiteboard. These are physical reminders.
Digital reminders consist of a calendar reminder, reminder emails in your inbox, push notifications on your phone, having a message about meditation on your home page or your laptop wallpaper.
If you still have a difficulty remembering, try a combination of the above hooks.
Question #2. What can I do when I’m too busy, or I have pressure from urgent things?
Answer: When you have a lot of work to get done, or the crap hits the fan, the meditation habit can drop off. I’ve often experienced this situation myself. It’s OK to drop the meditation habit sometimes when you need to, so don’t feel guilty about it.
What has helped me to overcome this problem is:
- To realize that this feeling of urgency is actually suffering. I’m feeling so much stress and anxiety that I don’t want to make time for self-care and relaxation. But still, the best way to deal with anxiety is actually to meditate.
- To tell myself I only need to do 2 minutes of meditation. Even though I usually meditate for longer, if I can just sit for 2 minutes on a demanding day, that’s a big success. And I will almost always have time for 2 minutes. So when you feel rushed or busy or stressed, pause for a moment and observe your mind trying to give up on meditation. This is your mind being afraid that those other things that seem more important, have to be taken care of immediately. Watch the thought, but do not believe it. Our minds do a lot of things out of fear. Instead, just sit down for 2 minutes and stay still. Sit there and watch the anxiety and fear.
Watch your suffering, feel it in your body. Accept it, instead of trying to get rid of it.
Question #3. How sustainable is mindfulness? I have mindful moments in my day, but I’ve never had a day when I was mindful all the time. Is that even possible?
Answer: I’ve never had a completely mindful day myself. It’s supposedly possible, but most people will never attain it, and I don’t think you should set it as a “goal” or ideal.
Just use mindfulness when and as often as you can, and be happy with that experience. With this approach, it is sustainable for life.
Question #4. What if I am too tired to meditate?
Answer: Sometimes you’re just too tired in the morning and you don’t feel that you’re meditating properly, or perhaps you’re physically exhausted from work or being overcommitted in your daily life. Or perhaps you’ve pushed meditation to the evening, and you’re too tired by then to keep your focus.
The main suggestion I offer is to let go of the idea that you need to be fully alert to meditate, or that you need to be not tired at all. You can meditate when you are mentally tired or physically exhausted.
Your mind wants to run away from doing something when you are tired. It no longer has its full battery of self-control, and is depleted.
You can still meditate when your mind wants to reject meditaion.
See your mind rationalizing why you shouldn’t meditate. See it wanting to do something seemingly easier. But don’t let the mind decide. Keep the thought there, and just tell your mind, “I can do anything for 2 minutes.” And then just sit for 2 minutes and meditate.
If you’re meditating and you cannot focus because of tiredness, that’s OK. Let yourself do it “imperfectly”.
There’s no right way to do it anyway. See if you can stick to your breath or body while you’re tired. Or instead, try focusing on the suffering you feel as you’re tired. What’s that like?
How does it feel? Just watch the sensation, and accept the suffering. This is a really useful practice.
Other suggestions include going to bed earlier, set an alarm to remind you when it’s bedtime, and turn off all devices/screens, and forgiving yourself if you fail because of tiredness, which is perfectly fine.
Question #5. How do I deal with disruptions in my daily meditative routine?
Answer: Another very big obstacle is disruptions to our regular routine — for example, weekends when things are different you stay out late at night and you sleep in, travel, you have visitors, or wake up late when the kids are already up.
There are a few ways to handle this, depending on the situation:
- When possible, plan ahead when you know there’s going to be a change in the routine. Decide ahead of time when you’ll do your meditation. If you’re traveling, make an extra commitment and set new reminders when you are on the road.
- When something unexpected comes up, make a note to adjust your habit that day. For example, if you get a call in the morning and aren’t able to meditate, make a paper note to yourself and place it somewhere you can see it — and then meditate at lunch, or in the afternoon.
- If all hell breaks loose and you simply can’t find a few minutes to relax and be still, that’s totally OK. Forgive yourself, and commit to getting back on track the next day, or as soon as the hell is over. If you can find a couple of minutes in the midst of the hell, that’s even better. I suggest you take a break no matter where you find yourself, and meditate walking or standing up if necessary, or in the bathroom or shower.
Question #6. What about other people getting in the way? I might have company, or have other people who interrupt me while meditating.
Answer: These are legitimate obstacles, but they can be overcome. Again, watch your mind wanting to run from the meditation. Your mind will rationalize why you shouldn’t meditate, i.e. find excuses — because of the kids, your spouse, company, or interruptions. These are all just rationalizations from a mind that wants to avoid what it considers to be difficult.
Instead, find any space to meditate, even if it’s in the shower or on the toilet or taking out the garbage, or waiting for the coffee to be ready. You can find some space and time, just for two minutes.
Watch the mind wanting to run, and don’t allow it. See the suffering you are feeling because of the obstacles, and just observe, and then accept the suffering.
Other suggestions are:
- Let your kids or spoude know how important meditation is to you.
- Invite your kids or spouse to join you.
- Go for a walk and meditate either while walking or find a place to sit for a few minutes.
- Meditate on your commute, even if you’re driving — meditate at stoplights and while stuck in traffic, or when you arrive at the parking lot before entering the building, or while on a train to work.
Question #7. What if I have trouble concentrating? I am anxious about some struggles in my personal life and my mind always wanders to those problems.
Answer: It is perfectly acceptable for your mind to just wander. Observe what it’s trying to wander to. Give it a little space to do that. Then gently return to the breath and body.
Sometimes it’s good to see your mind trying to avoid focusing, and see this as a form of suffering (distraction, attachment). Observe the suffering. Gently bring your attention back to concentration.
You don’t need to perfectly concentrate, at all. Just keep doing it.
There’s no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. So, if you’re feeling like you’re failing at it or doing it wrong, then examine your expectations and ideals around meditation. Be aware of those ideals, try letting them go and meditating without expectations.
Question #8. How can I deal with perfectionism?
Answer: These expectations of perfection are a great thing to meditate on, along with the suffering we cause ourselves from the perfectionism.
Practice letting go during the meditation, and accepting the meditation for what it is, as it is.
Question #9. I don’t have anything good in the afternoon to anchor the meditation habit to.
Answer: You can simly use an alarm or a notification on your phone, or a physical reminder. You might be mindful of your daily rhythms in the afternoon, and find a good combination of time/energy to fit the meditation into.
Question #10. My biggest obstacle is I still don’t see any of the amazing benefits I read about. So the meditation practice seems like a chore.
Answer: Yes, this happens and can be difficult to overcome. I suggest continuing the practice, and giving it a chance. It takes time to see the benefits. Sometimes you don’t see the benefits for a month or two, or sometimes the benefits are there but you are not used to spotting them.
An interesting thing to explore is your frustration with your expectations and disappointment.
You were hoping for some amazing benefits (expectations) and having seen them (disappointment), and so this is frustrating. You’re suffering because of the expectations. In meditation, take a minute or two to watch this suffering, see how it feels, and just accept it.
It’s also interesting to meditate on the feeling of doing something that feels like a chore.
This results from not wanting to do something, in other words not seeing it as worthwhile. But think of this: If you were doing something to help a friend, doing something that would make them happy, you will most probably be grateful to do it.
So you may approach this the same way:
You’re helping a friend (you), and you can find a way to be grateful that you are able to do this activity.
Question #11. I’m not very good at mindfulness!
Answer: That thought is misleading. Mindfulness isn’t something you learn overnight. And also there is no wrong way to do it. I’ve been practicing for years and I’m still learning.
What happens is that you try it, and it might seem difficult or confusing at the beginning. Give it some time.
Then you try again, and again, and you get better at it. The practice gradually becomes easier. But then you find a new area to explore and it gets difficult and confusing again. Step by step, you improve, but there’s always more to learn.
So it’s important to have patience with the process and give yourself some time to adapt.
If you get frustrated because meditation isn’t as easy as you thought it would be, let the frustration be something you explore with mindfulness.
If you are disappointed that it doesn’t instantly make you calm or a master of changing habits, know that this is a part of the process. It takes time, and improvement – as in all things – comes gradually.
Note: The article was adapted from: The Brief Guide to Mindfulness – How to Create the Habit of Mindfulness & Fall in Love with Life – by Leo Babauta
The following video answers more questions about the differences between meditation and mindfulness.
Meditation or Mindfulness – Your Questions Answered
Source of video: Meditation or Mindfulness – Your Questions Answered – Find out more: http://stillnessproject.com/
Answers to Common Questions About Mindfulness