When I first started meditating, I felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall. In this article, I share my unique experiences and knowledge to help you make progress.
I’m sitting in a full Lotus position, meditating on a thin pad. My back hurts, my butt hurts, and my head hurts so bad it feels like I’m banging it on a brick wall.
Hey! What happened to the serenity and happiness everyone promised? Now I feel like I am going to vomit!
“Oh, you will get to serenity once you work through your early difficulties of meditation,” said my instructor.
Why didn’t someone tell me this before I started? Anyway, I continued meditating.
When I first started meditating, I had some real problems, and I didn’t understand why. That was over forty years ago when I thought meditation was mystical, spooky and spiritual. Even today, many people think meditation is mysterious.
What people don’t know about meditation can cause difficulties. Beginners may quit and never try again. Experienced people can get stuck and stop making progress. Many people miss the unbelievable benefits of meditating.
Over the years I have meditated a lot, made many mistakes and earned several breakthroughs. In this article, I share my unique experiences and knowledge because I think it will help you.
#1 My bad meditation beginning
Now, when I look back at my first experiences with meditation, I understand a secret about why it was so difficult. A secret that even my instructor didn't know. Recently, there have been several scientific studies into the affects of meditation on people’s brains. Medical doctors using double-blind research studies and brain scans have proven that meditation causes specific locations of the brain to grow. This surprising ability of brain cells to grow and reorganize is called neuroplasticity.
But that medical discovery is not the secret that I want to expose. The secret is, when you first try to meditate, there is no way that you can do it. It’s impossible.
You don’t have the brain cells to meditate!
You are not born with the brain cells for meditation, and they don’t automatically generate at puberty or any other time. You have to put effort into meditating to make your brain grow those brain cells.
It’s like learning to ride a bicycle. The first time you get on a bike, you are going to crash and burn. You have to fall several times to learn how it feels when you are crashing. Then you try doing something new to stop yourself from crashing. Bingo, you are growing new gray matter in your brain. But you will continue to crash and burn until you grow enough new brain cells to balance yourself on a bike.
No wonder I felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall when I first started meditating. Each time I tried to meditate, I would crash and burn. I became a freaking expert on how to crash. I could describe every stage of my mind crash in annoying detail. Only then could I begin to learn how to stabilize my mind.
So, if you are a meditation beginner, it’s going to be bad. And I am here to tell you that you just have to work through your early difficulties that stimulate your brain to grow new cells.
#2 Creating good mind tools
To meditate, I had to develop new mind tools.
Again, the process is similar to learning how to ride a bike. You have to fall over a few times before you learn to detect when you are off balance and how to correct the problem.
When meditating, I had to detect when I was falling asleep and then create a massive mental jolt to wake me up. I felt silly when my body would jump up from this jolt because others might see me.
Eventually, I improved this mental wake-up call to fire even sooner, at the slightest decrease in awareness. And I used a subtle shift in attention to thoughts of my mind instead of a massive mental jolt.
When I first created this tool, I was not fully conscious of what I was doing. I subconsciously created this function just like a child learns how to ride a bike.
But now, thanks to greater awareness of my mind, I consciously design and refine new mind tools.
#3 The good and bad moments of serenity
Serenity at last! Yes, I did find serenity after years of meditating. Well, not all the time, but often. I would be able to meditate for long periods and feel quite peaceful.
These skills did carry over into my normal life and job but not as much as I had hoped. My job was designing computers. My technical and management challenges were stressful. I also had family responsibilities. Meditation did not solve all these problems.
I often felt I had to place meditation at a lower priority.
#4 My bad meditation balancing act
There were many times when I did not meditate regularly. I was sure that I could calm myself whenever I wanted to. After all, I had reached moments of serenity many times. I knew exactly what to do, and so I was confident I could easily do it again.
But something odd happens when I don’t meditate regularly. The next time I would try meditating, it was much harder. I had relapsed to a lower skill level. I accepted the correlation between practice and skill level and didn’t think much about it.
Once again, our modern understanding of neuroplasticity can provide a useful explanation of what happens in the brain. If you do not meditate regularly, and you are learning new multitasking skills and emotional responses for your daily activities, your precious meditation brain connections will be cannibalized for these new tasks. That’s neuroplasticity.
So the lesson here is that you must find a balance between your everyday chores and meditation or else your meditation and special mental skills will disappear.
#5 A bad mind state needs a good reset
Criminals or desperate and confused people often threaten our lives and families. Also, our relationships can be maddening. I sometimes find myself emotionally disturbed by these problems.
When my mind gets locked in a cyclone of thoughts, fears, and emotions, I need to break the tight grip it has on my mind by meditating. Quieting the mind may take a little more time because of the extra stress, but I can do it.
The key to achieving a meditative state when under stress is to tell yourself that you are not seeking a solution to the problem that is disturbing you. The goal is to break the emotional grip and quiet the mind.
Later, when you are calm, rested, stronger and more objective, you will find it much easier to solve your problems.
I recommend using meditation to power down and reset your mind when it gets locked up.
#6 More good mental skills
Meditation allows you to create new mental skills. Far too many for me to explain here. So I will just present the one that I appreciate the most.
Before I started meditating, my mind was one big, flailing, thrashing, whirlpool of emotions and thoughts. I was constantly submerged and swept in all directions by irresistible mental currents.
With the help of meditation, I can now think about my mind from a detached and objective viewpoint. I can study my mind as if it were an onion. I can peel that onion and examine the different parts.
I can’t say that I have peeled the onion to its core or that I am completely unmoved by the currents of my emotions and thoughts. But I do have much more influence over what my mind does, and I am increasing my mental skills.
#7 The bad inner voice
Early in my life, my inner voice was out of control. It would constantly spew out all sorts of ridiculous and crazy ideas. Many of those ideas would hurt me or hold me back. But at the time, I considered the inner voice to be me. I was the inner voice, and there was nothing else to my existence beyond whatever the inner voice said.
Then one day, in meditation, I quieted the inner voice. It was mum, nada, kaput. Eventually, the absence of the inner voice became normal.
Then a question occurred to me, “Who am I?” What a shocker! I obviously was not the inner voice because I was still there, even when the inner voice was gone.
This realization revealed a whole new area of self-discovery and self-improvement. The next paragraph continues with this idea.
#8 Awakening to more bad mental habits is good
When meditating, you may see your mind do things that are not good. This is normal. Don’t panic.
Don’t try to force it to stop. Just watch it. Become familiar with what it is doing and why.
Once you understand the why, you can make corrections to this purpose and then make corrections to what your mind is doing, without mental conflict or stress.
#9 Awakening to the limits of meditation
No matter how much you meditate and improve your mind, there will always be a whole world out there beyond your control.
Meditation by itself will not give you the skills to fly a jumbo jet airliner, start a successful high tech company or clean up corrupt and evil politicians. Even little simple tasks may be out of your reach. For instance, you may not be able to persuade a relative or friend to stop smoking cigarettes.
The point is, meditation will not solve all the problems of the world.
Meditation will significantly improve your mental abilities, and make achieving your goals easier, but you will still face enormous challenges.
Don’t let this limitation stop you from meditating. You will need all the skills you can learn to solve your challenges.
#10 Simple is good
My preferred style of meditating is simple. I sit in a comfortable chair in a quiet room and focus on my breathing.
You may wonder, “Should’nt he be sitting in full Lotus position?” Well, I’ll tell you something, when I was much younger, I would sit in full Lotus for hours and meditate. I took martial arts, Tai chi, and yoga. And I must say that I had many exciting, fun and educational experiences.
However, activities that focus attention on my body can distract me from my primary purpose of learning about my mind. So, I use simple methods that don’t put requirements on what my body is doing. I strive to be able to meditate anywhere, anytime, in any body position or condition.
I highly recommend meditation. It is safer than learning how to ride a bike and just as simple. You can meditate almost anytime and anywhere. If you buy books on how to meditate, then it is also low cost, low risk, and low commitment.
When meditating, you may hit brick walls or stop at mental barriers. But meditation did not make these obstacles. Meditation exposes your limitations and provides you with opportunities for removing what is holding you back.
With meditation, you can become aware of your mind. In time, you will better understand how your mind works. Then you can make corrections and improvements to how you think.
I have provided you with information that will help you meditate and continue making progress.
You will discover new and powerful mental abilities.
You will become more aware, more focused, and emotionally stronger.
You will better understand yourself and others, reducing the difficulty of social problems.
You will be able to remove old barriers and take on new challenges.
With new powerful mental skills, you can make your life easier, happier and less stressful.