The majority of my clients resist meditation at first, although the time commitment is small and the payoff is enormous. One insisted that it wasn’t necessary and that she didn’t have enough time in her day to devote to a regular practice. Then she went through the loss of a parent, and had such trouble coping that she couldn’t even drag herself out of bed. When she called me for my advice, I told her to mindfully meditate while in bed. Terrified and bewildered, my client did and soon found that she could face going to work again. Afterwards whenever she was in an overwhelming state of grief she would close her door, hold all calls and do a five minute meditation. Slowly, her grief lessened.
Typically, those who resist meditation are buying in to one of the following four common myths that create resistance to regular meditation practice.
Myth 1: “I’m too restless and busy to learn to be quiet and practice any form of meditation.” Meditating five to twenty minutes a day will cause you to need less sleep, and be more productive. When you first begin you’re likely to experience many mental distractions. Rather than judge yourself; simply observe them and then set them aside.
Myth 2: “If I meditate, it will put out the fire of my ambition and creativity.” Meditation seems to ground restless people, transforming their energy from a chaotic, even manic, discharge to a more focused and heightened exuberance. If you’re uncomfortable with the thought of slowing down your mental output keep in mind that this is not the goal of a meditation practice. Instead this approach will allow you to access some of the vitality and passion you associate with mania.
Myth 3: “If I meditate what I’ll discover will be so upsetting that I’ll become paralyzed with fear.” The fear of what will arise from the subconscious isn’t entirely irrational, but the chances of experiencing intense discomfort while meditating are slim. Emotions that remain buried have no chance of dissipating, and will remain as an underlying toxin that affects the functioning of the mind and body. If you’ve been avoiding painful feelings and thoughts for a long time, you may not be able to handle more than a five-minute-long session of meditation initially, and you may need someone with you to support you in your process of uncovering this pain.
Myth 4: “Meditating will conflict with my religious beliefs.” The practice of meditation is free of religious and spiritual dogma. In fact, if you believe in turning to God for guidance, you can use mindfulness meditation to set aside distractions and listen to the divine wisdom that can be found only when you tune out the endless chain of thoughts your own mind creates.
By meditating, you allow yourself to hear even the subtlest messages from the unconscious. You can be awakened with a gentle nudge instead of a splash of icy water. By embracing your circumstances you can craft a fulfilling life that’s infused with passion and originality.
Ronald Alexander, Ph.D. is the author of the widely acclaimed book, Wise Mind, Open Mind: Finding Purpose and Meaning in Times of Crisis, Loss, and Change. He is the director of the OpenMind Training® Institute, practices mindfulness-based mind-body psychotherapy and leadership coaching in Santa Monica, CA, for individuals and corporate clients. He has taught personal and clinical training groups for professionals in Integral Psychotherapy, Ericksonian mind-body healing therapies, mindfulness meditation, and positive psychology nationally and internationally since 1970. (www.openmindtraining.com)