Everyone has doubts about whether or not they are meditating the right way or not, especially in the beginning. We keep hearing that we need to observe our thoughts but not sure how does that feel exactly. We sit down to meditate only to find ourselves lost in a long train of thoughts and then try not to worry about it. We turn to guided meditation apps but then have doubts whether that constitutes true meditation. We have all these questions that affect our practice, and we want to get some clarity to move forward.
When I just started my meditation practice I had a lot of questions too. The one thing I remember reading is that our minds will fall into the same trap over and over again. I was looking for one single trap but as it turned out there were many traps my mind loved to fall into time after time. It just couldn’t help itself; you could almost say that it loved those traps. In this article, I would like to share common meditation mistakes that await us on our journey to inner peace.
#1. Wanting relaxation
One of the biggest mistakes that we make is trying to relax in meditation. Meditation is not about relaxation. It’s about a delicate balance between relaxation and alertness. When we start to meditate and expect to fall into a relaxed state, we’ll find ourselves disillusioned pretty quickly. We’ll probably experience a mixture of restlessness, discomfort, and boredom. Meditation is about noticing those states and being in them fully instead of rejecting them.
#2. Relying on Guided Meditation (Too Much)
I wrote an entire article about iPhone meditation apps for beginners. There is an opinion out there that we can’t practice true meditation with apps. I think in the very beginning it’s ok to use guided meditation. What is not ok is to continually rely on a guided meditation to unwind and relax. At some point, we should start practicing meditation in total silence by ourselves. That is the only way we will make progress and learn to be present during daily activities.
#3. Holding on to Our Thoughts
Every time we meditate we’re bound to face some of the negative thoughts from the depths of our subconscious mind. We’ll try to hold on to them, but the key is to let them come and go. We shouldn’t try to analyze them during meditation. Just acknowledging that we have that thought and bring our attention back to the breath is enough. We can analyze our thoughts later.
#4. Choosing the Wrong Time of Day
Does it matter what time of day we choose for meditation? Generally, there is no wrong or right time to do it. What we should be striving for is to learn to carry what we learned in meditation into daily life and all the challenging situations that we might face. So it’s not about the right time, it’s about the ability to access a calm meditative state of mind no matter where we are. In the beginning, it’s better to meditate in the morning: the recent study showed that new habits are more likely to form in the morning, so we need to think about adjusting our morning routines accordingly.
#5. Expecting Quick Results
Meditation brings a lot of benefits but we’re not likely to experience all of them right away. The biggest mistake we can make is to start meditation as “medication”. This may result in failed expectations, disappointment, and frustration. Any kind of benefit that we experience is only a byproduct, not the ultimate goal. The sooner we realize that it’s a spiritual practice, the sooner we’ll experience all those benefits because they will come to us naturally at no particular time.
#6. Judging the Experience
When we meditate, we’ll start to notice persistent thought patterns that our mind loves to engage in. In everyday life those thoughts are mostly unconscious, only meditation can bring them to our attention. Those thoughts will try to draw us into a black hole of negativity, making us ruminate the past and fear the future. The best thing we can do is not to get involved in those thoughts. We need to notice them and let them go as best we can.
#7. Starting with the Wrong Duration
How long should we meditate? 1 minute? 3? 5? 10? 30? What is the magic number that will finally make our meditation practice enjoyable? The answer is very simple – it depends. For those who are starting out, very short daily sitting meditation no longer than 10 minutes is generally recommended. We can even do 3-minute meditation, the main thing here is that we do it consistently.
#8. Not Making a Time in Your Schedule
This is another mistake that many of us make: we can’t find time to meditate because of a busy job and people in our life that need constant attention. On top of that, we already have a perfect routine that we’ve been following for years, and adding a 10-minute window to sit and meditate seems almost impossible. But we won’t be able to meditate effectively unless we make time for it. So instead of trying to find time, we should make time for meditation. It’s a conscious choice that we have to make for ourselves and our well-being.
#9. Being Inconsistent
Another mistake is being inconsistent. It’s important to understand that in the very beginning meditation will only be a new habit. Nothing more, nothing less. We will not experience any significant change in how we think or behave until we’ve practiced for several months or more. And that’s a good thing. Meditation is a good habit. Just like reading, healthy eating, and exercise, it will yield results only after a certain period of time.
#10. Thinking About the Right and Wrong Way to Meditate
During meditation, a lot of thoughts may pop up in our minds. The most frequent one will be whether we’re doing it the right way. It’s a mental habit we learn from early childhood. We always try to be perfect and avoid mistakes. To counter this tendency, we should forget everything we know about meditation, dropping every mental concept of how meditation “should be” and just “be.” This is the time when we connect with the infinite depth of our inner being. It’s the time when we become one with the universe and break all barriers of separation.
We need to identify any of the mistakes above and remember about consistency, not judging our experience, treating all thoughts lightly, and getting involved with them. As a supplement, I’ve created a free checklist available through the link below.