Lets face it, there’s always obstacles to anything worth while. But do you know the one thing that stops most people from accomplishing something meaningful? Its not all the stuff "out there" that's really the problem. It's themselves.
In this post I’m going to share 9 meditation obstacles and how you can shut them down. Plus some life metaphors that will (hopefully) help you feel more fulfilled and joyful. Let's get started!
Here's the 9 meditation obstacles that everyone struggles with:
1. Obstacle One: Doubt
Doubt kills more dreams and goals than anything else on the planet and meditation is no exception.
When you're unsure or doubting whether or not something will work, you’re unlikely to persist through any roadblocks.
When you find yourself falling prey to this obstacle, remind yourself that thoughts are just thoughts. When you notice yourself doubting, take note of it.
Observe the thoughts and find a reason to be grateful for the moment.
Ultimately it's the consistent process of meditation that will get you to your goals.
Finding gratitude in your meditation today, will release good hormones and make you more likely to meditate again tomorrow. That process continues and before you know it you’re an experienced meditator with no more doubts.
2. Obstacle Two: Restlessness
I’ve said this before in other blogs but I was "diagnosed" with ADHD at a young age and that was “confirmed” many times over with subsequent doctors visits.
Today I would say that I’ve totally overcome any semblance of ADHD in my life. And I’ve done it with meditation as one of my primary go-to's. The reality is that it's hard to sit still for most people; let alone someone who’s abnormally active.
The antidote to restlessness is a mixture of observance, discipline and persistence.
Restlessness is a feeling just like any other. In order to overcome it you have to first be observant enough to identify the feeling. Then you have to be disciplined enough to sit with it.
With discipline and observance you can find the deeper cause of restlessness. Is it rooted in fear? Anger? Self-worth?
The answers may not come right away. But with persistence you will find the underlying cause and this problem will soon become a non-issue.
3. Obstacle Three: Sleepiness
Sleepiness is fairly common in the beginning.
When I first started morning meditations I was falling asleep almost every time. My morning meditation looked more like sleeping while sitting up than actually raising my consciousness.
I found that the issue was that I was constantly pushing myself to do more, do it faster and do it better. This adrenaline filled pace was causing me to sleep less and get poor sleep when I finally did go to bed.
The solution to this problem for me was holistic.
I began resting more and adopting a sleep routine that would ensure I got better sleep. I plan 7-8 hours for sleep each night and I guard that time like my life depends on it.
This way when I wake up I feel rested.
I also spend 15 or 20 minutes sipping some coffee or tea before meditation in the mornings. This helps me make sure my brains awake enough to get into meditation. Try some different things to see what works for you and let us know in the comments.
(Related reading: 17 meditation myths that wast your time )
4. Obstacle Four: Desire
There’s nothing wrong with having a desired outcome in mind. It's similar to setting goals and helps us know what we’re working toward.
But when you get too attached to the outcome you lose the forest for the trees. I’m not one who says “it's all about the journey” very often but with meditation, it's all about the journey.
Paradoxically, the more you’re able to engage in the journey, the more you’re already at your destination.
With meditation, it's all about presence.
That it the goal. When you’re fully present in your meditation, in your journey, you are at your destination. So relax and breathe easy.
5. Obstacle Five: Self-Judgment
This is an easy trap to fall into because we all do it. Our brains are designed to make snap judgments and part of this is comparing ourselves to others.
Comparing yourself to another leads to negative self judgement because we almost always compare ourselves to people who are doing “better” than us.
To get around this, begin competing with yourself.
Instead of comparing your progress today with someone who’s been meditating for years, compare yourself today to yourself yesterday. Small, incremental improvements lead to massive change in the long run.
If you miss a meditation one day, that’s okay. Don't beat yourself up about it. This leads to guilt and pretty soon you’ll begin meditating for all the wrong reasons.
Instead of meditating from the empowered position of enjoyment, you’ll be meditating from the dis-empowered place of guilt or shame.
6. Obstacle Six: Irritation & Anger
These are very common emotions that arise in meditation.
I’ve noticed this happens most in men because, culturally, men are not encouraged to be in touch with their emotions as much as women.
Men seem to default to anger and irritation when the proper emotion may be sadness or even joy.
In the beginning you may notice lots of irritation with things like sitting still, not being satisfied with where you are in your practice, constant thoughts, etc.
The real goal here is to sit with the emotion and attempt to redirect your thoughts to something you can feel grateful for.
If you can’t feel gratitude at the moment, then begin counting your breaths, focus on something in the room, or take a walk.
Essentially you should make an effort to focus on something other than more irritated or angry thoughts. If it's too hard, then it may be good to get up and move around or even come back and try again tonight or tomorrow.
Give yourself lots of grace and patience.
7. Obstacle Seven: Energetic Barriers
These are the things that make you feel tired or empty.
This is not so much a state but rather a series of choices. When we choose to put all of our time and energy into things like a job we don’t like or chores we can’t stand doing we deplete our energy.
This “suck-it-up” mentality is what’s been encouraged in our society by the baby boomers or yesteryear. It's becoming obvious that this isn’t the road to fulfillment.
Just study the people from our generation who are currently doing big things. Tim Ferris and The Four Hour Workweek for example.
The way to beat this is to first make a promise to yourself.
Promise yourself that you won’t live in guilt, shame, or any other negative state ever again. From there, begin doing more things you enjoy.
Do more things that GIVE you energy rather than take it from you. This can feel irresponsible at first. This is why you made a promise not to let yourself feel guilty.
Doing things you love promotes better health, more fulfillment, more happiness, and really is the responsible thing. In fact, I know many people who did the “irresponsible” thing and quit the job they hate to pursue things they like doing. Now they’re doing better financially and emotionally that ever before... and they’re happy!
8. Obstacle Eight: Mental Barriers
Mental obstacles present themselves as a lack of motivation, goals or discipline to focus. This is a personal issue that you have to overcome by being totally honest with yourself.
In my opinion a lack of goals and motivation comes from several areas: not believing you can achieve the result, low self-worth, and/or doing too many things that you don’t like doing (probably living the life someone else designed for you) and of course poor diet.
I am just as guilty as everyone else. I’ve struggled and overcame all of the issues I speak on so this is from my own experience.
When I lacked goals, motivation and focus it was because I wasn’t excited about what I was doing in life. I was doing all the stuff that society told me was responsible and the “right” thing to do.
I was miserable every step of the way. But my grades were good and I was a chipper employee.
Once I decided I was done dying on the inside, I began flipping this whole paradigm on it's head. I began doing the irresponsible things.
And do you know what happened?
My zest for life returned and I got ten times more done. So take a look at the energy drains in your life and begin systematically, one-by-one changing them.
(Related: What to expect as a beginning meditator)
9. Obstacle Nine: Distraction
Distractions are always going to be there. There’s always going to be kids who need attention, a barking dog and lawn men mowing the neighbor's yard right when you begin meditating.
That’s part of the beauty of life my friend. These distractions serve to train you to do things even when conditions aren’t perfect.
This lesson applies to so many things in life.
Most people wait for the “perfect” time to do things. I’ll quit my job when I have XXXX amount of money for example. This is the wrong way to go about it.
Instead take the conditions you have and make them right.
Wake up a little earlier or go to bed after the kids. Use headphones and do a guided meditation to drown out the noise. Or try meditating with the distractions and just acknowledging the sounds around you.
Find joy and gratitude in the moment and let nothing stop you!
Clear these 9 meditation obstacles and you’ll have the time, stamina and everything else you need to make your meditation practice successful once and for all.