Are You Distracted By Distracting Distractions?
So many things can derail a well-intentioned meditation practice! You start off with great plans: “I’m going to practice meditation for 30 minutes per day” (or you can substitute some other healthy habit). Sounds great, right? Of course it does, because you’re launching yourself into a healthier way of living your life. And just think of all the benefits that will come from this practice: reduced stress, increased clarity of mind, improved focus, greater health, stronger motivation, and so on.
And then, surprisingly quickly, you find yourself derailed. Your practice is completely off track because:
Your workload increased and you don’t think you have time
Other people had other expectations for your time
While meditating, you couldn’t seem to shut off your mind
Physical discomfort derailed your meditation
Emotional discomfort made your practice unpleasant
Sounds in your environment distracted you
You grow frustrated with yourself that you can’t keep up with a simple, health affirming commitment -- I mean, come on!
Now that sound is even more distracting, you notice that ache in your neck more, and can’t seem to get work off your mind
And the cycle continues
Then once you’re off track, it can seem like some invisible force keeps pulling you, drawing you away from the meditation practice that you need so desperately in your life.
A lot of these problems are caused by your Default Mode Network. So, what to do?
First of all, it helps to bring kindness and self-compassion to the process. It’s so easy for frustration with the problem to morph into frustration with yourself. Your internal critic may have hopped on the problem and is now berating you for not keeping your agreement with yourself to meditate—which of course just inflames the problem.
It’s just another verse in a very old self-critical song.
So, why not listen to a new song for once? Why not try something new? You could try being compassionate with yourself about how hard it is for all of us to make meditation practice a part of our lives. Maybe for once try treating yourself with kindness and understanding about all the things that made practice difficult—like a good friend might do.
Mindful Self-Compassion also reminds us that we’re only human; that we share a common humanity with others. So, remember that you’re normal when it’s hard to keep to your practice (and by the way, everyone who practices meditation deals with these very problems).
You can also bring mindfulness to the fact that sometimes it’s hard to practice mindfulness. Just be with that for a little while, feeling the feelings it generates, noting old patterns of response and perhaps an opening to new ways to be with the difficulties of meditation practice.
Reconnect with why you want to practice. Bring to mind what the practice really means for you, what motivates you to want to be a regular meditator. Let yourself feel re-energized by these things that really matter to you.
Consider Environmental Factors
Sometimes with deep introspection, you’ll find the answer in simple solutions. Maybe there are ways to support yourself in this practice that have escaped your attention. Perhaps changing when or where you practice meditation could help. Would it help to practice walking meditation, or to set a reminder to practice on your phone?
Find the Middle Ground
If you’re like most people, you shift between having unrealistically high expectations of your practice (with a lot of striving and rigid thinking about it) and unhelpfully low expectations (self-indulgence and giving up too soon). If that describes you, then I invite you to change things up by being firmly kind to yourself about your practice. Encourage yourself in a way that looks forward to the benefits of your practice. And commit to recommitting whenever you get off track. Because in all likelihood you will.
Help Me Write How To “Handle Problems With Meditation Practice 2.0”
I’d like to support your practice, so please let me know how helpful this post was for you, and if there are any particular challenges you face which I’ve not addressed. I’d like to keep developing more useful answers to questions about how to make meditation work in your very busy life. Click here to drop me a note.