In my last post, I wrote about starting a meditation practice. (That’s meditation, not mediation or medication.) In this post, I’ll address some of the common questions and concerns on meditation.
1. I can’t stop thinking
This is by far the most common complaint and it’s perfectly normal. It’s easy to think that meditation is about clearing your head of thoughts. As much as it would be nice to press the stop button and clear our mind of thoughts, the truth is, our mind’s job is to produce thoughts.
With practice, what you’ll notice is that you can gain some perspective and distance from your thoughts. You won’t identify so strongly with your thoughts. As you continually practice returning yourself back to the breath over and over again, it will get easier to not get so caught up in your thoughts.
2. Nothing is happening
I’ll often meet lawyers who will say, “I tried meditating once and it didn’t work.” I get it. You hear all these amazing benefits of meditation and it’s disappointing when nothing happens, or worse, you experience negative emotions, boredom, or feel more anxious/stressed after.
This is akin to going to the gym once and declaring that exercise was unsuccessful because you can’t run a marathon or still don’t look modelesque after a single session. Your mind has been habitually engaged in negative, unproductive, unhelpful thinking for decades, and it’s going to take a lot more than a single meditation session to retrain your mind.
As I mentioned in my previous post, meditation is a practice of non-striving and non-doing. If you meditate thinking “at the end of this session, I’m going to be stress-free,” you’re striving. The interesting thing about meditation is that the harder you strive for whatever benefit you desire, the less likely you’ll be able to gain it.
3. I feel bored
When I first started meditating, I struggled with an intense feeling of boredom. After a couple of minutes of practice, I’d feel antsy, and my mind would freak out demanding that there be something to do. I’d fantasize about scrolling through my Twitter feed or entertaining my mind in some way.
Given the non-stop distractions and busyness of our life, it’s no surprise that sitting quietly, with the eyes closed with nothing to do but watching the breath would trigger feelings of boredom. This is perfectly normal.
In meditation, we make space for all of our experience. This includes boredom. When your mind starts freaking out and screaming, “This is so boring!!!” recognize that this too is just a thought — like all other thoughts. Acknowledge the thought and gently return your attention back to the breath.
Being with unpleasant as well as pleasant experiences is part of meditation. What you’ll notice over time is that you’ll be able to be with unpleasant sensations, thoughts, and emotions even when you’re not meditating because you’ve practiced being with those experiences in meditation.
4. Falling asleep
Feeling sleepy or falling asleep is a perfectly normal part of practice. If you notice this on a regular basis, try the following:
- Meditate first thing in the morning. This will make it less likely that you’ll fall asleep.
- Open your eyes a bit. Letting light into the eyes will help you to feel less sleepy.
- Stand up. You can continue your meditation practice standing up.
- Take a nap. If you regularly feel sleepy or fall asleep, it probably means that you aren’t getting enough sleep so either take a nap or get more sleep at night.
5. I am too busy to meditate
If I had a dollar for every time a lawyer told me this, I would be a very rich woman. First, ask yourself, why am I meditating? Getting very clear about the reason for cultivating the meditation practice can help you get through those rough spots where you don’t feel like meditating or you fall off the wagon.
What does “too busy” mean? Is there some other lower level priority item that occupies time in your day that you can replace with meditation? A few suggestions: time spent on Twitter, Facebook, useless emails, drinking, or choose any of your bad habits.
Be honest with yourself. It is really true that you can’t find a minute or two to meditate? Or does the resistance have to do with something else like you fear spending time with yourself, or you fear sitting in silence?
You do not need to meditate for hours per day. A few minutes a day is all you need. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. Regular meditation will give you more time throughout your day because the constant noise, rumination, and mind racing will slow, which will give you more clarity.
Finally, be gentle with yourself. If you fall off the wagon and don’t practice for days, weeks, or months, don’t give yourself a hard time. Practice self-compassion and be kind to yourself. This is a difficult practice.
Want to learn more? I offer an online course which is specifically designed for lawyers. The entire curriculum is built in 0.1 hour modules. You can find out more over at Resilient Lawyer.
This article first appeared on Above the Law.