The lies we tell ourselves to avoid meditation

Yes No

“The mind is a wonderful thing. It’s also a complete liar that constantly tries to convince us not to take actions we know are good for us, and stops many great changes in our lives. Scumbag mind.” Leo Babauta

Over the years I have come to learn the insidious ways the mind tries to stop me from meditating or practicing yoga, when I know its good for me. Despite mind powers working against me, I’ve made positive changes to develop a home yoga practice and meditate daily. That doesn’t mean I still don’t come face to face with the bevvy of excuses my mind presents, just that now I see them for what they are. Sometimes I give in to them, and that’s ok. I’m human and the mind can be very convincing.

Most of the excuses are based on the mind seeking to stay within its comfort zone and wanting to avoid discomfort and change. Starting something new and making changes will bring about discomfort and we need to push through if we are to going to take actions that are important for our health and wellbeing. In fact, getting used to a bit of discomfort is good for us.

Lets look at some of the minds favourlite excuses – maybe you can relate to them in areas of your life:

I don’t have time…
Ok, so maybe you do have the time right now but if you want things to change you need to find it. Think about where you can create space. If your life seems already full, perhaps you need to give something up in order to make way for the new. Really look at what you give your time to, for example: staying back late at work, spending time on Facebook, going to the gym, getting a massage, whatever it may be. If developing a meditation practice is important then basically you are saying I don’t have time for myself. I don’t value myself as highly as those other things.

I don’t know how to / I’m not doing it right…
This might be true, but you can learn. A little practice and effort here can help.
Attend a meditation course or regular class where you have the guidance of an experienced teacher and can ask questions. At home listen to a guided meditation via an app or mp3 as you build confidence, independence and skills (I recommend meditations by Smiling Mind and John Kabat-Zinn).

The mind likes to make things out to be harder than they are, tell you stories about your abilities and raise doubts about what you are doing and why. It seems too hard, which makes it difficult to stick with it. You need to believe in yourself. Take comfort in the fact that millions of people who regularly meditate now, including the Dalai Lama, had to start somewhere.

I find it hard to sit…
Agreed – sitting to meditate can be difficult at the start. There can be pain and discomfort and body parts going to sleep. However, if you can sit in a car on a long road trip, or sit at your desk or on the couch for hours in a day, then you can sit for meditation. They key is finding the most comfortable position where the spine keeps its natural curves and building up the back so it is strong enough to hold you upright (yoga is great for this). And you will develop the ability to sit with ease over time.

It’s not just physical either. Seeing your mind and its fixations can be confronting. The mind is being taken out of its comfort zone so the desire to get up, or finish the meditation will prevail, and this will create thoughts and energy in the body aimed to make you move. The challenge is to simply observe the body sensations you experience and not react.

I’m too tired…
This one is my nemesis; I want to meditate in the evening after a shower and before bed and nearly every time the thought arises “I’m tired, maybe I should go to bed early and meditate longer in the morning”. Going to bed is very inviting after a long day at work (See ‘I’d rather be…’). When I ignore the excuse and come to sit, I am pleased I made the effort. Sometimes I am bit sleepy, and that’s ok – I simply accept each experience as it is and not judge it as good or bad.

Granted there are times when you need rest, say if you are exhausted. But be careful of the mind looking for ways to avoid discomfort. If we are just a bit tired we can often push through it. At the start meditation can be exhausting because of the mental energy focused on concentration. Tiredness when meditating can also be a sign of a weak mind – you need to work with gentle determination to build a strong mind.

I’ll do it later…
Ok so you might not feel like doing it now, but are you sure you will want to later? I don’t like your chances. If you can’t make the effort to do it now, what makes you think you will be any more motivated later? In fact, you are developing a habit of putting things off, procrastinating. I’m not one for preaching corporate slogans but unless there isn’t anything pressing to do – Just do it! Don’t skip it simply because you don’t feel like doing it now. You are capable of doing things even when not in the mood, you just need to overcome your internal resistance.

I’ve got better things to be doing…
There is always going to be something else you’d prefer to be doing – like sleeping in, reading a good book, being with family and friends, playing sport. The mind is attached to sensory pleasures and will always want to be doing something you like and seeking things to excite and please your senses. Meditation is disciplining our senses in a big way and this is a good outcome.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but it’s probably covered most common excuses. The beauty is once you know how the mind operates you can see if for the trickster it is and be prepared.

Here are my tips for dealing with the excuses:

  • Anticipate. Try to have an answer prepared for each excuse beforehand.
  • Making time. Start with small achievable goals. Don’t commit to 30 mins a day if you are never going to achieve it and then feel guilty when you don’t. Try 5 mins a day or 10 minutes 3 times a week and get used to that, then build up. After a while you will enjoy this time for yourself and you will want to make the time – trust me on this one.
  • Technique. Find a simple technique like awareness of the breath and you can’t go wrong.
  • Sitting comfortably
  1. You don’t need to sit cross-legged on the floor. Sit in a chair with the spine upright and legs at 90 degrees, feet supported higher than the floor if needed.
  2. Gradually increase your seat time as the back gets stronger.
  3. Watch the urges to move arise and see if you can allow them pass 3 times before moving.
  • Tiredness. Tell yourself you will sit for shorter time and see how you go. Often once you are there it’s all good and you want to sit for longer.
  • Motivation. See meditation as the reward – spending time just being with yourself.

Accept that there will be times you give in to the excuses. Learn from your choices. If you give in and aren’t happy about it, remember that. If you make an effort to sit, and you feel good about it, remember that.

In the end be kind to yourself.