“Too many thoughts”, “Can’t sit still”, “When will it be over?”, “Am I doing it correctly?”, “Nothing’s happening”. Have you ever had those thoughts during your meditation?
Well, you’re not alone; these are by far the biggest complaints people make about their meditation practice. As new meditators, we all had these concerns, and even after many years, they still pop up from time to time. But please don’t give up, these are, in fact, good experiences.
Understanding Restlessness and Impatience
The first step to managing restlessness and impatience is to understand the feelings. There are three basic types of experiences you can have during meditation:
- Falling asleep
- Having thoughts and feeling restless
- Slipping into the field of silence and infinite possibilities in the spaces between thoughts
While we all would prefer for our meditations to be silent, all these experiences are correct.
Meditation is a process of purification. The mind and body gain deep levels of rest, which allow stresses, fatigues, and toxins to be released. This release increases the activity of the mind and body, causing you to have thoughts and perhaps feel restless.
Your essence, who you really are, has been covered over by layer upon layer of the nonsense life has sent your way. Meditation is a process of peeling off these layers to reveal the magnificence that lies within. So, even though you may complain about these disturbances, they are the indication that something good is happening. As Mother Teresa said, “Restlessness is only the surface level of a beautiful wellspring of energy within.”
Also remember that you can think thoughts at the superficial, surface level of the mind and also at deeper, more refined levels. Just because you are having thoughts in meditation doesn’t mean that you aren’t in a very restful state. What is important is when you realise that you’re thinking thoughts, you turn your attention back to the object of your meditation, such as your mantra or breath. This is correct meditation. To choose to continue thinking the thoughts would, in the context of meditation, be a waste of time.
Mediation as a Reflection of Your Life
Your meditation experience is often a reflection of your life. If you are overly tired or not getting enough good quality rest at night, you may fall asleep during your meditation. If your life is very busy and chaotic, your meditations may be restless and troubled. Meditation helps you create a happier and more harmonious life; however, consciously taking steps to balance your lifestyle will also support your meditation experience.
Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Most of us live our lives like a hare, dashing off in all directions, multi-tasking, or lost in the haze of our own confusion—while it was the tortoise’s measured consistency that won the race. Even though you may feel as though you are “running out of time,” you actually have the whole of eternity before you. Slow down!
Try the following eight tips to manage restlessness and impatience during your meditations.
1. Don’t Waste Time Analysing Your Meditation Experiences
As mentioned before, meditation is a purification process. The thoughts, feelings, and emotions you may have during your meditation are the garbage being thrown out. So, unless you’re the sort of person who looks through the trash to see what you’ve thrown out before the garbage truck arrives, don’t waste time analysing your meditation experiences. Whether you are having mundane thoughts about your daily activities, seeing beautiful images and hearing celestial singing, or you are listening to Deepak talking about non-local reality, they are not important. The purpose of meditation is to enrich your life. The experiences during meditation will be what they will be; what is important is the shift in awareness you begin to enjoy in your everyday lives as a result of your meditation experiences.
2. Take a Few Minutes to Prepare Before You Begin Your Meditation Session
This may help minimise any disturbances. You can meditate anywhere but finding a quiet place is preferable. If you’re at home, switch off the phone, put the children and pets in another room, and let other members of your household know not to bother you.
3. Before Your Morning Meditation, Avoid the Temptation to Look at Your Computer and Smartphone
Let the activity of the day wait a little longer or your meditation will be filled with mentally composing answers to emails and texts.
4. Try Preceding Your Meditation with Gentle Yogic Stretching Exercises
This allows you to get the kinks out and sit more comfortably.
5. Take a Few Deep Breaths
As you inhale, be aware of how your body feels as well as what’s going on with your thoughts and emotions. As you exhale, have the intention of letting go of anything that doesn’t concern you in that moment. You can come back and address it after the meditation but try to put aside any unnecessary distractions.
6. Align Your Physical Body with Your Energetic Field with a Simple Centering Exercise
- Either sitting or standing, place one hand level over your navel, fingers pointing upward, palm toward the centre.
- Raise the other arm straight up over your head, again with fingers extended upward and palm toward the centre.
- Take a full breath in and, as you release it, bring your palms together at your heart centre.
- Repeat this three times, alternating the hands if you wish.
7. Prepare for Meditation with Alternative Nostril Breathing
In the afternoon, after a day’s activity, it’s often beneficial to take a few extra minutes to settle your mind and body before beginning your meditation. A little stretching, if possible, and even a 10 to 15 minute nap (napping is one of the lost joys of modern society) or 2 to 3 minutes of alternative nostril breathing is a great way to settle in preparation for meditation.
- Using your right hand, close your right nostril with your thumb.
- Exhale slowly through your left nostril.
- Inhale through your left nostril. Use your right ring finger and little finger to close off your left nostril.
- Release your thumb and slowly exhale through your right nostril.
- Inhale through your right nostril.
- Again, place your thumb back over your right nostril, release your ring finger and little finger, and continue breathing and alternating as before. This is an effortless, continuous flow of the breath with no controlled pauses, allowing the breath to flow at its own speed and rhythm.
8. Commit to a Routine
Although the process of meditation itself should be effortless, a little discipline regarding the practice can be helpful. Before starting your session, decide how long you intend to meditate for and commit to sticking with that time no matter what your experiences.
When you first leaned to meditate, you did so for a reason. Meditation will eventually fulfil this and unfold other treasures beyond your wildest dreams. Learn to accept your experiences as part of the plan. Don’t sacrifice what you really want for what you think you should have right now. All traditions tell us that patience is a virtue and ultimately, the reward of patience is patience.