I don’t know how to meditate

I recently wanted to attempt meditation again. I have already tried getting into a habit of regular meditation sessions many times before this. However, as always, even this time, I couldn’t go through the sessions for any significant duration of time. I can’t seem to understand what I am missing.

Maybe my mind is just not wired to be able to get something out of the process. Or maybe my surrounding, my current lifestyle is too chaotic to lend me space, the time to meditate. Thoughts always rush into my mind. From work. From home. From things done well. From things not yet done. I would never get into the zone where I am listening to my breathing. Maybe I am just too distracted within.

And the fact that meditation can probably help me overcome that inattention is also why it is even more frustrating that I can’t appreciate this practice. I have heard many people claim how meditation calms their mind. Get the clarity of thoughts. Focus. So I feel this can help me be not this distracted. But then while I am meditating, I feel helpless to control how my mind wanders around.

I have tried multiple apps. I have tried guided sessions. Nothing seems to help. At times, I am even judging the voice that guides me. And I just sigh in disappointment.

I had heard CGP Grey talk about a similar experience in one of the episodes of Hello Internet where he just can’t get himself to meditate.

I gave meditation a real try. It’s not that I hate it. It’s not that it’s hard. It’s just that my brain does not want to do this. It’s really pushing back.

I was nodding incessantly as Grey spoke about his frustration of not being able to appreciate the benefits of meditation. I feel equally frustrated when I hear someone talk about how the sessions leave them more mindful, more relaxed. It just doesn’t do it for me.


ronguest says:

@amit I thought I was the only one!

odd says:

@amit I have also had issues with the voice of the instructor, and being to stressed to meditate. It’s almost like you have to be “pre-meditated” to meditate! Now I seldom do any meditation. But sometimes I do a “body-scan”, and that calms me down a little at least. I’ve used the Swedish app “Mindfulness”. I don’t know if they have guided meditations in non-Nordic languages.

amit says:

@ronguest I knew am not the only one. Possibly we are in majority. Meditation is a pratice that not everyone can master.

amit says:

@odd Yeah will said. I’m listening to the instructor’s voice and in my head an like, “seriously?” That’s the biggest roadblock I guess. Pre-meditate before meditate – possibly. May one needs to attain a state of mind before they even begin to calm down.

Thank you for recommending the app. But I give up – I just can’t attempt this again, at least for a few days.

@amit I think meditation just isn’t for everyone. That said, when I use the guided meditations in Headspace, I just let my mind wander. I used to try to force it to focus, to concentrate on my breathing, but for now, anyway, it’s mostly about sitting quietly for a few minutes and letting my brain go back and forth between attention and inattention. Even that I can only do for 3 minutes at a time.

Amit Gawande says:

Absolutely. Getting into a meditative state while doing an activity is easy for me. For example, while thinking of my next story or taking a shower. Sitting idle with eyes closed is the most difficult part.

Martin says:

Just sit and ignore everything, including your own mind’s junk. Watch a wall move. Observe the other side of a window. etc.

Amit Gawande says:

“Ignore your own mind’s junk” is the part that apparently I can’t master. Once you learn to do it, maybe it is easy after then.

@amit Dear Amit,

I have read your post a few times. I hear your frustration with meditation, and also acknowledge that not all, I’ll call them “inner techniques,” are for everyone. Even within the meditation word there are hundreds, probably thousands of meditation techniques. Some techniques work better for some people than others – that’s why there are so many!

So with that preface, I want to say that I still wonder if meditation could still have a place in your life? What’s my basis for saying this?

First, I write this having been practicing meditation for 30 years, primarily within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, but also informed by other traditions and teachers. I still have much to learn, but know that meditation has greatly benefited me.

Second, while I don’t know what technique you have been trying, there are some things that you say in your post that make me believe that some fine tuning, some working on your perspective, goals and expectations, will produce results. I really believe so. All that is required from your side is a wish to explore.

If you would like to explore this further, I am willing to help by sharing some advice and thoughts, and answer questions that you have. Despite the physical distance between us, we could set up a dialogue using technology.

Drop me a line at david.johnson@hey.com if you are interested. And no problem if you don’t want to take this further.

Best wishes,

patrickrhone says:

@amit This could help.

Seriously. You don’t have to buy the book. Just read the first bit and you may find you’ve already meditated and don’t even know it because of how many understand and define it. The problem is them, not you.

But, even if you were able to focus on your breath for a single second, well, you meditated for a second and that is where we all start. Some never get past that point. Others get to two seconds.

But! Guess what? It’s all meditation. Every second. Every breath. Every step. It all counts.

amit says:

@crossingthethreshold Thank you, David, for the wonderful and generous gesture. I would love to hear from you. I will drop you note 👍🙂

amit says:

@patrickrhone That’s a kind perspective, Patrick. “Every second. Every breath. Every step. It all counts.” Maybe I am in a way overthinking what it means to meditate.

I will for sure give the first few chapters (and probably even the book) a read. If it helps me gain some clarity of thought, nothing better. Thank you! 👍🙂

kitt says:

@amit I’m with you. Seated, still meditation I struggle with. Walking meditation, however, works really well for me. The rhythm of my feet on the ground, the repetitive motions of my arms and legs, the settling of my breath, all help me into a meditative state. Maybe a different form will work for you, too?

Amit Gawande says:

Yeah, absolutely. I feel the same. When I try to be not doing anything is exactly when the thoughts keep rushing into my mind. It’s as if I need to keep my mind busy with some other trivial, easy task so that I can calm myself down.

patrickrhone says:

@amit Shoot me an email and I’ll shoot you the eBook for free. My gift to your practice.

Also, I believe you’ve inspired me to revisit the guide and consider expanding/releasing it as a full book.

Amit Gawande says:

So kind of you Patrick. I look forward to reading your guide — if I can learn to attain any level of calmness, it’s a big win. Thank you!

fiona says:

@amit One thing that helped me was something the guide says in some of the Headspace meditations: the goal isn’t to focus solely on the breath; it’s to remain aware of it. So it’s fine if there are other thoughts, just try to maintain the awareness of the breath. Counting helps because if you maintain the count you know you’re doing it! And if you stop counting, just start again.

Amit Gawande says:

That’s such a simple, but useful suggestion. I think it can work as it can keep my mind busy with a trivial task to not get distracted while I be aware. I will try this. Thank you, Fiona.

On journaling, it does not help me with meditation as it just makes me aware of more things that can eat up my attention. Maybe just me.

fiona says:

@amit Also, if I really find my mind is too busy, writing or journaling first helps.

hawaiiboy says:

@fiona I learned to see thoughts as clouds going by. Observe them, but don’t let them consume you

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