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Common Meditation Mistakes You Can Avoid Now

Common Meditation Mistakes You Can Avoid Now

Who has time to meditate?

You do! As long as it doesn’t take 8 hrs a day! Avoid these mistakes to make your practice more effective, leaving you more time for the enlightened life.

1. Spiritual Bypassing

Spiritual bypassing is when we use spirituality to distract us from feelings we’re going to have to come back to. Bypassing makes our practice less effective, and slows our spiritual growth even though it can feel good in the short term. How to avoid bypassing? Make sure you are centered and grounded in your body when you practice. Connect to your emotions and allow your practice to include them, not avoid them. If you’re having too much of an ‘up and out’ of body experience, you may not be grounded enough and are in possible bypass territory. To learn more about spiritual bypassing, read Flint Sparks fine article and Ingrid Mathieu’s piece in Psychology Today.

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2. Shortcuts

Although meditation can include time in the car, washing dishes and gardening, time spent in formal practice is important to activating the other times you practice. It is often during these more formal sitting times that the practice deepens the most. Don’t rush your practice during these times. To get the full deepening effect, set aside at least one hour to sit in meditation without distractions. You can set a clock in front of you to discourage shortening the practice. Formal practice, like a vision quest, deepens in phases over time. You need enough time to shed the busyness of the world, your thoughts, and move through emotions into the essence of who you are. You may notice a shift at each 15 minute increment of your practice, which can supply extra motivation to keep going.

3. Not starting

Obviously, meditation works better if you do it. The best practice is the one you actually do. We may have the best intentions to set aside time for our practice, but how often do we get to it? Here’s a trick for ‘getting in the boat,’ so to speak, which will then feel so good you’ll want to keep going. Tell yourself you’re only going to sit for two minutes and then get up. The two minutes will feel good, even if you do get up. But what tends to happen is once you’re in practice, your nervous system feels the effects of it and you want to continue. Meditation is often more relaxing and restful than sleep. Take advantage of this trick to stay connected to your practice daily.

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4. Gimmicky versions

There are many modern variations on traditional meditation. Many of them can dilute the practice. I’m not saying only old-school meditation works, but that’s kind of what I’m saying. Many modern gimmicky systems are developed by teachers who do not have in-depth spiritual training and think their re-invention of the wheel is better than what’s out there. Keep in mind that traditional schools of training have many hundreds if not thousands of years of experience teaching meditation and watching students grow through the practice. Two hundred years of modern science has a lot to contribute, but spiritual growth is an ancient pursuit. Gimmicky versions are sometimes nice to capture our attention and bring our focus back to the importance of training the mind, but as a serious practitioner, beware of these modern variations on an ancient science.

5. Being your own teacher

Some people are sensitive to this one. OK fine, be your own teacher. While you’re at it, teach yourself physics, advanced math, how to dance Salsa and a pro-level sport. We all benefit from great teachers in the areas we want to excel in. Spirituality is no different. A meditation instructor can smooth out any rough areas in your practice, make if more powerful and effective, and help you avoid common errors. Over time, as you and your practice change, a good teacher can help adapt the practice to best fit your current stage of growth, just like a good golf teacher uses slightly different methods at varying points in a player’s development. Of course, watch out for folks masquerading as teachers who are more interested in benefits to themselves. But don’t let charlatans stop you from seeking a qualified and worthy instructor. It can make a big difference.

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6. Day vs. night

Meditating during the day is good. Meditating in the early morning and evening times can be better. Meditating in the middle of the night can be best. There’s a reason so many monks wake up in the night to practice. It’s quiet. There’s nothing going on. There’s nothing else to do. You can go deep without distractions. Meditating at 3 am has a different feel than practicing during the day. You’ll notice how your system picks up the energy of the world and of activity around you. Early morning and before-bed times are quieter and can facilitate going deeper than meditating in the middle of the day. The dead of night, however, is a particularly magical time to practice.

7. Using too many props

Some props can help practitioners focus, but beware of relying on them too much. The point of meditation is to become comfortable with yourself, to become satisfied with your own internal experience of life. Toward that end, it can be helpful to sit with yourself and have to face yourself just as you are, as you came into this world, with nothing. Too many props can distract from the experience of your core nature. For example, some people have their pillow, their beads, their sacred water, their altar, a candle, lighting just right, another person, etc. Then, practice becomes difficult if they don’t have those things. A couple things to help you stay awake or focused may be supportive to your practice, but if you don’t need them, consider keeping props to a minimum. Try meditating in the dark, with no props, no music, just you. It’s a worthwhile experiment.

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8. Relying on guided meditations

Guided meditations can help some get in touch with their inner selves and access the quiet space within, but you may not want to rely on them every time you practice. Meditation helps you get in touch with yourself. If we rely on someone else to walk us through the experience too much, it can become a crutch. There’s a time to have an experienced co-pilot showing you the ropes, a time to have that person there with you while you try the controls, and a time to fly the plane on your own. A combination of guided and solo meditations can offer the best of both worlds.

9. Not expanding your practice

In #2 above we explored the importance of full-length formal practice. Assuming that’s a part of the routine, broadening meditation to include other parts of the day is important. Meditation is an all-weather practice, meaning it is designed as an anytime/anywhere event. In fact, the point of meditation is to eventually live the meditation, to erase the line between practice and non-practice. Try practicing eyes open at times, while in conversation, or while working. It’s a mistake to keep your spiritual connection only for the times you sit down in practice.

Now go get ’em!

Meditation is a great way to process feelings, expand resilience, further integrate parts of us, and train our mind to focus on what matters most to us. A daily practice can sharpen our mind to help us with our career goals, relationships, and personal lives. Avoiding these common mistakes can make your practice more effective and powerful, concentrating it toward the fruits of meditation: To know ourselves fully, to reign in the monkey mind, to realize the oneness of all things and to feel peace and love in our hearts.

Featured photo credit: 123rf.com/Wavebreak Media Ltd via 123rf.com

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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