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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 3, 2020

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life. To control your thoughts means to influence the way you live your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affects your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive, and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Be someone who can control your thoughts—become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have a few thoughts that are not of my choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in control of your thoughts.

If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create unhealthy and unproductive thoughts.

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words—many times your parents
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples’ expectations
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance, and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is youwhy else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future—in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear, which is often irrational and has no basis. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Troublemaker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration, and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

This person can be set off by words or feelings and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control. He is run by past programming that no longer serves you—if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity, and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You can control your thoughts, but you must pay attention to them so you can identify “who” is running the show—this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind.

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go-to” thoughts in applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

1. For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself to discredit the ‘voice’ that created the thought—if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready.

This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

2. For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally, and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind, and creates anxiety in the body. This may make it more difficult for you to control your thoughts effectively.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above-stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time, you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense. Both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

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Now, take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like! Do it until you feel that you’re close to being in control of your thoughts.

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example: If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place.

Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

3. For the Troublemaker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers. But until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain.

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds—just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize. Now, you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior, and you’ll be more in control of your thoughts.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

4. For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher, and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with a replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and thoughts, and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method, I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (closed, of course). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon
  • Shut down your thinking
  • Calm your feelings
  • Simply focus on the present moment

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable, and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. You can be in control of your thoughts. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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