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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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