It’s World Meditation Day on 21st May and Swami Saradananda is a renowned and international yoga and meditation teacher with over 40 years of experience. In her classes, she often observes that—despite a desire to meditate—many of her students are deterred by physical or mental impediments. They are frequently distracted, feel that sitting is painful, are caught up in their limitation of time, or simply lack the ability to maintain self-discipline. In her new book, Sitting Comfortably, the author shows you how to overcome some of these difficulties to help you strengthen the mind and body to maintain a sitting meditation.
The mind likes constant stimulation so when you try to sit quietly during meditation without giving your mind external entertainment, it may come up with resistance and excuses not to continue. Rather than viewing these as setbacks, it is useful to view them positively, as obstacles to be overcome and lessons to learn from. Try to notice, without judgement, the resistance that tends to come up for you. Here are some of Swami Saradananda’s most common obstacles and suggestions on how to overcome them.
1. Be in the Moment
Memories of the past and daydreams of possible futures can often distract the mind. If these come up while you are trying to meditate, just bring your mind back to your point of focus – whether it is your breath, a mantra, a visualization, or whatever other technique you have chosen to use.
2. Avoid Fault-Finding and Replaying Thoughts
Try not to review the shortcomings of other people when you are sitting for meditation and also be careful not to get caught up in self-criticism. If you find your mind re-processing the events of the day during meditation, remind yourself to come back to your point of focus, whatever that may be.
3. Muscle Cramps
You could take a walk before sitting to prevent cramps. Make sure that you are getting enough potassium in your diet- and maintaining a healthy potassium-magnesium-calcium, balance. Consider eating more bananas, dried apricots, prunes and other fruits.
4. Let Go of Anger
You may experience anger when you try to focus your mind. Try visualizing angry thoughts as bubbles that grow, but then pop, releasing the emotion. Anger and irritability can be overcome by the counter-attitude of patience. Regular meditation will also help eliminate the causes of anger, slowly changing your perspectives.
5. Be Aware of Your Eating Habits
You might find it interesting to monitor both the quality and the quantity of your food intake – and its effect on your meditation. Some foods, such as wheat products and other carbohydrates, can leave you feeling heavy, bloated and sleepy. Other foods, such as fruits and raw or lightly cooked vegetables digest more quickly and nourish you without draining your energy. Practising after a meal encourages drowsiness, so make sure to leave at least a two-hour gap between eating and meditating.
6. Be Fearless
You may uncover hidden fears during meditation that have been lurking within your subconscious mind. These can manifest in many forms: fear of death, disease, solitude, criticism, or even just facing yourself. All fear stands in the way of meditative progress, so develop the habit of observing them with detachment. You will find that many will dissipate of their own accord if, instead of allowing yourself to get caught up with them, you simply return your attention to your chosen point of meditation focus.
7. Keep Going
Many people try to do too much too quickly and find themselves so overwhelmed that they stop their practice completely. The most important thing is to carry on. Try adopting the yoga concepts of vairagya (detachment; non-expectation of immediate benefits) and abhyasa (steady, regular practice).