Meditation is so hard because our minds are constantly distracted – by thoughts and emotions hijacking our attention and pulling us away from the present moment.
To reclaim this ability to attend to the now and gain insight into our true nature takes training.
Why is meditation not working for me?
When starting out, many practitioners feel they’re doing it wrong and not seeing results, wondering what should happen with the process.
Often those drawn to the practice may struggle with pre-existing mental health problems like anxiety, depression or overthinking.
Sitting down and becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings may seem counterintuitive and the last thing you want to do.
Even with a precise daily meditation time, the correct equipment and perfect meditation space, those initial sessions might surface a previously suppressed inner turmoil.
Despite the instructions sounding simple, to just follow your breath, you likely find your attention darting all over the place and you wonder what you should be thinking about.
From ruminating on past events, wondering what you could have done differently, to anxiously anticipating future scenarios that might never happen, you depressingly discover that your attention is rarely on the present moment.
Trying to centre your attention feels like herding cats.
The calm that meditation is supposed to induce, as touted by all the gurus and attractive YouTubers, remains elusive.
Those thoughts and feelings seem uncontrollable and reflecting on your practice you feel dejected, castigating yourself for not even being able to meditate properly.
And so, after a few aborted attempts, the search for inner peace continues elsewhere.
Though fear not, you’re not alone – this is exactly what the majority of beginners meditators experience.
How long does it take to become good at meditation?
One of the most common Vissipana or mindfulness courses, as expertly outlined in the book ‘Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World’, takes 8 weeks to complete.
This is enough time to introduce you to various meditation techniques, such as body scans, sound meditation and loving-kindness.
Studies even show that 8 weeks is long enough to induce changes in the grey matter structure of the brain.
However, becoming adept at these techniques is another thing entirely.
There are a significant number of long term and lifetime meditators who don’t identify themselves as experts.
Indeed, the majority may feel there can still go deeper with their practice.
Although these meditators will likely have surpassed beginners in terms of their concentration and insight, they have not banished thoughts and feelings from their practice.
Why? Because that’s not the point.
Thoughts and feelings are a natural part of the human experience, and to eradicate them isn’t the point.
Experienced meditators simply know not to be perturbed by the content of their minds and are better able to view the fluctuations of their psychology impartially and devoid of judgement.
How can I make meditation easier?
The desire to make meditation easier suggests that there is something to find hard about it – a resistance against what we discover when looking inwards and a desire to try and control our experience.
Approaching meditation from this perspective will feel like doing battle every time we sit, fighting an unwinnable contest with ourselves.
A far better approach is one of surrender.
Perhaps you do have a more active mind than other meditators, but that recognition should be celebrated rather than trying to coerce your mind to behave.
Instead of becoming angry with yourself for lapsing into thought and losing concentration, instead, become curious about this tendency to self-blame.
Explore that feeling as another mind-made construction.
As you become familiar with these patterns you’ll begin to recognise them emerging in other parts of life.
Furthermore, this curiosity will counteract inner resistance and allow you to accept this natural tendency of the mind.
Over time, you’ll be far less reactive and triggered, and far more non-judgmental in your observations.
The other way to make meditation easier is obvious. Practice.
If you expected a beginner musician to be able to sit down and play Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, people would call you unrealistic.
The same can be said for meditation.
Over time they’ll become so familiar that you’ll begin to use them outside of formal practice in everyday life.
Instead of cruising along on autopilot, you’ll notice yourself becoming more present during the average day.
Why is meditation so hard?
Meditation is so hard because as a species we’re so distracted.
In this technological age, we’ve engineered an attention economy where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain our focus and remain comfortable looking inwards.
This deficit has severe consequences, and it’s only through repeated practice that we can surrender to the present moment and cultivate presence of mind.