Over the many years that I have been meditating, I have made a lot of mistakes and seen others make similar ones.
When first starting a meditation practice it is helpful to avoid repeating common mistakes, so you can be more successful at establishing a healthy and rewarding daily practice.
If you have been inspired to take on meditation or are practicing and are looking for some guidance check out the health benefits of meditation and my list of six common mistakes that beginners make.
Health Benefits of Meditation
There is nothing inherently holistic or mystical about meditation. You shouldn’t confuse meditation with the tradition that surrounds it. Yes, meditation has been used by different cults and sects throughout history. However, the idea of focusing on the present to quiet your thoughts is also utilized by hunters, warriors, and artists from many different civilizations, and for a good reason.
It should also be noted that you don’t need to sit cross-legged or light an incense to meditate. All you need to reach a state of mindful meditation is a moment to focus. It can be done sitting down or standing up; it can even be done while walking, running, or punching a sandbag. Let’s take a look at the health benefits of meditation, and why it is so beneficial to people of all walks of life.
Plenty of studies have looked into the way meditation affects your focus. Regularly practicing mindful meditation improves both the duration and the intensity of your concentration on specific tasks.
One study, for example, found that human resources workers who regularly practiced mindful meditation were able to focus on tasks longer. Another study found that participants who took a mindful meditation course saw an improvement in their ability to reorient and maintain their attention.
If you are the type who constantly gets distracted when trying to get work done, meditation might be the practice for you. It can be used as a workout for your mind, slowly building up your ability to calm down and focus. That can help you get more out of your efforts, be it by helping you get through an hour of work, or helping you stay on task while doing sets at the gym.
Enhances Emotional Health
Some research has suggested that a regular meditation practice can help better manage stress and regulate negative emotions, especially fear and anger. A 2016 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience supports meditating to help enhance emotional health.
In the experiment, one group performed a guided meditation and the other spent the same time listening to a language-learning presentation. Afterward, all subjects were shown disturbing photos and researchers recorded their brain activity. The meditation group had a quicker recovery in their brain’s emotional response than the group who listened to a language-learning presentation. This suggests that meditation actually helped them manage the negative emotions they experienced in reaction to the disturbing photos.
Another study found that meditators were able to talk about past experiences that made them angry without experiencing a physical response. The non-meditating group experienced increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing when they talked about the past experience that made them angry.
One of the most significant benefits of meditation is the reduction of stress and anxiety. Both of those can do a lot of damage to your body, increasing your risk of cardiovascular problems and strokes. Not only that, but staying in a state of high stress depletes your body’s resources, weakening your immune system and making you get exhausted more easily.
When it comes to stress, meditation isn’t a panacea. Sometimes the causes of your stress are too great to meditate away, and stress and anxiety can both be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. However, plenty of studies have shown that meditation does a great job of reducing stress levels on most people, and being calm is excellent for your heart and your longevity.
Pain is more subjective than you may think. Your perceptions affect how your brain reacts to pain signals; that’s why some people don’t mind injections while others can barely bear the pain.
Studies have found that mindful meditation can help alleviate pain by reducing the strength of pain signals in your brain. The studies were conducted looking at the participant’s brains using an MRI machine. This means that the person meditating didn’t just feel better — there was a noticeable difference in how the participant’s brains were lighting up in reaction to painful stimuli.
This makes meditation an excellent tool for anyone dealing with chronic pain, and for people trying to push past workout pains to stay active or train more. Other useful natural pain remedies include chamomile tea, willow bark, and CBD products. You can find the latter on Cibdol.com.
Beginner Mistakes That Destroy a Meditation Practice
Procrastinate Starting Meditation
The number one mistake that people who want to meditate make is that they procrastinate. They put off starting their practice for a wide variety of reasons. I have heard everything from “I am too busy,””I’ll start when I retire,””when I have my summer vacation,””when I find the perfect teacher,” or “when I am more healthy,” etc. There is no end to the reasons that people seem to come up with and procrastinate beginning, what is established now as a very beneficial practice for you.
So if you are inspired to meditate, just start today! This procrastination can often become a habit and can even become a disease. Procrastinating beginning a meditation practice would rank amongst the top mistakes that beginners make when trying to start meditation.
Trying to Have a Perfect Pose
The second mistake that beginning meditators often make is that they want to sit in the perfect posture. They have read lots of books or seen a lot of videos or pictures, and they want to sit perfectly still like a mouse and in the full lotus pose. And when they try, if they don’t injure themselves, they find it difficult as they may not be flexible enough to be in that posture. Instead, find any position that works for you to get started.
If you want to sit on a chair, that’s fine. If you’re going to sit cross-legged, that’s fine. A Japanese sitting style, half lotus or whatever works for you is fine. If you find sitting difficult, you can lie on your back and meditate. Yours truly began their meditation practice that way, and I still practice lying on my back and meditating, and I have found that it is just as effective as other positions as well, so don’t look for the perfect posture. Find one that works for you, be comfortable. Meditation has a has its challenges, so don’t create extra problems for yourself and get started.
Trying to Meditate For Too Long
The third mistake is that people think they need to sit for a very, very long period of time. There is a purpose and benefit to sitting for long periods of time a for experienced meditators, but a long meditation time will be pure suffering for someone just starting. Meditation can be challenging if you’re just starting out on this journey, so don’t add more challenge by sitting for more than 20 minutes. Even five minutes can be challenging is if you have never tried to sit quietly and be still and be still and turn your attention inwards. Set a comfortable time for yourself to meditate. So if that’s just five minutes for you, that’s fine. If it’s two minutes, that’s fine to try and be regular with that time, and you can build up from there slowly. A student once came to me and insisted that he would like to sit for three hours in meditation, and I asked him how long he has been meditating for, and he said, well, I haven’t meditated, but I must sit for three hours. I said I will teach you meditation and please start with three minutes, and we’ll go from there. So don’t be over ambitious concerning the amount of time that you’re going to sit in meditation for you will find it challenging. Begin with what you’re able to do comfortably.
Not Setting Up a Proper Space or Time
The next mistake is not setting up a meditation space and not establishing a set time. Often new mediators only sit when they were very inspired to meditate. But if you meditate at random times during the day, and in random places as opportunity avails itself, but there will be days you will find that you’re not quite in the mood to meditate and you’re not quite in the mood to stay in your session. As long as you had determined you would in both these cases. Having a set time to meditate and the set duration and a meditation space is essential. They are a huge blessing to those who want to establish a regular practice. So make your area someplace in the home. It doesn’t have to be very lavish; it just should be quiet. She would try and keep it clean. Try and use it exclusively for meditation. Have a few items there that inspire you. Have your meditation zafu or other cushions that you plan to use all set up that will make it vastly more comfortable for you to go regardless of your mood and practice your meditation session for that day.
Looking for Immediate Results
And the fifth mistake, which also derails a great many practices is expecting results quickly. We have unfortunately become trained in expecting rapid results from the actions that we take. Taking a pill, a for quick pain relief or a quick tablet for losing weight quickly without wanting or having to go to the gym and sweating it out. Even in relationships, people are looking for them to move a bit faster with fewer periods of romance. So, we’re getting accustomed to having very, very quick results. Early in your meditation, big spiritual openings can take place within you as you have not meditated before but not always. It is best to use this as a great inspiration rather than expect them to keep happening on a regular basis. Meditation is akin to getting wet in a fog. You get wet slowly, but if you stay out there long enough, you will get totally drenched. Expecting rapid and fast results is detrimental to establishing a long-term meditation practice.
Not Experimenting With Different Techniques
The last mistake is being too rigid in the method of your meditation. There are many different styles and techniques of meditation so explore them all and try different things. Try to match the style of meditation with your personality. For example, if you are fidgety, try walking meditation. If you need a tactile response to activity use a Buddhist meditation mala to count your chanted mantras. If you have a hard time focusing, check out mindfulness meditation. If you desire simplicity, choose zen.
I hope you can avoid these six mistakes and have a successful start to your meditation practice. Most importantly, don’t’ try to be perfect, just go ahead and do your practice the best you can.