Overcoming Your Struggle to Meditate

Meditation is misunderstood way too often. It’s simple when written down: just calm the mind and be still, breathe, pay attention and be present. But, it’s not always so easy in practice. The mind is notoriously resistant to being quiet, and as soon as we want to be still it seems to do everything it can to distract us. Within a few minutes, thoughts are wandering, body starts to itch, ache, or want to move, things we need to do suddenly seem vitally important, and because we’re so distracted we soon feel inadequate and no good at it.

The mind is described as being like a monkey bitten by a scorpion and, just as a monkey leaps from branch to branch, so the mind leaps from one thing to another, constantly distracted. Then, when we come to sit still and begin to pay attention, we find all this manic activity going on and it seems insanely noisy. It’s actually nothing new. But, when we meditate, we’re suddenly aware of our such constant mind chatter.

“When we do, we see all these runaway thoughts that race through the mind, like I wonder if my car will be ready, is my parking meter overdue, will I get a ticket, should I get a new car, is my girlfriend happy? Our minds are filled with these preoccupations, and we don’t even realize it,” says Prof Robert Thurman in Be The Change.

A busy mind is normal. It’s not as if we can suddenly turn our minds off. That would be like trying to catch the wind. But having a busy mind doesn’t mean we can’t meditate; it just means we’re like everyone else. Even if we have non-stop meaningless thoughts, that’s fine. Thoughts are just thoughts.

“Meditation can be intimidating. Sitting there, doing nothing, just breathing can be trickier than it sounds. It may feel strange, uncomfortable, or even put you to sleep. You start to fidget, adjust your seat, clothes, and hair, anything to have something to do,” writes yogini Tara Stiles on HuffingtonPost.com. “Meditation can be like a battle with yourself, your thoughts, your body. But if you stick with the uncomfortable moments, they will start to fade away and cool things will happen.”

That’s why it’s vital that we make friends with meditation. It’s no help at all if we feel we have to meditate and then feel guilty if we miss the allotted time, or only do ten minutes when we’d said we’d do thirty. Better to sit for a just a few minutes and enjoy what we’re doing than to make ourselves sit there, teeth gritted, because we’ve been told that only thirty or even forty minutes will have any affect.

Meditation is not a war. It is a way of making friends with ourselves. Rick Fields

Doing It

To clear the mind, there’s nothing simpler than watching the natural in-and-out flow of the breath. The mind might become distracted and wander off into different thoughts, but the breath always brings us into the present moment. We constantly come back to that flow.

“Perhaps the most important thing is that we don’t have to stop the mind in order to meditate, just stop paying attention to it,” says meditation teacher Noah Levine in Be The Change. “What we are doing is training our awareness to pay attention to the breath and the body and to let the mind do its own thing in the background.”

We can see thoughts like clouds in the sky moving without stopping and without affecting the clarity or brilliance of the sky, or see them like birds — beautiful, here one minute and then watch them fly away. Apply this to feelings as well as thoughts, and we see how everything comes and goes, nothing stays, nothing is permanent, no matter how strong or insistent the thought or feeling may be.


COMING SOON: Ed & Deb are joining forces with author, HuffPO blogger & coach to the stars Eli Davidson, and author & yoga teacher Tara Guber for a special weekend retreat in LA. Watch this space!!

Award-Winning Authors Ed and Deb of Be The Change, How Meditation can Transform You and the World, are mindfulness, meditation and yoga experts. Deb’s new novel is: Merging: Women in Love — what happens when you fall in love with the least likely person of the least likely gender? – and she’s the author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, now in 19 languages. They have three meditation CDs. See more at EdandDebShapiro.com




william Miller
william Miller4 years ago


Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

No more excuses

Mac C.
mac C4 years ago

I meditate everyday, but for 5 to 20 minutes at a time. In the beginning I'd either fall asleep or fidget. I really liked this post, it lets us know that the things that bother us about meditation are OK, everyone goes through it and we can end up getting the benefits of meditation in spite of how crazy our minds are. By the way, "Be the Change" is an excellent book to read, it helps and I have many pages marked to go back and read.

"Meditation is not a war. It is a way of making friends with ourselves." -Rick Fields

Rose Becke4 years ago

I have trouble stopping my mind

Tanja W.
Tanja W4 years ago

thank you:]

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen4 years ago

Thank you

Patrice Z.
Patrice Z4 years ago

Thank you for the article.

Teresa W.
Teresa W4 years ago

I like meditating, only I don't often have time to do it.

Angela K.
Angela K4 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Anna Pruett
Anna Pruett4 years ago

always looking for better ways to clear the mind. Good tips!