9 Common Meditation Mistakes
that hinder your meditation routine
By now everyone is familiar with the many benefits of meditation proven by science and the experience of millions of people. Yet, despite the overt benefits that a daily meditation practice can bring to our lives, many still tell me that meditation “isn’t for me” , or that “I tried to meditate, but I can’t.”
Let’s immediately dispel this myth: anyone is able to meditate, because to do so we only need our mind and our awareness .
Yet our mental patterns often row against us making us feel incapable and inadequate . Maybe you’re just starting out and worry about making beginner mistakes , or not doing it right. In the long run you may wonder why your meditation is not progressing so well and, therefore, give up.
Perhaps you meditate sporadically, or even every day, but you feel that your meditation is not progressing as you expected. Perhaps you even feel that meditation has stopped working and you are doubting its effectiveness.
You are not alone.
Here are 9 common mistake mistakes that hinder your meditation routine
1. You don’t practice consistently
Of all the reasons your practice is not progressing, this is by far the most common.
Meditation needs to be practiced daily for it to have a lasting impact on your life. Obviously every time you sit down to meditate you awaken some benefit, even if only purely physical, whether you feel it or not. But mental and emotional transformation only comes with constant practice.
So consistency should be your main focus when you are learning to meditate, and not how long you sit or how well you can bend your legs. Ten minutes a day is better than half an hour three times a week.
You use your mind during all your waking hours, so your already existing mental patterns are reinforced 24/7. focused my course on habit .
The easiest way to create this habit is to meditate first thing in the morning , before breakfast (although a light breakfast can help in some cases ). Start with two minutes a day if necessary, but have the determination never to skip a day no matter what.
Do you have a busy day? Wake up a few minutes earlier and meditate.
Not sure if you are doing it right or are in the right posture? Do it anyway and then check later if you did it correctly.
Not sure which technique to use? Read about the different traditional meditation techniques , experiment with the ones that appeal to you, and find the one that works best for you.
Take the attitude that no circumstances, whether external or internal, can compromise your commitment to meditate.
2. You expect too much too soon
Probably what got you started meditating was the expectation of its many benefits. However, once you have already built the habit, try to let go of all expectations and simply meditate for the pleasure of it. Just like you shower, eat and sleep every day.
How can you come to this mindset?
Start enjoying yourself when you meditate. Enjoy the way you feel after sitting down – how you become calmer, more thoughtful, more centered. Of course, meditation may not always be that idyllic, but if you’ve practiced it long enough you will understand that on average it feels pretty good after a session.
Many of the deeper benefits of meditation come only after months or years of daily practice. So letting go of your expectations is essential to moving forward.
3. You don’t prepare yourself before practicing
You can just sit back and start meditating at any time of the day, as most people do. But your session can go much deeper if you take just a couple of minutes earlier to relax your body, calm your breath, and affirm your intention.
Nothing complicated is needed: you just need to stretch for a few seconds, take three deep breaths and state your intention: “Ok, now I’ll focus for ten minutes” .
4. You often Jump from one meditation technique to another
In the first few months of your practice it is great to experiment with different techniques or follow a different guided meditation every day. However, after the first few months it is advisable to choose a specific technique and stick to it.
Because each of us is different, there is certainly one meditation technique that “works” better for you than others. So it’s important to experiment with different techniques until you find the right one. You can adopt one for a few weeks, to get a first “feel” of its effects before deciding, but it is important in the end to find a definitive technique and then keep it.
If you are focusing on something in particular – be it your breath , a chakra or a mantra – that element becomes more “charged” with attention and energy as you go along. Your mind becomes more intimate with it and this affinity, in turn, makes it easier to keep the focus on that element in future sessions.
5. You keep doubting if you are doing it right
Because you care about your practice and want to improve, you may tend to over- analyze it . This has been an obstacle that I have been facing for a long time: too many times, we tend to be our worst critics.
There are two problems with self-criticism of your practice:
- It keeps the mind occupied during the practice with the analysis of your mental states, rather than letting it immerse in the meditation process.
- It often demotivates you when you can’t find a satisfactory answer to the question “Am I doing well?” . If you conclude that you are not doing it right or you cannot understand it, the chances are that you will give up.
So, no matter how difficult it seems to you, you have to let go of any kind of judgment and just practice. Time will bring you clarity on the meditation process, as it becomes more of an experience rather than something you need to understand and describe.
Keep your curiosity, keep learning, keep experiencing subtle differences in your approaches. If you have a good meditation teacher or community, then ask your questions as clearly as possible and find out how you can improve. But know that you will have to keep moving forward, despite your uncertainties.
Understand that meditation is a simple two-step process:
- Step 1: Focus your attention on the meditation object (breath, mantra, chakra or other) and hold it for as long as possible.
- Step 2: Notice when you get distracted and go back to Step 1.
Your main goal is to simply notice as quickly as possible when a distraction occurs . Maybe in your first few weeks your mind will wander for 2-5 minutes before you even realize you are distracted. Gradually make this gap shorter by being more aware of what is happening inside you. This is awareness .
Your secondary goal is to keep your attention, moment by moment, on your meditation object. At first you may only be able to do this for 3 seconds, but with time and practice your focus will increase. This is concentration .
If you do these two things as best you can, you are meditating!
6. You don’t give the practice enough attention and intention
If you exercise sloppily, you can’t really complain that you don’t get much benefit from it. The same goes for meditation. It needs a certain intensity and determination .
There is a beautiful metaphor in Buddhism: practice as if your head is on fire . If your head was on fire, I don’t think you would be distracted by thoughts about your daily activities and what you should eat for lunch.
While this degree of intensity can be difficult to cultivate, I find this image useful and inspiring. The greater your commitment to meditation and your intention to deepen it, the more your mind will be calm and engaged in the practice.
Don’t meditate like it’s just another chore to tick off your to-do list. Sit down with a sense of reverence , as if you are about to start the most important activity of your day.
And, once you’re done, don’t skip to your next assignment. Instead, inhale deeply, wait a few seconds, and then slowly begin to come out of meditation. This helps carry the experience with you for the rest of the day.
7. You punish yourself when you get distracted
If you are following the process outlined in step 5, you will understand that there is no need to criticize yourself for how often you get distracted during meditation. This is absolutely normal and part of the process. For most people it will take months, if not years, to get to a point where they will experience a distraction-free meditation session (learn more about the relationship between meditation and thoughts here ).
So don’t be hard on yourself – notice the distraction and let it go. Self-criticism only takes you one step further from meditation. Instead, be glad you noticed that you got distracted and simply bring your attention back to your meditation object.
8. Keep your mind too busy during the day
You need meditation, among other reasons, because your mind is too restless and not under your control. It goes in wrong directions and gets lost in useless mental patterns. It continues to reinforce negative conditioning and very often it makes you hate yourself, or be less productive and less satisfied.
Just as the quality of your meditation affects the way your mind acts during the day, the way your mind reasons also affects the quality of your meditation. Twenty minutes of meditation, however profound it may be, will not be able to overcome 16 hours of restlessness .
How effective would 30 minutes in the gym be if you were eating a lot of junk food for the rest of the day? The same is true with meditation. If you feed yourself with destructive thoughts and addictive emotions, your meditation will only partially clean up the damage.
Develop the habit of looking at your mind and seeing what is going on inside of you. This will help your meditation a lot; and in turn meditation will make this process easier. It is a positive self-sustaining cycle.
9. You consume too much media
Much of our unrest is created or at least reinforced by the media we consume. Movies, news, social media, articles, forums, games, TV, etc. This is a challenge that meditators of past centuries have not faced and is another reason why we need meditation more than ever!
When we expose our brains to a lot of information , it is natural for all of these images and ideas to appear when we sit down to meditate, triggering distracting emotions and further reflection. Most of the media we are exposed to is designed to make us fall into a state of desire , restlessness , anger or fear .
Therefore, if you want a deeper transformation of your mental and emotional states, it helps to limit the types of media you use. Ask yourself how the things you watch, read and listen to every day make you feel.
Try experimenting with a “media fast”, maybe on the weekend or one day a week.
These habit changes will not only positively affect your meditation, but will also make you less stressed and more productive. You will be more present in the here and now , without distractions.
If you find yourself trapped in these “meditation errors”, work on them one at a time. Start with the ones that are easiest to fix or have the biggest impact.
Meditation is a practice that accompanies you throughout your life and not something you can master in a couple of months. Reconditioning the way the mind works takes time and constant effort .
It is not enough that meditation is becoming popular. It is necessary to raise awareness of how to meditate more effectively so that they can enjoy all the benefits that this practice can bring us.
If you found these tips useful, I invite you to share this article with other people interested in meditating (and who may be making these mistakes!).