Meditation has its own peculiar challenges, not least of which are the obstacles you encounter going into meditating. Some meditation challenges are tougher to overcome than minor distractions, like the noise outside or thoughts inside your head. They are physical, emotional and mental factors that impede your progress in this spiritual discipline.
If you want to start a regular meditation practice, or are already into it but you feel like quitting, it helps to familiarize yourself with these challenges and obstacles. Knowing what they are is arming yourself with the weapons to overcome them, and reaping the good things that come with daily meditation routine.
5 Meditation challenges and how to overcome them
1. Attachment to the trappings of wealth and fame
An obsessive attachment to possessions, events, and relationships makes you lose the focus that meditation requires. A materialistic mindset is constantly seeking the temporary happiness that the flesh desires, such as fame, wealth, good food, luxury things, and carnal pleasures. It’s one of the meditation challenges that presents difficulty because meditation calls for concentration, clearing the mind of thoughts and surrendering to silence and stillness.
To overcome thoughts and feelings of worldly attachment, you must first accept that it exists, recognize its transitory nature and experience it fully, then banish it from your mind. Conquering your attachment even if only for the time you are in meditation will allow you to go into contemplation, bring you calm and serenity.
2. Negative emotions
Anger, hatred, envy and resentment – all these lead to bitterness. These destructive feelings are directed at people who have hurt you and caused you pain, and you have a burning desire to hurt them back. It’s ironic that in wanting to hurt others, you are hurting yourself more because being angry and envious makes you unhappy, frustrated and bitter. When you meditate in this state of mind, your focus wanders to thoughts of revenge and retaliation, and you have difficulty reining in your brain processes to go back to stillness and silence.
Conquer your hostile feelings by being compassionate and empathetic. Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahmavamso says loving kindness is a way to overcome this obstacle. Loving kindness helps you see the good in the person who has hurt you, helps you understand the story behind their ill will, and enables you to set aside your own resentment and anger, stripping them of the power to hurt you more.
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3. Lethargy and sloth
Lethargy as a meditation challenge is both physical and mental, characterized by the body and mind’s unusual lack of energy to do the practice. It can be caused by the feeling that meditating is not doing anything good to you, or by other problems that on its face seem insurmountable. You feel dispirited and lose your enthusiasm to meditate.
You can beat lethargy by looking at meditation from a fresh angle. One is to be patient and not expect instant changes in your life from your meditation practice. The calm and inner peace you seek comes to you in a quiet and subtle manner, so that you may not even notice you already have it. Develop the passion and motivation to meditate and acknowledge the well-being it brings to you.
4. Restlessness of the mind
The mind becomes restless when you give in to the clamor for attention from earthly concerns. The demands from work and the daily activities of living compete to be noticed by you. It’s a struggle to meditate when your mind keeps wandering and worrying. You lose your focus when your thoughts stray, and it takes effort to bring you back to the present. A restless and preoccupied mind brings about stress and anxiety.
When you catch yourself reminiscing or making plans, simply stop and listen to your breathing. Appreciate and be grateful for the simple joys. Contentment helps you get rid of your fault-finding tendencies, which contributes to an agitated state. Meditation quiets the restless mind. These attributes will let you see things more clearly and help control your worries and restlessness.
5. Doubt, skepticism, lack of trust
You’re unsure about your ability to successfully meditate. You are stuck in analyzing the methods of meditating. You’re skeptical of its benefits, or you’re too jaded to believe that meditation can bring you into a tranquil state. All these questions and uncertainties are meditation challenges that hinder you from maintaining the practice of meditation.
Instead of trying to achieve perfection in the meditation techniques or anticipating the benefits that the discipline gives, put your trust in simplicity, silence and stillness. Meditation doesn’t need goals. It only needs your awareness of the present, and the benefits will follow without fail.