Everyone's at it. Mindfulness and meditation is like the Starbucks of the 2000s: a fashionable part of everyone’s morning, the new place where the culturally enlightened claim to hang out. But unfortunately, meditating successfully – and reaping its benefits – is actually quite hard. Thankfully a psychotherapist called Nigel Wellings has read our minds and, conveniently, he has written a book called Why Can’t I Meditate?
We asked Wellings to explain what might be stopping us and how to overcome it.
According to him, there are five main things stopping us from getting some peace of mind...
1. Being Grabby
Almost without exception every one of us will have been drawn to meditation because we want something, even just to be good at meditation. This is counter-productive. On our meditation cushion – yes, get a cushion – we must try to find acceptance and feel content with things as they are.
2. Being Grumpy
Outwardly, grumpiness shows avoidance, irritation, annoyance and anger. Inwardly, these emotions can be joined by fear, depression, self-pity and guilt. We must acknowledge these emotions as they happen, and be mindfully present as we witness them arise, stay for a while, and then fade.
3. Being Sleepy
There is something about the uncontrollable, relentless slide into unconsciousness that is virtually impossible to resist but sleepiness may be the result of too much relaxation and not enough detailed attention. Tsoknyi Riponche calls this "stupid meditation" – a drowsy, unfocused, but pleasurable half-sleep.
4. Being Jumpy
When we feel we cannot sit still or remain seated, when we are powerfully distracted by obsessive and cascading thoughts, we are being hindered by restlessness and worry. It is common when meditating that we find ourselves thinking back over the past stresses and strains, as well as thinking about things we feel guilty about.
5. Being Maybe
Memories, conversations, plans, fantasies, guilts and shames all cloud our minds. Then finally an insidious doubt that whispers, "Maybe mindfulness is not for me, this will never work, I am wasting my time."
So those are our main problems. How do we overcome them? Remember:
1. You're not alone. No one finds this easy
2. Being Grumpy, Grabby, Sleepy, Jumpy or Maybe won't really ever go away. This is the stuff of mindfulness.
3. This is not about self-improvement. Mindfulness is about accepting who we are, in this moment.
4. You will get tired, distracted and irritated. That's OK. Note that you're feeling that way and move on.
5. Mindfulness helps us feel calm in the face of anything the world throws at us. The trick is not to react to things, but to learn to accept them.
Why Can't I Meditate, How To Get Your Mindfulness Practice On Track by Nigel Wellings is out now (Piatkus, £13.99)
Picture: Alexandra Cameron