in Habits

Meditation Is Really, Really Hard

You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour. – Zen Proverb

Why is it so hard to sit still and calm the mind for even FIVE minutes a day?  Are we so programmed for instant mental gratification, tiny bullets of dopamine hitting the brain in rapid succession that it’s impossible to work in even the smallest bit of mindfulness in our days?

Maybe some people don’t have as big an issue with this as me, but having grown up playing games, reading voraciously, playing 16 tables of poker throughout college and running an online marketing business, all things that require a lot of context switching, I’ve found it nearly impossible to stick to the habit of sitting for 10-20 minutes a day in meditation.

Of course, the next course for me was to analyze every single possible reason why this habit was so hard for me to stick to.  It’s easy to blame an overactive mind, one that needs to be DOING something all of the time – and it may even be true.  But it doesn’t help me build the habit of mindfulness in any real way, so it’s a worthless excuse.

A Better Approach

I scoured around the depths of the internet for too long before I found a great piece of advice that talks about countering The Resistance.  If you’ve ever read Steven Pressfield’s book The War Of Artyou’ll know exactly what The Resistance is.  Even if you haven’t you’re aware of it – it’s the little voice that stops you from doing things that – deep down – you know you should be doing.  Things you don’t need to do, you don’t HAVE to do, but you’d be better off if you did them.

Anyways, this wise anonymous person had this to say:

I just shrink the length of the session in my head until I hit a level I don’t feel resistance to. Like, “Could I do 15 minutes? No, I feel resistance, I’m not gonna do it. Okay, what about 10? Still too long, the thought puts me off. Okay, 5? Huh, I don’t feel resistance to that. I feel like I can sit for 5.” Boom.

So simple.  Sure, when starting out I might feel that resistance all the way down to a single minute…but a minute is better than no minutes.  So I’ll do the minute.  Then I might do two, or five.  The goal isn’t to meditate my days away, but just to actually find and dedicate that time every day to observing the thoughts and experiencing as much presence as possible.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think.  If you’ve been able to keep a meditation practice in place…drop some knowledge in the comments!