It is true, there are many benefits to meditation, but there are also many pitfalls. There are many guidelines in the world for why to meditate, but it is important to know what not to do in meditation as well as what not to expect from it.
Please do not get me wrong, I am huge supporter of meditation. Psychological research has shown how valuable meditation is; it reduces stress, deepens out meaning in life, eases our pain, and makes it easier for us to sleep.
However, with all that being said it is important to recognize the potential hazard of meditation, which might come up during practice. This is especially relevant to beginners. It is my personal belief that if we could bear in mind that these possible perils exist, we would be able to deal with the challenge in a healthy manner, instead of halting the meditation practice altogether.
Engaging in a Power Struggle
Your mind wants to use your meditation time to think about your unpaid bills, buy you would rather focus on a white light image. Guess which thoughts are going to win? The thoughts about bill, every single time. The more you resist them, the more they will persist. So if you want to make meditation feel a hundred times easier, practice leaning into the unwanted thoughts, and surprisingly, they will start to go away on their own.
Grading your Meditations
Come on, you know you know you have all done it! “This morning’s meditation was amazing.” “Yesterday’s meditation was horrible.” “The meditations from last week were average.” Stop putting a label on everything, and comparing things to one thing or another. Six years from now, there will be no one meditation that stands out for being incredible or horrible. But this feeling you will have as a whole from meditating for that long will be noticeably and positively different from the one you have right now.
The Danger of Non-attachment
Non-attachment is the skill of taking a step back from whatever happens, or whatever we feel, acknowledging that it is transient, and accepting that it will soon change and transform. This is one of the building blocks of meditation. The quality of non-attachment is important, as it helps us not to get carried away with the “drama” of life, and to remain calm and peaceful.
Non-attachment, however, does not mean avoiding, repressing, or disregarding anything. I think a lot of people get those things mixed up. We should NOT detach ourselves from the people and activities we love and enjoy, nor should we become passive or inactive. Non-attachment should be a change in the quality of the relationship with life, it should allow you to make conscious and peaceful choices, because you relate to people, events and yourself, in a non-attached manner.
Looking for Perfection
You are afraid to miss a meditation, or the environment has to be perfectly quiet, or dark, or distraction-free in order for you to meditate successfully. To liberate yourself from the burden of perfection, try purposefully meditating in noisy and distracting places. Eventually, you will make yourself resilient to most noises and distractions.
Treating it like an ER
Do you only meditate on the bad days? If so, you are giving the power of meditation too much credit. It can still be effective, but understand that meditation is less emergency medicine and more preventive maintenance. By waiting until you really need it, the last thing you are going to feel like doing is meditating and, ironically, it will not seem to work fast enough or be effective enough in the midst of all the drama.
The “Right” Way
Some teachers or books contend that their way of meditation is the “right” way, and go as far as to dismiss practices as wrong techniques or approaches. This is a dangerous area, where everyone needs to be extremely cautious. One of the best things about meditation is that it could be practiced in numerous ways. There are many approaches to meditation, and you would need to seek the one that is right for you. It is good for you to learn to be flexible and open, remember that there is more than one way to meditate! It is good not to restrict yourself if your practice the wrong meditation technique for you then it could be a harmful experience. If you try a method for a while, and it does not seem to be the right fit, you should switch to a different one.
Keeping an Agenda
It is important to remember not to enter into meditation with a to-do list, “I need to figure out the solution to this problem,” or “I want to feel a particular way afterward.” These expectations actually work against your interests, because they keep your mind in constant judgment mode, particularly if what you want to happen does not end up happening. What is really happening is your body’s intelligence is in charge, and you are merely the facilitator of the experience. Let your intelligence do its job, and just sit back and enjoy life.
Keep a clear and open mind, relax and you will have a wonderful meditation. Keep your expectations low, and don’t go in with an agenda. Relax!