New meditators can often struggle with meditation. I certainly know I did when I first tried. But why is this? Surely sitting still and breathing can’t be that hard!
My personal feeling is that the impression we are given about meditation is misleading. Our busy lifestyles and distracted minds also make it difficult for us to switch off. We are constantly “connected” to the material world.
My own failed experiences with meditation were because of the misconception books and blogs conjured. I read the descriptions that lead me to believe I would enjoy some magical experiences. When I was not whisked off to space to learn about string theory, I was left disappointed.
I also became more anxious than I already was because I couldn’t relax. I assumed I was doing it wrong. As it turns out, I wasn’t practising meditation incorrectly. The problem was I had unrealistic expectations and was trying to work without tools.
Having read numerous comments on Facebook, I get the impression other people are also expecting more from their meditation practice than they are experiencing. What’s more, most of the advice being offered does not provide useful tools.
So, this article is for people who have either started meditation and not sure if you are doing it properly, meditators that are struggling to benefit from their practice or for anybody contemplating the practice, but not sure whether it’s for you.
What is Meditation?
Before we get into what you should expect from meditation, let’s get some misconceptions out of the way first. You can be forgiven for thinking meditation involves sitting crossed-legged, chanting aummmm and encountering ethereal “beings of light” that will tell you everything you need to know.
This is bullshit I read about.
You will meet all types of characters and have vivid visions, but only once you can induce a theta state that allows you to transcend the physical plane and enter the astral realm. If you can do this as a newbie to meditation then great, but for most people, the visions tend to be weak and fade away.
Regardless of how intense your visions are, don’t worry or panic. The encounters and visions you have are also products of your subconscious mind. This is how your subconscious communicates with you and is trying to give you a message that brings you into balance.
However, the subconscious can only speak in symbols and parables, so sometimes it helps to know what symbols mean. When I was taken through my first guided meditation, I was told to walk through a door and meet with my creator. What I saw was a Rosicrucian Cross.
During meditations, you will see angels, demons, spirit guides, spirit animals and the rest of it that you have probably read about. But these are not real. They are energies that exist within the astral world which your subconscious explores. It is no different from dreaming other than you are consciously aware thus have control over your reactions.
You may feel afraid at some point. In reality, there is nothing to fear. This is created by your conscious mind. Try to relax and let yourself go. Submit to your subconscious, it will not harm you. The subconscious only wants what is best for you (even if in everyday life it doesn’t know what the best thing for us is).
Meditation is easier when you know how the mind works.
In simple terms meditating is another way of saying concentration, or focusing. I like to refer to it as one-pointed focus as this is the best way of benefitting from meditation. Set yourself an intention for each session, and try to keep your mind focused on your goal.
Whilst you may be able to create remarkable images in your mind’s eye, you probably won’t feel any different to how you normally feel when you are daydreaming. The difference between daydreaming and meditation is focus.
As your practice improves and your consciousness heightens, the experiences you have in meditation will deepen. Sometimes they will feel like a lucid dream and you may not be sure whether you are still in the physical world or in the astral realm.
Once you become more advanced and raise your conscious awareness, the physical feelings become more life-like, a bit like a 3D virtual reality game people play on games consoles. You will know this when you can astral project and learn to control your conscious mind in the astral world.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
When you’re meditating, it’s not good practice to try and force an awe-inspiring experience that allows you to escape the physical world. You won’t be able to do that until you are ready.
Furthermore, if you are trying to escape the physical world, it probably means you are suffering from emotional pains. So use meditation to heal yourself. I teach you how to do this in the Master Mind Content classes and courses.
Spiritual literature, and the tons of advice you can find online reveals that one of the benefits of meditation is it helps us relax, relieve stress and feel harmony with ourselves. Whilst this is true, these feelings may not be immediate.
What you experience during meditation all depends on your state of mind. If you feel anxious you won’t be able to relax and may start feeling even more anxious. In contrast, some people that are new to meditation can feel totally relax and meditate for hours.
When you can meditate properly, you will want to enjoy the experience for hours too. But before you reach that stage, you have to be comfortable with yourself. You need to find inner peace and be able to still your mind. You need to heal.
In the meantime, just remember to train your brain to focus and turn your attention inwards.
Why Do You Feel Anxious When Meditating?
Meditation helps you become aware of yourself. Many people will experience feelings of anxiety. This can happen even if you hadn’t realised, or acknowledged, you have anxiety. The reason for this is because your ego masks unpleasant feelings by finding ways to distract your attention. Essentially you avoid admitting how you really feel.
I know this from personal experience. I would busy myself with thinking and analysing, walk around listening to music and go out drinking (too much) with friends in a vain attempt to feel better.
It was not until I tried to sleep at night that the true feelings of restlessness and frustration would surface. I suffered from chronic anxiety since I was a teenager and insomnia through most of my 20’s and early 30’s, but did not admit it to myself even though I could feel it was there.
The subconscious part of my mind that promotes survival was trying to protect me. In reality, it was causing more damage and debilitating my ability to function and reach my full potential.
This may be a sweeping statement, but I suspect a lot of people have the same issues. Some of you reading this will acknowledge you have anxiety or depression and others will be mildly aware of it, but without accepting it is true.
The reason I feel confident about making this statement is because the modern world is designed to make us feel anxious. The mind is overloaded with fear, given little time to rest and programmed with a view of the world that distracts us from our true nature.
Furthermore, we are not sufficiently educated to understand the damaging effects our lifestyles have on our mental and physical health. Western medicine is still largely ignorant of the fact the mind causes dis-ease.
Although meditation was the tool that helped me recover from anxiety, it was the practice of self-observation that enabled me to heal. I develop techniques that helped me identify the root cause of my mental illness and was ultimately able to overcome the condition.
You will find more tips on how to use meditation to reprogram your subconscious mind here.
How to Manage Anxiety and Restlessness When Meditating
When you first start meditating, you may find that you can’t relax as much as you want or expected. This can be due to a number of reasons;
- you expected to induce a meditative state sooner
- perhaps you didn’t give it enough time and gave up too easily
- you’re not breathing properly thus unable to induce a theta state
- a stressful day, bad experience or argument can hinder the ability to still your mind
- the ‘monkey mind’ keeps distracting you with thoughts and internal chatter
- you suffer from anxiety
However you feel during meditation, try not to let it impede your progress. Learning how to meditate can take a lot of practice. It took me a year before I learned how to meditate properly.
I tried to teach myself, but because I was suffering from chronic anxiety at the time, it didn’t help much, but I didn’t give up either. It was only when somebody showed me a real meditation technique that everything clicked into place.
You may also want to seek assistance and learn how to meditate properly. Guided meditations on YouTube might help, but if not, have a session or two with a meditation coach.
When you feel restless at the start of your meditation, take a few deep inhales, then expel the air quickly. After that, do a few rounds of diaphragm breathing before falling into a natural rhythm.
What you really need to do is take your mind off whatever is bothering you. That is not always easy as troubling thoughts tend to boomerang back. If you know your mind is restless, set an intention to find peace and use that as your meditation.
It is not a good idea to work on self-observation when you are troubled. Your ego will most likely get in the way and the solution you find may not be the best. Wait until your mind is calm and relaxed before attempting to resolve issues during meditation.
I find visualising somewhere peaceful helps still the mind. The technique I use is to create a mental garden to wander around, a sanctuary. Then I walk down a winding staircase to a peaceful lake and go for a float.
If you are suffering from anxiety, you will notice the feeling is more pronounced when you become aware of yourself during meditation. Try not to let this prevent you from stopping meditation because with the right techniques and practice of self-observation you can find the root cause of your anxiety and cure it.
Acknowledge how you feel and accept the feeling won’t go away on its own. Concede to the feeling in the knowledge that you will heal once you begin to address the issues causing your anxiety. Unless you do that, the problem will get worse and could become debilitating.
How to Perform Meditation
As part of my role in teaching people how to meditate and cultivate inner peace, I enrolled as a member of several Facebook groups. On Facebook, I find a lot of people asking about meditation. I also see an alarming number of people giving this advice:
“Just follow your breath.”
Whilst this is not entirely wrong, this advice pisses me off. Meditation is not just about following your breath. If that is all you do, you are wasting your time meditating because you will not achieve anything.
“Follow your breath” is the standard advice Buddhists monks give to lay people. It helps to focus your attention on your meditation and induce and theta state.
But if you centre your entire practice on watching your breath, you shift your attention from your subconscious mind (the astral world) to your breath (the physical world).
So only follow your breathing to train your attention to turn inwards. Then allow your consciousness to collapse so you no longer become aware of your breath.
To benefit from meditation, you have to transcend the physical and enter the astral.
Transcendence requires a still mind. You need to be able to stop thinking. If you struggle to empty your thoughts for a prolonged period of time, you need to train your mind to be quiet. When thoughts do come to you, address them because they are probably important.
At this point in proceedings, you can start to learn. When I stayed in a Buddhist temple in Thailand, they told me to let the thoughts go. This is bullshit. The thoughts you have during meditation hold the answers to your intention. So learn to pay attention.
The difficulty many early meditators have is internal chatter. Talking to yourself is a distraction and completely ruins your session. However, you can still benefit from your meditation by using the monkey mind as a buffer.
Essentially, you have a conversation with yourself. The key is to be honest about your actions and look for a weakness of character, attitude or values. The difference between doing this and having the same conversation with someone else is that it’s easier to take your own criticism than somebody else’s. There’s a higher chance you will learn something.
The key here is to focus. As I mentioned earlier in this article, to benefit from meditation as a beginner, you need to learn the art of one-pointed focus.
Once you raise your consciousness to a level that enables you to speak freely with your higher-self, the conversation you have during meditation becomes a whole lot easier. Master Mind Content teaches you how to use meditation to heal old wounds so you can raise consciousness and enjoy a better quality of life.
Whilst it is true that meditation can be used to look inwards and relax, the goal is to connect with your subconscious and learn from your inner wisdom. And you can do this at any time, you don’t have to be sitting in a lotus position. All you really have to do is focus your mind.