Nancy and Anisha are best friends. They are so close that one blindly follows the other. One day, Anisha joins a meditation course. Naturally, Nancy too wants to do the same, but her work hours clash with the course timings. Unable to join the class, Nancy starts observing Anisha meditate – sitting silent with eyes closed for 20 minutes – that’s simple, Nancy thinks. She decides to try it too.
Day 1: As soon as her eyes close, she starts planning the tasks she’s supposed to finish in that day and in the days to come. The result: she opens her eyes feeling disappointed because Anisha had said that you feel wonderful after meditation. But she only felt her mind more bombarded with thoughts than before.
Day 4: She sits again after two days, expecting to get that ‘wonderful feeling’ today. The result: she tries too hard to make meditation happen but only ends up forming a chain of thoughts as always.
Day 6: This time she finds an opportunity only after a late dinner at 11:30 p.m. Her stomach full and mind tired, she starts dozing off as soon as her eyes close for meditation. At the buzz of the alarm after 20 minutes, she comes out (or rather wakes up) of her meditation (read nap) with a start. The result: she feels dissatisfied and frustrated on why her meditation is not working. The result: she gives up meditating thereafter.
Is your experience similar to Nancy’s? Do you find yourself often saying: “I’m meditating but don’t seem to feel any change yet?”
Let’s understand why Nancy’s meditation may not be working, as she feels, and also get her back to the practice soon.
#1: Is Nancy following the correct technique?
The practice needs to be properly learnt at a formal meditation class from an experienced teacher. An instructor will guide you through the correct technique of meditation and also tell you the various factors that can affect meditation (so that you exactly know why your meditation may not be working for you).
#2: Just the way you trust Anisha, have faith in the technique too
Once you know the correct technique to meditate, it is very important to have faith in the technique – the faith that the technique is right, the faith that I am doing it right and the faith that it will show results (sooner or later).
#3: Nancy should have been more regular with the practice
If you notice, Nancy’s meditation practice was quite irregular. She started on the first day, skipped for two days, resumed on the fourth day and again missed a day in between. For any practice to show results, it takes some time, patience and commitment. Sometimes meditating for just three days (as in Nancy’s case), a week or two weeks may make us think that nothing is happening yet. However, this is actually not the case.
Meditation works at very subtle and deeper levels, without us realizing it. The first day Nancy felt that her mind was clogged with thoughts for the entire 20 minutes that she sat, but in that 20-minute time period, there will be a point when you transcend thoughts. We slowly come to realize this point when we are regular with our practice.
#4: Maybe Nancy was trying too hard to make it happen
Quick meditation tips
1. Choose a quiet place where you can be with yourself and go deeper.
2. Choose a comfortable time – it only takes 20 minutes to meditate!
3. Meditate in a group – it makes a difference.
4. When you are happy, meditate but when you are feeling low, definitely meditate. It helps elevate your mood.
Meditation is a happening; you really don’t need to do anything to make it happen! The anxiety to make meditation happen brings effort and stress, which, in turn, may not result in a good meditation. Sometimes, the expectation of a blissful experience itself becomes a troublesome thought during meditation and can come in the way of your practice.
Drop all expectations when you sit to meditate. Accept that each day, every experience may not be the same. You may have a very relaxing experience one time and maybe a “not-so-good” meditation some other time. It’s ok! Just relax and keep meditating.
#5: At 11:30 p.m., sleep happens, not meditation
Choose your time to meditate carefully. time – it only takes 20 Agreed, today’s hectic life may not always allow you to meditate at the ‘ideal times’ – morning and evening – but late nights are no time either! Instead, you may choose a more comfortable time during the day – before lunch or dinner and early evenings as an example. Also, it may not be a good idea to meditate on a full stomach because dozing off becomes fairly easy then. Meditate ideally on an empty or light stomach.
#6: Is she eating right?
Our food habits play a great role in deciding a good or not-so-good meditation experience. Over-indulgence in sweets, spicy food, caffeinated drinks, junk or non-vegetarian food can affect the quality of your meditation. Eat right, eat healthy and clear the way for a blissful meditation experience.
So the next time you feel “my meditation is not working”, go over Nancy’s super six reasons and do a quick check: are any of these applicable to me? Also, connect with your teacher whenever you feel the need to, it doesn’t matter if you’ve done a course or learnt a technique a long time ago. The time is now. And if you resolve to meditate, so be it. Relax. Meditation will happen!
Inspired by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's wisdom talks
Graphics by Niladry Dutta