What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do this? I’m so bad at it. My mind is a scattered mess. I can’t meditate! How can these other people do it?!
Everyone who has ever tried meditating has had thoughts like these running through their head. It happens all the time, and usually leads to the inevitable “I’m just not cut out for this.”
We have this idea about what meditation must be like. We think that as soon as we start meditating, we must be free of thought, utterly focused with complete inner peace.
But meditation isn’t like that.
And according to Zen Master Osho, our thoughts about mindfulness and meditation are hurting us more than helping.
Osho Explains Why You Think You Can’t Meditate Properly
Many people come to Osho and ask him how can they achieve a “peaceful state of mind”. But Osho says that this just isn’t possible:
“People come to me and they ask, “How to attain a peaceful mind?” I say to them, “There exists nothing like that: peaceful mind. Never heard of it.”Mind is never peaceful; no-mind is peace. Mind itself can never be peaceful, silent. The very nature of the mind is to be tense, to be in confusion. Mind can never be clear, it cannot have clarity, because mind is by nature confusion, cloudiness. Clarity is possible without mind, peace is possible without mind; silence is possible without mind, so never try to attain a silent mind. If you do, from the very beginning you are moving in an impossible dimension.”
The problem, according to Osho, is that we think we are the mind. In truth, the mind is simply a tool. Once we realize that we aren’t the mind, we’ll have more opportunity to experience real inner peace.
“But there is one problem, because you think you are the mind. So how can you drop it? So you feel you can drop everything, change everything, repaint, redecorate, rearrange, but how can you drop yourself. That is the root of all trouble.
You are not the mind, you are beyond mind. You have become identified, that’s true, but you are not the mind…
When all identity with the mind is dropped, when you are a watcher on the hills and the mind is left deep down in the darkness of the valleys, when you are on the sunlit peaks, just a pure witness, seeing, watching, but not getting identified with anything – good or bad, sinner or saint, this or that – in that witnessing all questions dissolve. The mind melts, evaporates. You are left as a pure being, just a pure existence – a breathing, a beating of the heart, utterly in the moment, no past, no future, hence no present either.”
Common mistakes people make when beginning a meditation practice
The words from Osho make a lot of sense.
The main problems that I’ve witnessed in people who say they can’t meditate is:
1. Worried about doing it right
People have these expectations about what meditation “should be”.
For example, most people believe that to be successful you have to clear your mind and feel a sense of inner peace.
And when that doesn’t happen, they get frustrated and turn it in.
The ironic part is that getting frustrated takes them even further away from inner peace.
2. Giving up too soon.
This ties in with the point above. We’ve all heard about the “benefits of meditation” thanks to recent research studies on Buddhist monks and avid meditators.
These benefits include: –
– Reduce stress and anxiety
– Improved attention span
– Better sleep
– Increased empathy
– Pain management
While these benefits are recognized from medical studies, they take time to develop.
Many people feel that they should be feeling these benefits after 1 or 2 meditation sessions, but that’s not how it works.
Most of those studies that found those benefits were on people who meditated for months.
Expecting instant results and high expectations can frustrate you and cause you to throw in the towel because you think meditation is not cut out for you.
3. Getting frustrated with yourself
This is a big one. Yes, when you first start meditation you’re going to get distracted.
Thoughts won’t disappear magically. In fact, in most cases, your thoughts will increase in frequency.
But the absolute worst thing you can do is get frustrated about it.
This will only serve you to get more uncomfortable and less relaxed.
Instead, accept it.
Meditation is a practice of letting go and accepting.
It’s about understanding that you don’t have control over your mind, as Osho said above.
Instead of getting frustrated, take a few breaths right now and then pick up when you started and start again.
You’re going to experience discomforts before meditation feels natural to you. This is completely normal.
Accept it. Embrace it. And let go…
4. Expecting meditation to fix everything
What is your reason for giving meditation a shot? To reduce stress or anxiety? Improve your sleep?
While studies do show benefits to meditation for these things, it’s important to realize that it’s not a magical cure.
To go into meditation with the expectation that it will “fix” something might lead to disappointment. It also will take time. Meditation practice is a practice for a reason.
You are not the mind – but how do you actually practice that?
While the key to inner peace is to realize that you aren’t the mind, how do you actually do it in meditation?
Osho says that instead of struggling against the mind by trying to forcibly calm it, we instead need to become an observer of the mind:
“Just like someone sitting by the side of a river watching the river flow by, sit by the side of your mind and watch….Or the way someone watches the rainy sky and the moving clouds, you just watch the clouds of thoughts moving in the sky of your mind…Don’t do anything, don’t interfere, don’t stop them in any way. Don’t repress in any way. If there is a thought coming don’t stop it, if it is not coming don’t try to force it to come. You are simply to be an observer….”
“In that simple observation you will see and experience that your thoughts and you are separate – because you can see that the one who is watching the thoughts is separate from the the thoughts, different from them. And you become aware of this, a strange peace will envelop you because you will not have any more worries. You can be in the midst of all kinds of worries but the worries will not be yours….”
“And if you become aware that you are not your thoughts, the life of these thoughts will begin to grow weaker, they will begin to become more and more lifeless. The power of your thoughts lies in the fact that you think they are yours. When you are arguing with someone you say, “My thought is”. No thought is yours. All thoughts are different from you, separate from you. You just be a witness to them.”
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