Why can’t I meditate?
I get this question all of the time and it stems from a simple misunderstanding of what meditation actually is. There are thousands and thousands of techniques for practicing meditation but none of these are meditation itself.
At it’s most simple meditation is nothing more than the conscious focusing of the mind for a given duration of time. This focus can be anything from visualization, to breathwork, to movement, to sex. Any experience can become a meditation as long as one consciously controls the experience of the mind.
The only answer to why somone can’t meditate is because they don’t do it. People assume there is a correct way or they need a magic formula or technique and then they will become a mystic. People feel completely lost and chaotic and schitzophrenic the moment they close their eyes and so they stop, assuming they are doing something wrong. This could not be further from the truth.
When I began meditation I was studying Buddhism for a script that I was writing and the author of a specific entry about meditation said, “Do not try to sit down and calm your mind, because you can’t. Simply sit down, close your eyes, and consciously watch what happens.” This is the single best piece of meditation advice I have ever received and that night I sat down and closed my eyes and after about 3 minutes I remember thinking vividly, “Oh my god, I am insane!” I have been practicing and teaching meditation everyday now for over six years, and I don’t feel crazy anymore, ever.
If we do not learn to control the mind, we will be controlled by it. There is no correct way to learn to control the mind. The only question is which techniques work best for you. Certain mental patterns will benefit more easily from Trancendental Meditation, while others will benefit more easily from mantras, or tai chi, or yoga, or visualization. There are a million techniques to accomplish a million different things but none of them accomplish anything without application, we must practice anything to become proficient. Practice, practice, practice.
Don’t waste your time worrying about which technique is right for you, try every one you can get your hands on, but practice controlling your mind every single day if you desire to escape from the mental torture of the monkey mind. I began meditation as a part of my research but within two weeks of practicing everyday my insomnia vanished along with my asthma, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, mental and emotional frustration, and a host of other characteristics that I do not miss.
It wasn’t till much later that I began experiencing the spiritually transformative experiences that most schools sell as the goal of meditation. I kept doing it because it made my life easier and better and it will do the same for you, if only you can discover the discipline to practice.
Close your eyes and visualize a sphere the size of a grapefruit inside the center of you mind. Now visualize a sphere the size of a golf ball inside of that larger sphere. The golf ball is going to represent the awareness, while the grapefruit is going to represent the thoughts of the mind. Now focus your attention and hold the golf ball in the center of the grapefruit without letting it touch the walls of thought. Like the board game “Operation” imagine a harsh buzzer every time the small ball touches the walls of the larger ball. How long can you hold this inside ball in the center without making contact with the walls?
Welcome to the wonderful world of meditation. Visualization is one of the oldest meditation techniques and arguably the simplest. But no technique can help you in any way if it is not practiced, and practice requires discipline.
What does one do if they don’t have any discipline, that will be the subject of another post;)