The question “why can’t I meditate” is an extremely common one. The answer is often the same: meditation is hard at first for everyone because you can’t stop unwanted thoughts and emotions from distracting the peace or other goals you initially expect from meditation. However, the answer and solution go much deeper than this. This post will simplify the answer and solution to the question “why can’t I meditate”.
To help you see where you are now with meditation, it can help to talk about the overall purpose of meditation and the longer term process that those who stick with meditation are likely to undergo. Often, especially in the west, we come to meditation for reasons of relaxation, centeredness, clarity, creativity, health, peace, and plenty more. However, the little-known underlying purpose of meditation that strongly impacts the achievement of this entire list of reasons is to realize your true self. If you’re not interested in realizing your true self, that’s ok. You don’t have to be, but you can still explore what in your experience will eventually make meditation easy, and that is your awareness.
Awareness is the constant phenomenon that makes your experience possible. It is what is aware of everything that comes through your senses, and it is aware of all of the distracting thoughts and emotions that arise as you meditate. It is what is aware of your meditation, as well as everything outside of meditation. It can help to keep this in the back of your “mind ” as you meditate so that it might be sooner rather than later that you will start to notice its presence.
While realizing yourself as awareness as the purpose of meditation may not make a lot of sense at this point, bear with me as we look at the big picture process.
The Process From “Why Can’t I Meditate?” To Effortless Meditation
Now let’s look at the typical process one is likely to undergo if they stick with meditation for the long-term. While this is organized linearly, the process often is not linear. However this description should help you get a sense of what to expect now that you have realized that meditation can be hard.
- You feel like you can’t meditate because you have many unwanted thoughts and emotions that arise while you meditate and this distracts you from meditation and the goals and feelings of peace that you want from it. You expect peace from meditation, but you get the opposite and that is discouraging. Just about everyone has these thoughts and emotions that arise, but most are not aware that they do in everyday life outside of meditation.
- These thoughts and emotions come from fears and desires that have been conditioned into you by others (historical and current society, your culture, family, friends, teachers, coworkers, etc). They have forged habitual thought patterns that are ingrained into your brain via neural pathways. The good news is that because of your brain’s neuroplasticity these pathways can change.
- Thoughts and emotions that create this distraction in meditation must be let go or transcended. They can stay and you can transcend them, or you can let go of them. Some combination of transcendence and removal is often how it goes.
- In order for this transcendence or letting go to take place, you must first become aware of what is causing the distraction when the distraction happens – that is, in the present moment. You must “build” your awareness so that you are conscious of what is going on in your mind in real-time and as a whole so that you notice the particular instances of distraction more efficiently.
- There are a variety of meditation methods or practices which can help you build this awareness, one of which is a focus on the breath. Another is a focus on the thoughts and emotions and their root fears and desires to deliberately invite them to arise and pass without identifying with them. Others are exercises that expose your awareness to awareness itself. All of these are methods to get you used to being aware in the present moment, even if your thoughts are aiming at the past or future.
- This is all leading to a point where you will become consistently aware of awareness itself. As this happens, habitual thoughts, emotions, fears and desires will fall away more easily because your identity is shifting from these mental phenomena to pure awareness. The neural pathways that have been forged by your distracting habitual thoughts and emotions are reformed to align with awareness and peace.
- With this shift from identifying with thoughts to identifying with the awareness that can now come to the forefront of your experience because your mind has naturally quieted, meditation becomes effortless, and active life outside of formal meditation actually becomes a continuous effortless meditation. Clarity will be constant. The peace you are seeking is what you will become.
That’s what goes on with those that practice meditation over time. It can certainly take awhile to unfold this way. However, you are still likely to see benefits early in the process, and just knowing what to expect can help ease your mind as you meditate. You’ll no longer have the thought “why can’t I meditate” popping up every time you try to add to your distraction. The exercise of reading and digesting this article can help with the act of letting go of this particular thought and associated emotions.
A big tip that should help as you continue to try meditation is to not take it too seriously, and don’t try to achieve something from it. Look at it as a break in your day to explore your inner world. If peace arises and you see some results, great. If you have a rough meditation, or even many in a row, so be it. Invite and allow anything to arise, but there is no need to be captivated by what arises. Just pay attention to it and you will see that it will pass naturally, even if it arises repetitively. Eventually, it will weaken and no longer arise.
Resources To Help Overcome The Question “Why Can’t I Meditate?”
A few resources that can help you mold your meditation practice so that it is aligned with you are the following:
- How To Control Your Mind From Unwanted Thoughts
- How To Let Go Of Fear
- How To Find Your True Self Through Awareness of Awareness
- The book True Meditation by Adyashanti
Please ask questions in the comments below to get customized answers to “why can’t I meditate”.