The problem with meditation

The problem with meditation, is that sometimes it can seem as it is the worst thing to do. Just cannot get comfortable, everything hurts, annoying little fly, a noisy digger working away on a building site, the list is endless.

Why does it work on course evenings or days/weekends away?  Why does it not work at home?

Sadly, so many people give up on the practice and never get to realise the great feelings and benefits from the practice.  “It’s just not for me”, “I will never be able to do it”, one reason as good as the other in explaining why it is not working.

I recently came across an old blog by Katie Conlon, University of Maryland, on the subject of giving praise and her take on Carol Dweck’s research on fixed vs. growth mindset.

Something in what I was reading resonated with what I often hear my students say, “I can not..”, “I am no good…” showing their fixed mindset around the meditation practice and perhaps their attitude in general.

Showing how a pre-conceived idea about how something “should” be, can have detrimental impact when coupled with the fixed mindset.  “I have never done meditation but I know it should be like this, and it isn’t…..”

Helping the student to move their mindset is an important part of facilitating the mindfulness class/course and an important part of the practice. I think it is implicit in the teachings, opening the mind to the experience in the here and now promotes a growth mindset, and in the inquiry process, pointing out that the student did indeed notice something, even if it was “failure”.  And for some it can be a “penny drop” moment to realise “I can change” and “I do not have to be like this”.

Perhaps it is so important that it warrants more attention early on in any course as it unlocks the ability to welcome what arises.  Rather than being an implicit additional benefit of the mindfulness practice, developing the growth mindset attitude is a separate activity.

I think specific exercise around shifting the mindset is something that could be practiced before starting meditation practice and be part of the induction session.  In this way the students can allow themselves to cognitively understands the process and impact of mindset and practice AND allow themselves to experience and welcome all the feelings and thoughts that arises during practice. Not writing themselves or the practice off as no good.

As an example, we can use a self-compassion practice to help; saying in our mind;

  1. Recognise that this is difficult and it does not feel great
  2. Other people also feel this, we all struggle with this from time to time
  3. It is part of being human
  4. May I be strong, may I learn to accept what is

Practicing this a few times before the meditation practice can allow us to be more open and accepting to the busy mind or aching back.