While meditation has been popularized in the past 2 decades due to its myriad benefits, many new practitioners encounter various challenges that stop them from furthering the practice. In this century of instant gratification, it is easy to overlook the fact that to be competent in one field, it requires months if not years of committed practice, learning and self-reflection.
Below are 3 common challenges faced by new practitioners
1st challenge: Monkey mind
You are unable to get into the ‘flow’ state, your mind misbehaves like a monkey and never sit still. There are always thoughts that intrude into your mind and sometimes you may not even notice it. At times, your mind is drawn into past events. It may either shorten your meditation practice or render the session ineffective.
Option 1: Adopt Ānāpānasati known as breathing meditation. It was originally taught by Gautama Buddha and one of the simplest ways to overcome flickering thoughts. By focusing attention on your breathing, the natural rhythm of inhale and exhale, and the depth of it, it helps one to increase the sensitivity of your mind, body, and mental process.
Option 2: Using mala beads to keep your mind focused, by aligning your conscious attention to the tracing of the mala beads with your fingers. This can help you to slow down and deepen your breathing, while replacing negative thoughts patterns with positive one through Japa mantra meditation.
2nd Challenge: Dozing off easily or unable to remain still
Option 1: Practice walking meditation. This is highly suitable for people who feel sluggish and doze off easily, or those who is unable to sit still. Find a level ground either indoor or outdoor while practicing walking meditation. While you are doing walking meditating, feel the sensation of your feet while walking on an even pace. Key thing is to keep a relaxed body pose, maintain your relaxed glaze at an even angle and breath.
Option 2: Practice meditation at 5am or when you just wake up. During early morning, the tendency of you feeling restless or dozing off will be far lesser when you feel rejuvenated from a goodnight rest. This will help you to facilitate a deeper session and a higher likelihood of being in the 'flow' state.
3rd Challenge: Lower limb discomfort, leg numbness or unable to meditate cross legged
Option 1: Use a chair that you are comfortable with. Sit away from the back of the chair while planting your feet firmly on the ground. Align with your hips and knees at a 90 degrees angle.
Option 2: Practice walking meditation (As stated above)
Option 3: Use a meditation bench to adopt a Seiza posture. The elevated angle helps you to keep your back posture straight while reliving the pressure on your knees. This allows better blood circulation, thus reducing lower limb discomfort/ numbness during extended session.
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