There are seven major meditation mistakes that I see new (and experienced!) meditators make.
In this article, I’ll share what these seven mistakes are, and how you can stop making them.
Once you know what the seven major mistakes are, the reasons why you make them, and what to do instead, you’ll be better equipped to meditate to help you:
- Get rid of stress and overwhelm so that you can focus on what matters most to you.
- Gain a sense of calm, clarity, and ease in your daily life.
- Create more “mental space” so that you can think more creatively and solve difficult problems in life effortlessness.
- Get more moments of calm into your day so you can nurture your mind, body and soul.
7 Major Meditation Mistakes I See Students Make
Despite the fantastic benefits of meditation, and the proven difference it has made in so many peoples’ lives, as a meditation teacher, I see students repeat the same mistakes time and time again which makes it difficult for them to gain traction with their practice.
1. Tiredness and Falling Asleep While You Meditate
“Learning to meditate is a simple way to bring a sense of harmony, ease, and flow to your life” — Ntathu Allen
From experience, I know how easy it is to fall asleep while you meditate.
It is simple to do.
You sit down to meditate and because you are so tired, instead of sitting upright and meditating, you find yourself swaying, nodding off, and eventually falling asleep.
What to do instead: Get more rest!
- Sleep is your body’s way to rest and repair.
- If you find yourself drifting off while you meditate, accept what your body is telling you.
- Go to bed and sleep. You will wake up refreshed and in a better state to meditate.
If sleep is a problem for you, check out Sleepytime. It’s is a brilliant app to help you select the best time you should sleep for maximum rest.
Watch this classic video of a by monk falling asleep whilst chanting!
2. Lack of Regular Practice
“An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory” — Swami Sivananda
I am sure you can remember one of your school teachers, or even your parents telling you that “practice makes perfect” every time you felt like giving up on something or found something too difficult to do. Alas, your mum and the school teacher were right!
To achieve anything in life, you must train.
Meditation is no exception.
To get any benefit from meditation, you need to set time aside and practice.
What to Do Instead: Little and often is the key.
- Commit to meditate at least 2–10 minutes every day rather than try and do a massive hour’s practice once a week.
3. Build-Up of Stress, Fatigue, and Tension in Your Body
“when we give ourselves the chance to let go of all our tension, the body’s natural capacity to heal itself can begin to work.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Most people ignore the early warning signs of stress and push their bodies to the limit and end up burnt out and demoralised.
It is a vicious cycle.
The more you push yourself to keep on top of work and family commitments, the more you expose yourself to stress-related illnesses.
It becomes near impossible to rest, switch off your “brain,” and give your body the rest and sleep it needs.
Some of my students, start meditation as a way to cope with the complex demands and distractions in their life.
When they sit to meditate, they have lots on their mind and find it hard to relax, settle their thoughts, release tension and meditate.
What to Do Instead: Make self-care a priority.
- Find ways during your day to press pause, to take your foot off the pedal, to stretch, relax, and naturally calm your mind and energise your body.
- Better still, if your work environment is stressful, share the article, 121 Employee Wellness Program Ideas Your Team Will Love with your team and managers, and choose a wellness activity for your company.
4. Crazy-busy Schedule
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour” — Zen Proverb
Trying to fit meditation into your already jam-packed day, especially if you have a busy family schedule, a demanding job, and volunteer at your church, can seem impossible and feel like a nightmare.
You know caring for yourself is essential, yet the competing demands you face from work and being there for your family and friends leave little time for you to relax and unwind.
Being too busy and lacking time to meditate has to be the biggest obstacle to practising meditation.
Everyone is busy — trying to fit in yet another activity can seem like an impossible task.
What to do instead: Develop a routine
- When you start meditation, it is easy to be enthusiastic, and you think you can meditate anytime anywhere. You can, but that level of expertise requires practice and time to develop.
- It takes time and effort to find a gap in your schedule to meditate.
- Deep calm and serenity come from making meditation a priority in your life and scheduling it into your day.
- Be gentle and honest regarding your time availability.
- It is better to take a couple of days to look at your current schedule and determine how you can realistically set aside 5 to 15 minutes every day to meditate than it is to try to squeeze in a manic 60-minute program “sometime” during the week.
- Find a meditation buddy. You don’t have to meditate in the same place, but find someone who will agree to hold you accountable.
5. Lack of Awareness and Focus During Your Day
“Breathing in, I calm my body, breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Meditation is not an isolated act, it is not something you do and then forget about until the next time you practice.
Meditation is a skill, a technique you use to help you regain your focus and concentration any time during your day.
Being present and aware of your posture, your thoughts, and your breath regularly during your day are as vital as knowing your shoe size.
What to Do Instead: Become more present during the day.
- It is hard to do, yet the more you practice meditation and feel the difference it makes in your life, the more you will naturally become more aware and present of what is going on within and around you.
- As a beginner, aim to develop a sense of mindfulness in your daily life.
- Take a stretch break every hour or so to straighten your spine, relax your jaw, uncross your ankles and release tension in your body.
You can find more tips and yogic techniques to let go of stress in my popular Yoga for Beginners Book.
6. Comparing Your Experiences with Those of Others
“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.” — Ma Jaya Sati Bhagawati
Meditation is a personal experience.
The techniques and practices are universal, but how you feel and respond to these methods is as individual as your fingerprints.
Every session you have is a unique experience, especially when you adopt the approach of a beginner’s mind to your practice.
Many students make the mistake of comparing their experiences, thoughts, and impressions with those of other students.
You may both be using the same techniques, but their knowledge and yours may be entirely different.
There is no right or wrong way to “feel” after meditating. For example, like me, you may have gone through a traumatic divorce, lost people close to you, or be going through a significant organisational re-shuffle at work that keeps you up at night worrying about your job security.
All these situations make it hard for you to settle into your practice and affect how you feel when you do.
You might meditate and feel bright, calm, and confident, but another student may experience intense anger and sadness and burst out crying.
This is okay, all perfectly normal, and all part of your meditation journey.
What to Do Instead: Learn to adopt a nonjudgmental approach to your practice.
- Meditation is your time-out with yourself.
- It isn’t a house party, and there is no law saying how you must feel.
- Keep a journal and write down how you feel before and after each meditation session.
- Maintain a beginner’s mind and, most importantly, connect with other like-minded people who can embrace, nourish, and support you during your practice and daily life.
Remember, meditation is like learning any new skill — riding a bike, learning to drive, baking a cake — you have to have patience, time, energy, and a supportive community to tap into to help you grow and develop your meditation muscle.
7. Busy Mind!
“If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.”- Pema Chodron
As a meditation teacher, I often hear statements like:
“I can never stop thinking.”
“I have so many thoughts in my head. My mind is like a high-speed train rushing through a tunnel.”
“I have so many things to do. I feel overwhelmed and can’t think clearly.”
The stressful lives we lead and our growing dependence on technology (think of our attachment to our phones) negatively affects our ability to concentrate, focus, and relax.
But let me reassure you — that is okay.
That feeling of having a busy mind is perfectly normal.
Your mind is full of thoughts.
Coupled with this, 70% of these thoughts are believed to be negative! And the nature of the “monkey mind” makes it even harder for you to be still and meditate.
The ability to concentrate and keep your mind from wandering is perhaps one of the hardest aspects of meditation to overcome.
In meditation, you train your body to be still and your mind to slow down and focus on the point of concentration.
But some people struggle to sit still and prefer a more dynamic or active type of meditation, such as mindful walking meditation, which we will look at in the final blog post of this series.
Your mind has a mind of its own and is likened to a chatting monkey.
When you sit to meditate, you realise just how busy your mind is. The whirlwind of cascading thoughts floating around makes it difficult to steady your thoughts, control your mind, and focus. Left untamed, your mind will jump from one topic or subject area to another.
The habitual nature of the “jumping mind” or “monkey mind” is the main reason you find it so hard to focus and concentrate when you meditate.
What to do instead: Practice easy yoga breathing exercises to calm your mind
- The ancient art of yoga offers you many tools to help you relax your body, calm down, and steady your mind.
- The original purpose of yoga was to prepare your mind and body to sit in meditation.
- Yoga breathing exercises, known as Pranayama, are ideal practices to help you address your busy mind syndrome and maintain a clear and quieten your mind.
- When you meditate, the purpose isn’t to clear your mind of thoughts; instead, it is to allow your mind to stay focused on the point of concentration, for example, the breath.
- When your mind wanders away from this point of concentration, and you notice it has wandered and you then bring it back to your point of focus — you are practising meditation.
Do you see how making these seven mistakes:
- Busy mind.
- Comparing your experience with others.
- Lack of awareness and focus during the day.
- Crazy busy schedule.
- Build up of stress and fatigue in the body.
- Lack of practice.
hinder your ability to meditate — even before you get started!?
You are not alone.
We all make these mistakes, especially being crazy-busy and struggling to unwind and rest.
Learning to meditate is a journey, and it take time, energy, love and patience to make it part of your daily self-care habits.
Keep an eye out for more meditation for beginners post from me
If you are ready to get a handle on your stress so that you feel stronger, calmer and confident to start to meditate, get my FREE 5-minutes Slash Stress video training and relieve stress right now!