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The Sad Truth about Learning Meditation

Aug 14, 2019

Most Learning Meditation will Give Up within 90 Days

Why struggle to meditate

Let’s cut right to it. The sad truth is that only a small percentage of all the people who try and learn meditation will succeed. I am defining success as developing a regular practice of at least 4 sessions per week of 20 minutes or more. Most people will never accomplish and sustain this consistency.

How can I state such a negative point? In a word… experience. I’ve been teaching meditation for over 10 years, the majority of that decade teaching in a commercial meditation center, first in Chicago, Illinois and currently in Charleston, South Carolina.

I watch what people go through as they make a genuine attempt to integrate meditation into their daily lives. Most cannot sustain a practice past a few months. I will share a few observations as to why the stats are so bad. In addition, I will attempt to convey what I feel is the most important driving motivator that leads to long term success (i.e. a regular, consistent practice).

Meditation is an activity that leads to an end result. That end result begins with greater calmness and relaxation and can extend to the elimination of all unnecessary anxiety, depression and unhealthy expressions of anger. If pursued as a spiritual practice, meditation can lead to states of enlightenment where deep wisdom is revealed from within.

For those who seek God or a Higher Power experience, real connection with the Divine can occur while in meditation.

Of these three results (1. greater calm, 2. overcoming negative emotions, 3. spiritual advancement), it is very hard to find anyone who does not want at least one. Many say all three have strong appeal.

Then Why So Much Failure?

What I see missing in the majority of people is a combination of perseverance/persistence, stamina, focus, determination and faith. Where are these virtues taught and learned? Are they even taught?

Some people develop them because they have an inherent quest for excellence and to fulfill their highest potential. Their desire for success is compelling. It’s very strong and thus they do not shirk away from their goal even when deeply discouraged, disappointed, fatigued and despairing. It may surprise you to learn that these mental states are very common in those learning to meditate.

Meditation has a lot to do with teaching the mind how you want it to function. Many people have a concept that meditation is accomplished when the mind can be rendered still and without thought. In this way, meditation is believed to be a state where no thought activity is present.

I would say that is a form of meditation. Perhaps you might most accurately call that ‘No Thought Meditation’ but it certainly is not the only approach.

Meditation is an active mental state whereby the mind is directed in a focused manner to a particular subject matter while the body and the external senses (sight, hearing, touch etc) are dormant.

In other words, one might sit quietly with eyes closed in a quiet space, use deep breathing to reach a relaxed state and then study or contemplate a chosen a chosen subject. If that chosen subject is an exploration into a negative emotion like anxiety or fear, the end result is often greater insight into the root cause of the emotion which can in turn lead to liberation from it.

I believe people want that end result but lack the discipline and resolve mentioned above to develop their skill to such a degree that they can experience it. Think about a favorite musician. One might feel very inspired to want to play a piece you heard them play. Everything they played is somewhere contained in the very instrument you hold in your hand and yet, at this moment, you can’t make that same sound.

The potential is there but the skill and ability are still undeveloped. Daily practice, good instruction and the setting of goals are pretty safe ways to ensure steady progress. But people fail in the follow through. We get tired, frustrated, impatient and opt for easier ways to pass our time.

In this day and age, technology makes it very easy to burn hours upon hours doing things with our phones and computers that yield very little by way of personal growth. In fact, many technologies, apps, websites and the like increase our negative states but they have an addictive quality so we choose them over meditation. I’ve heard that they stimulate dopamine receptors and that creates a type of addiction.

I am convinced that those who succeed in becoming daily practitioners of meditation are those who have put the work in to develop discipline and staying power when they feel like quitting. This is possible when they understand that commitment is an expression of love meaning they commit to meditation by giving their whole self to the task.

The Single Most Defining Attribute of a Daily Meditator

Those who do it daily are those with an unwavering commitment to experiencing their potential as a human being. It doesn’t have to be spiritual however regular practitioners realize that unless the mind is trained, it will never yield peace, relaxation and focus.

Life without a trained mind will be often chaotic and unsettling. The mind must be directed to accomplish productive and peaceful means. In my experience, I teach that the soul within must direct the mind and this can be learned while in meditation.

You must have a method to train your mind to reach your full potential.  We must also learn to be in tune with our feelings  in addition to restricting negative mental states. Both of these ideals can be practiced in meditation. If you do not have a burning desire for personal growth and evolution, chances are your love for the practice will fade over time. I don’t want people to give up but I have seen it over and over and hence the title of this blog post.