It’s not uncommon for you to experience some physical discomfort, even minor pain, when first starting to meditate. Your body is probably going to complain. It’s going to want to itch and squirm and move. This may reflect a release of stored tension within your body that only becomes evident as you slow your mind down. It may indicate that your muscles are a bit tight and are simply not used to sitting in the posture you’ve chosen. The more you meditate, the easier it will be for you to sit still. Practice stretching exercises for your hips, such as the Butterfly exercise discussed in the Sitting Posture section of this chapter. When possible, assume your meditation posture throughout the day, such as when watching TV or reading a book.
When discomfort, pain or itching first starts, use it as the object of your concentration. Instead of calling it pain, try to think of what you’re feeling as just another physical sensation. Explore what the pain really feels like. Is it twisting, burning, grabbing or sharp? Is it constant or does it fluctuate? What does your mind say about the pain? Do you feel any fear regarding it? If the pain begins to be overwhelming, or is becoming significant, it’s perfectly okay to move, but try to move in a slow and mindful way. Once the pain has resolved, you can then resume your normal meditation posture.
If you really feel lethargic and sleepy during meditation this may reflect that you’re actually sleep deprived. Getting more sleep is essential and is yet another way to improve your response to everyday stress. Everything is tougher when you’re sleepy. Just as a young child is grouchy and emotional when tired, so are you, but you probably hide it a little better.
If you find yourself nodding off during your meditation, initially check that you’re holding your spine in an upright but relaxed position. Make sure that your head is not bending forward as your chin tries to sneak toward your chest. Often, when you become tired, your posture is not maintained and this is the first clue that you’re beginning to get fatigued.
Try opening your eyes.
You could also try standing up and meditating in a standing position.
Another option, that I’ve already mentioned, is the Walking Meditation, wherein you keep your attention on your breath as you slowly walk around the room.
You can give yourself a quick wakeup anytime by grasping your ear lobe and giving it a good squeeze.
Consider that your environment may also be contributing to your sleepiness.
Allow more light into the room.
Try meditating at a different time of day when you’re not as vulnerable to fatigue.
If none of these suggestions seem to work for you, then maybe you’re just really tired and you need some rest. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. Try catching a nap during the day and recognize that there will be some days when you’re just plain tired. It’s okay. Tomorrow is another day!
You can also experience the opposite of sleepiness, which can manifest itself as a sense of restlessness in your mind or body.
To deal with this restlessness, try to increase your concentration on your breathing. Try counting each breath, like counting sheep. Count one as you breathe in and out, two for the next breath in and out until you reach ten. Then count back from ten to one.
Exhalation helps to promote relaxation, while inhalation tends to be energizing. Emphasizing exhalation by trying to breathe out longer than you breathe in can also help with restlessness. Breathe in and count the time it takes to fill your lungs, then try to take longer to completely breathe out. Try to empty your lungs as much as is comfortable.
As people first start to meditate, they may become frustrated and wonder whether it’s really all that valuable to them. They have doubts about whether it’s worth it or they may think it’s just not working for them. They question if they are doing it right or enough. They have self-doubts and sabotage their own efforts by saying they don’t have time, or they can’t sit still or concentrate etc. These doubts are to be expected. Please don’t let them stop you. It’s important to give meditation time. You’re not alone. Simply trust the wisdom of all the people that have gone before you and who have meditated and found it to be of real value. It’s an excellent means of relaxation and stress relief. Give it a really good try and if you lose the habit, try again. Keep trying. Your health is worth it!
Altered Images and Sensations
It’s not uncommon for people to experience strange sensations in the mind or body while meditating. This just reflects the mind adjusting to the meditation. Meditation is a wonderful practice where you can achieve a state of deep concentration and stillness. There is nothing mysterious or magical about it. If you have a committed practice you can obtain peace of mind, stress release and a calm presence. It’s worth the effort! But it requires perseverance and a dedicated commitment.
Set up your meditation practice, keeping in mind the suggestions given here. Commit to doing it every day for at least a month. Ideally, it will become a permanent part of your healthy lifestyle. Remember that it takes time for a new habit to become…well…a habit!
- Meditation is the action of focusing your attention on one object in order to reach a state of concentration and stillness.
- Your thoughts affect your body, so if you relax your mind by causing it to concentrate on something, you are relaxing your body and giving yourself an excellent break from stress.
- Mindfulness Meditation allows you to practice observing your thoughts without reacting to them. This practice will help you to become less reactive to your thoughts and their storylines when you’re not meditating.
- When you meditate you just need to remember to “SAW,” which means to Sit in the right position, Scan your body, Set the intention, be Aware of your breath, and Watch your breathing.
- How to meditate: Choose a quiet place. Set a timer for a predetermined amount of time such as ten to fifteen minutes to start. Choose a position, for example, sitting on the floor or a chair. Choose something to focus your awareness on, such as your breathing. Focus and refocus your attention as it wanders, bringing it back again and again to the object of your focus.
- It’s quite common for people to experience some physical discomfort, sleepiness, doubt or unusual sensations, or images, when first starting to meditate, but it’s important for you to stick with it and allow the benefits to gradually build for you.