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Overcoming resistance to meditation

Stacked of zen stones with orange ranunculus flowerNo matter how much experience we have of meditation being beneficial in our lives, and of not meditating making life harder for us, we can still end up experiencing resistance. And resistance to meditation can be very painful, especially when we get caught between that feeling that we “should” meditation and the feeling that we don’t want to.

Sometimes there’s a hidden agenda at work. We might on some level think that meditation is selfish. Or we might be worried about “not getting things done.” Or we might be afraid of change. If you can become aware of the underlying reason for your resistance you might be able to work at rediscovering your sense of motivation, but in some ways it doesn’t matter what the content of the resistance is.

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One thing I’ve found very successful when I’ve experienced resistance is to become mindful of the feeling of resistance. Where is it situated in the body? How large is it? What “texture” does it have? What kinds of thoughts does it give rise to? Notice those things, and just be with the resistance. Turn the resistance into an object of mindfulness. At that point you’re already meditating, so you might as well get on the cushion. Or you could just stay where you are, let your eyes close, and notice the breathing at that same time as you observe the resistance, or notice the resistance and send it your lovingkindness. In this kind of approach the specific content of your resistance isn’t important, because you’re not meeting your rationalizations on their own level. You’re not arguing with them; you’re outsmarting them by surrounding them with mindful awareness.

If truly want to meditate daily, but find that the resistance goes on day after day, then set yourself a low bar for what constitutes a day in which you meditate: five minutes works fine. That may not sound like much, but regularity is ultimately more important than the number of minutes you do each day. Do feel free to do more, but don’t try to impress yourself with how much meditation you can do. It’ll just lead to more resistance.

You want to get, as quickly as possible, to the point where you don’t even have to decide to meditate every day. It shouldn’t be a decision. It should just be what you do. So I have a mantra: “I meditate every day; it’s just what I do; it’s part of who I am.” If you want to meditate absolutely every day, then keep reciting that mantra (and meditate for at least five minutes each day, although preferably more) until you start to believe the mantra on a deep level. If you miss days at first, that’s OK. Just keep repeating the mantra: “I meditate every day; it’s just what I do; it’s part of who I am.”

It works.

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About Bodhipaksa

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Bodhipaksa is a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, and a published author. He founded Wildmind in 2001. Bodhipaksa has published many guided meditation CDs and guided meditation MP3s.

He teaches at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, New Hampshire. You can follow Bodhipaksa on Twitter, join him on Facebook, or hang out with him on .

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Comments

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Comment from Silvia
Time: December 4, 2013, 3:41 pm

Why is it so important to meditate *every* day? One could have a regular meditation schedule without it being daily, say three times a week or so. Where is the difference?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 4, 2013, 3:45 pm

Two reasons, really:

1. There’s a definite cumulative effect from meditating daily (and studies have shown that regularity is important). It’s like if you’re learning a new language, small amounts of practice each day will bring more benefit than more irregular “practice.”

2. If you meditate daily you’ve done something to overcome resistance, whereas if you only meditate when you feel like it then you’re letting your resistance call the shots.

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Comment from Norman
Time: December 4, 2013, 8:53 pm

Thank you. I really needed to see this

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Comment from Ursula
Time: December 6, 2013, 3:40 pm

I want to start meditating and I want to know where is the best place? I currently live in a small apartment in nyc. Also do I burn candles or do I breathe a certain way?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 11, 2013, 1:12 pm

I’d suggest going to the “meditation guides” link above, and starting with the mindfulness of breathing. Candles can be lovely. They’re esthetically pleasing and lighting them can be a pleasant ritual. But they’re not essential. As for breathing — just let it happen.

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