Overcoming resistance to meditation (a self-compassionate guide)

There can be lots of reasons for why we avoid meditating. We might not want to experience particular feelings. We might have built up a sense of failure around our meditation practice. We might worry that doing something for ourselves is selfish. We might be concerned that if we meditate we won’t get things done. Or we might be afraid of change.

And so we find excuses not to meditate. We know it’s good for us. We’ve read news article about it. We know that we’re happier when we meditate. We intend to meditate. But we find that we avoid it. We get busy. We just can’t bring ourselves to go sit on that meditation cushion.

I used to think it would help to understand why I resisted meditation. But that rarely achieved anything.

Ultimately, I found that the most important thing was not to analyze my resistance or to get into a debate with it, but to turn toward and embrace it. This is an important practice in mindful self-compassion.

See also:

So when resistance to meditation arises, try becoming mindful of the feelings that accompany this experience. Where are they situated in the body? What shape do they form? What “texture” do they have? What kinds of thoughts do they give rise to? Notice those things, and just be with the resistance. Let the resistance be an object of mindfulness. Resistance is a state of conflict, and may also include fear. These are forms of pain. Notice this pain and regard it kindly. Offer it some reassuring words: “It’s OK. You’re going to be OK. I’ll take good care of you.”

Now here’s the thing: as soon as you become mindful of your resistance, you’re already meditating. Your resistance is no longer a hindrance to developing mindfulness but an opportunity to do so. And so, wherever you are, you can just let your eyes close. Breathing in, experience the resistance. Breathing out, experience the resistance. Now you’re doing mindful breathing meditation!

Continue to talk to the fearful part of you, perhaps saying things like: “Hi there. I accept you as part of my experience. I care about you and I want you to be at ease. You’re free to stay for as long as you like, and you’re welcome to meditate with me.” Do this for as long as necessary, until you feel settled in your practice.

In this approach the specific content of your resistance isn’t important, because you’re not meeting your rationalizations on their own level. And that’s a good thing, because your resistance is sly.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, your doubt can run circles around you, and arguing with it makes things worse. Your doubt knows exactly what you’re going to say and knows how to make you feel small and incapable. It’s had lots of practice doing this. The one thing your doubt doesn’t understand is how to resist being seen and accepted.

So instead of arguing with your resistance, outsmart it. Surround it with mindful awareness and with kindness.

If you find that the resistance goes on day after day, then set yourself a low bar for what counts as “a day in which you meditate.” Five minutes is fine. That may not sound like much, but regularity is ultimately far more important than the number of minutes you do each day. If you sit for just five minutes a day, you’re meditating regularly. You’ve outwitted your resistance.

One more tip: The only “bad meditation” is the one you don’t do. All the others are fine. So don’t worry about the quality. Just do the practice.

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7 Comments. Leave new

  • Hello Mara … may I make you some tea ?

    Reply
  • Thank you. I’ll keep trying.

    Reply
  • I seem to be getting better with this. I effectively resisted meditation for about 30 years. It was always something I intended to do from way back in my adolescence but I just couldn’t be kind enough to myself to do it. I seem to have been on a gradual ascent in terms of regularity of practice and being at peace with however any particular sitting turns out. This month and next are always tough because my job switches to four ten hour days that mean I can’t sit in the mornings as is my custom. This year, however, I am sitting at night before I go to sleep. I wouldn’t characterize the sittings as having the same “quality” as a morning sitting but that’s OK ( channeling my inner Stuart Smalley here ).

    I can picture the me of a decade ago reading this and thinking what a smug sod I sound. For everyone who has been where I was I sincerely wish you the best of luck in establishing a solid practice. “You can do it!”. You really can.

    Reply
  • Yes. Thanks For the awesome blog. Awesome Writeup. When we meditate, we spread positive vibration and vibrations of peace, happiness and resistance is finished completely. I do the Rajyog Meditation.

    Reply
  • Sometimes we resist meditation because of the many voices that come with it, and you don’t know which one to listen to.

    Reply
  • David Davies
    July 15, 2019 8:02 am

    Thank you! Namaste

    Reply

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