The main reason people think meditation is difficult

The common idea is that meditation is difficult. This is not true. Meditation, itself, is extremely simple. It is a unidimensional practice, requiring nothing more than alert observation. Sure, the mind wanders, thoughts and emotions enter the picture, and on and on.

But these are not part of the meditation. They occur ‘peripherally’ in the mind. As you become comfortable and confident with the process of meditation, some aids (physical as well as attitudinal approaches that I term ‘meditation toolkit’) will help you with the ancillary problems mentioned. A guide who is willing to instruct you one-on-one can be a great help in dealing with these ‘ancillary’ problems.

Regardless of the method selected (and most folks who have meditated for a while settle on one), the practice involves observing a particular ‘anchor’ (e.g. breath, chant, mantra, chakras, music, thought, etc.) while keeping a portion of the mind (the portion that is not ‘holding on’ to the anchor) open, permitting thoughts and emotions to intrude. This is facilitated by being completely aware of anything that arises in the mind (e.g. thought, emotion, idea, belief, bodily sensations, external sensations [e.g. a dog barking], and movements that are motivated by the mind [as opposed to those that occur without being impelled or continued by the mind]). This is ‘total awareness.’

Mere observation of any intrusion without ‘engaging’ (any intellectual or emotional interaction including scrutiny, reason, argument, pacification, justification, complimenting, criticism, suppression, or blockage) causes it to weaken.

Depending on the intensity of the thought or emotion, it may recur. No problem; repeat the observation without engagement. The thought will gradually weaken to the point of either disappearing or remain in the mind without being a bother or distraction. The disappearance is not important. Allowing the thought to exist without bothering the practitioner is more important.

Some people recommend that the thought be entertained with positive internal comments and that, after observation, to ‘shift’ attention to breath, chant, etc. Actually, since the thought weakens on its own, the question of shifting does not arise. Total awareness prevails.

Some methods of meditation ‘bind’ the mind. Such binding is not as beneficial as permitting thoughts to enter and observing them; the intrusion of thoughts and emotions and the method of dealing with them helps not only during meditation but also during difficult times the rest of the day. As binding the mind does not permit thoughts to enter, the individual does not develop the skill and confidence to reconcile with the thought or emotion. By the way, thoughts accompanied by emotion are more distracting and bothersome than thoughts by themselves.

So, if meditation is simple in itself, why so many queries, problems, and posts about the difficulty of meditation?

The answer is very simple: EXPECTATION.

The expectation that the mind will be free of thought/emotion and that peace will reign is the culprit. Lack of fulfillment of such expectation causes disappointment, frustration, self-criticism, self-flagellation, and, if not addressed, the possibility of dropping out of the practice of meditation.

So, instead of trying to ‘remedy’ meditation, peripheral issues such as distraction, expectation, and emotional upheavals accompanying life need to be understood and addressed as needed.

Expectations thus predispose you to disappointment. When you meditate without expectations, your progress in meditation is facilitated.

In addition, practitioners need access and the ability to incorporate measures to deal and cope with difficult times. The more such measures are put into practice, the more they are available and effective in times of need.