8 Meditation Mistakes to Avoid
“Three things you cannot recover in life: the word after it’s said, the moment after it’s missed, and the time after it’s gone.” ~Unknown
Do you meditate?
I do. I come from a Buddhist family, and meditation is like an heirloom to me.
I didn’t start meditating until I was an adult. But when I did, I meditated diligently. From forming a meditation habit to getting the latest meditation app, I’ve done it all.
And one day I got a little worried.
I didn’t feel much difference. I didn’t feel calm and peaceful like I was supposed to feel.
In fact, I didn’t feel anything.
Nothing has changed. I was still the irritable, depressed person that I was. Meditation felt like a waste of time.
Later, I was shocked to discover how many mistakes I was making.
I want you to avoid these mistakes so that you can meditate efficiently without wasting your time as well.
1. You don’t embrace distractions.
I used to hate distraction. I’d use earplugs, lock my door, and yell at everybody to shut up before I meditated.
By all means, minimize distraction. But realize no matter what you do, something’s going to bother you. If you’re like me, you become more irritated each time you get distracted or interrupted. This is counterproductive.
The whole point of meditation is to observe distractions as they occur, and not to be carried away by them. Embracing distraction is part of the practice. When you do, you’ll feel much more laid back, and everything else will fall into place.
2. You only meditate with external aids.
When meditation was popularized, meditation apps, meditation music, and guided meditation also became a fad.
These external aids direct your thoughts and get you relaxed and concentrated. If you have difficulty meditating traditionally, they’re certainly viable alternatives.
However, a big part of meditation is facing your inner thoughts on your own. This cultivates insight and wisdom. If your thoughts are being guided externally, you’ll miss out on an opportunity to self-realization.
If you want your practice to be well-rounded, you should devote some time to meditate with only your mind and body, even if you do enjoy using apps or guided meditations.
3. You seek escape in meditation.
I used to abuse meditation to suppress my strong negative feelings. As long as I concentrated only on my breath, I could stop myself from thinking about my problems.
But then I learned that focus isn’t a hammer of suppression; it’s a ray of light. The light of your meditative awareness will bring up your problems in the form of thoughts. It’s your job to face and neutralize them in the process.
When strong feelings emerge, put your awareness on those feelings before returning to your focus. Otherwise, you would be suppressing your emotions to the detriment of your mental health.
Observe the feeling, let it grow, and it’ll naturally dissolve.
4. You’re doing the wrong meditation for your body type.
If you feel physically or mentally uncomfortable while meditating, you may be doing the wrong meditation.
I have a slight nose condition. Sometimes I wouldn’t be able to breathe comfortably through my nose. At those times, meditation became torturous because I would strain my tracheal muscle badly afterward. I decided to drop breathing meditation soon after.
Meditation is not a battle. Fighting discomfort is neither healthy nor helpful. There’s no reason why meditation shouldn’t be comfortable. Stop doing your current meditation if you’re in a similar situation.
5. You don’t try out other types of meditation.
No one meditation technique is superior to one another. For example, most of us meditate to cultivate mindfulness. Breathing is not the only way to do so. Many meditation techniques can achieve the same purpose.
There are mantra meditations, visualization meditations, walking meditations, contemplation meditations, as well as various schools of Vipassana meditations for you to choose from.
After I dropped breathing meditation, I tried many other techniques and finally settled on mantra meditation. It felt much more natural to me.
Learn different techniques from credible teachers. Try out the ones that appeal to you.
If you’re already content with your current meditation, great. But remember you always have the option to explore different meditations. Maybe you’ll find one that you love even more.
6. You don’t stick with one meditation technique for long enough.
While you should explore different techniques, avoid switching around all the time.
If you do, you wouldn’t be familiar enough with a technique, and there won’t be enough time for its benefits to come to fruition.
Practice a technique until you know it inside out before you determine whether you should move on or not.
The exception here is that if a meditation clearly makes you physically or mentally uncomfortable, you should stop right away.
7. You have unrealistic goals.
I used to meditate to reach “enlightenment.” Needless to say, I didn’t get there.
And I thought it would make me at least a tad calmer, or give me some obvious health benefits. I didn’t get both.
I was expecting too much. And it drove me crazy.
Don’t expect too much, and don’t expect anything too soon. Meditation is not the magic cure that could banish all your stress and turn you into an enlightened being in just a few days, months, or even years.
Remember, the masters meditated day and night for decades to reach where they are.
Unrealistic expectations prevent you from focusing on your practice. When you have high expectations, you focus on results instead of the process. This is counterproductive, as it takes away the present moment awareness that meditation offers.
Whenever I find myself expecting, I remind myself that I’m not trying to get anything from meditation. As I do so, the practice becomes much more enjoyable. And in the end, by releasing my expectations, meditation does make me more peaceful.
8. You never learned how to meditate.
If you don’t study meditation thoroughly, you won’t be able to discover your own mistakes. And if you continue your practice with these mistakes, you’ll waste your precious time at best and injure yourself mentally or physically at worst.
Read a wide variety of books on meditation, watch videos and listen to lectures by different teachers, join a meditation forum online or social group in person. Expand your knowledge constantly. Use that knowledge to improve your practice regularly.
If you can afford it, it’s best to learn from a trustworthy and reputable teacher. A good teacher will not only guide you through advanced meditations safely, they will also help you save a lot of time and avoid most mistakes from the outset.
Guidance from a teacher is necessary if you’re interested in meditations using mantras or visualization. Some of these meditations are potentially dangerous to your mental health.
Until you can get a teacher or become knowledgeable enough, stick with basic meditations. Avoid visualizations, contemplations, and esoteric mantras you don’t understand.
Meditation Has Never Felt So Good
Now that you know what to avoid in meditation, you’ll able to make much more progress than I have in a much shorter time.
With this knowledge in mind, identify your mistakes and correct them.
Then meditation will no longer feel like a chore. You’ll actually want to sit down and meditate. Not because you think you should, but because it feels so good. And you can be assured that no matter what happens during the session, you’ll remain peaceful, calm, and happy.
Yes, it is possible.
So get to work, and let a whole new journey begin.