If You’re Thinking, “Meditation Just Isn’t for Me”

Note: This is part 3 out of 5 of the Morning Routine Series. Take what serves/resonates with you. Leave behind the rest.

I often used to complain, “I just can’t focus.”

As if ‘focus’ is something that should just naturally come to you, as soon as you sit down to start work.

In a society of information overload, so many things are grabbing for our attention. So if we want to focus when we need to, we need to take active responsibility for building and maintaining our focus, every day. Willpower is not enough. It takes practice and training.

I wake up every morning and my mind is usually a little scattered. Add a side of emotional distress once in a while and the mind is buzzing. So in optimizing my mental energy, I’ve incorporated two specific activities into my morning routine: meditation and planning. But for the purpose of not writing 1500+ words again, let's start with the first.

I started morning meditation on a daily basis in October 2017.

Yes, it has changed my life. And yes, it was really hard to get into it.

In fact, it took me about 10 months during which the Universe sent me ALL of the signs (a meditation studio, a meditation teacher, a meditation tech tool and a mindfulness book) and a dose of desperation for me to commit to this practice consistently.

I started and maintain the practice of daily meditation for three main reasons.

  1. Emotional management: I used to be an emotional rollercoaster. Either furious at life like Hulk or crying in bed until 2 in the afternoon. Mindfulness meditation has tremendous benefits for emotional awareness and emotional presence i.e. feeling through the emotions, not avoiding/resisting or getting stuck in them.
  2. Focus: Studies show that meditation can increase your focus at work, and I can testify. Mindfulness and awareness of thoughts create further mental space after my journaling practice each morning.
  3. Trauma healing: I have been healing through PTSD for several years, and my body has been on “freeze” mode for a while. My shoulders are tense, jaws are clenched, and breathing is very shallow. Body awareness through meditation helps loosen the tension in my body and remind me that I am here and I am safe. 

More people are recognizing the benefits of meditation and are trying it out. There are many resources and tools online on how to meditate so I’m not here to repeat the same stuff.

But I have had many people come up to me and say, “Meditation just isn’t for me. I tried and I just can’t do it.” Trust me, I know the struggle. So for you folks, I’ve got a few pointers. Don't give up so quickly and read on.

Meditation is not about “not thinking.”

It’s about being aware of your thoughts. When a thought pops up, just note it with “oh, that’s thinking” and come back to your breath. When an emotion arises, just note it with “oh, that’s a feeling” and come back to your breath. Every. Single. Time. Time to time, you will get lost in thought (because it’s super normal) and each time, when you notice that you’ve gotten lost in thought, you bring it back to the breath. So if you “just can’t stop thinking,” congratulations - you’re human. Keep going.

You don’t need to sit still.

If it really makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it that way. As I’ve said before, do not exercise a practice in a way that does not serve you. You can try walking meditation, yoga, tai chi. I sometimes dance as a form of meditation. Focus on your breath as you move.

Make your practice as long or as short as you need.

Don’t go longer than what is painfully uncomfortable. Push your limits, but not to the point that you’ll dislike the practice. Start with taking three deep breaths every morning for a week, then breathe for a full minute every morning for a week. Then 2 min, 3 min, 5 min, 10 min, up to 15 and 20 minutes. Use guided meditations for assistance. Work your way up and take your time. There’s no rush.

Attend an in-person class.

This helps for your first time trying, or for practicing on a weekly basis, to build commitment and discipline, and to easily explore different types of meditation. Vancouver’s Moment Meditation is a beautiful healing space with classes throughout the week.

Meditation can be extra challenging for folks living with ADHD.

Some people manage to work their way into it. But if it’s been discouraging, I recommend more intense breathing exercises like the Wim Hof Method breathing technique or Tony Robbins’ Priming exercise (audio). They’ll do the trick.

Take mindfulness into the rest of your life.

Into all your day-to-day activities. Because it’s so much more than just sitting and taking a mental break.

If you think meditation means going deep into the mountains and sitting in a quiet meditation hall with fresh air all around, then you’ve come to the wrong place. The Dharma that I teach is washing dishes, sweeping and mopping the floor, doing laundry with your hands, hammering nails, and digging with a shovel. It’s not about sitting calmly and peacefully like a mountain spirit.
— Son Master Songdam

10-15 minutes of meditation every morning boosts my mental energy to take on the day. It also feels SO GOOD afterwards. It makes sense why many successful people incorporate meditation into their morning routines.

 

NEXT STEPS:

  • Tie in the practice of meditation with a something you already do every morning (like brushing your teeth) ie. tie this new habit to an old habit. As soon as you finish brushing your teeth, sit down (or not) and meditate. Use other habit triggers to practice meditation consistently.
  • Sign up for an in-person meditation class (I personally go to Moment Meditation; their space is beautiful).
  • Download a meditation app and try one short session, right now! Headspace and Insight Timer are good places to start.
  • Go for a short walk without your phone or music. Notice your breath, the way it feels on the soles of your shoes, the warmth of the sunshine on your face. 

(Yes, it always comes down to action. Move through the knowing and doing gap.)

And a reminder, there’s no need to add to the thinking by judging your meditation practice. If you’re thinking a lot, cool; there are thoughts going on. Come back to your focus. If you’re not thinking much, cool; keep going.

As my friends at Moment like to say,

Stay tuned for the rest of the Morning Routine Series. To make it easy, subscribe to my newsletter here. And if you could you use some guidance on mental focus or burnout prevention, reach out and let's make it happen.

 

Much love,

Ji-Youn


P.S. If you would like to read about how I plan my day each day, leave a comment below.

P.S.S. Physical decluttering is also useful in creating mental space for flow. This is another habit I practice every evening. More on that in a future blog post, maybe.