Stop Making Up Rules

It’s common for new meditators to question whether or not they’re doing something wrong.  Actually, it’s common for long time meditators to do the same. But for this article we’re going to focus on some of the more common issues that arise for those who are new to mindfulness meditation.

1. Your mind will continue to wander. This isn’t anything to get upset about. In fact, it’s the very practice itself.  Mindfulness is not so much about stopping your mind from wandering as it is about catching it when it does. The number of times your mind drifts during meditation will vary and it does not matter. Just notice it when it happens and gently bring your attention back to the sensation of your breathing.

2.  It’s okay to moveYou don't want to turn your meditation period into a session of itching and self-massage, but you shouldn't  go trying to sit full lotus with two blown knees either. Be reasonable.  It’s okay to sit through minor discomfort and just observe them like any other experience you have while meditating.  Simply observe how discomfort changes as you sit. However, if you experience serious or enduring pain. Just consider the movement a part of your practice and shift only as much as you need.
3. Yes it still counts. We all find ourselves planning, daydreaming, and yes – nodding off. Don’t beat yourself up about it. If you realize that your entire meditation was spent in a fantasy, just noticing that and coming back to the present is a mindful moment in itself. If you fall asleep, you may have truly needed the rest. Now this does not mean you should call your naptime a meditation or willingly engage fantasies to pass the time, but so long as you enter your meditation period with the right intentions you can work with most anything that takes place.

4. Interruptions happen. You can probably stand to miss a few text messages, but you don’t have to try to sit through an incessant neighbor banging down the door or an attack from your roommate’s dog. It’s unrealistic to assume that you will always be able to find a completely tranquil environment. Do your best to limit potential distractions, but when interruptions arise just do whatever is reasonable to return to meditating.

5. Times will vary. There is no ideal length of meditation. Thirty to forty minutes seems to be pretty common for those who have been practicing for a while, but that’s not practical for someone who is relatively knew. We recommend starting with 5 minutes and adding a minute each day. After you experience a variety of lengths, you can choose the amount of time you feel is appropriate for your situation.  To reduce the length of time you spend thinking about time (and you still will) set a timer. A simple kitchen timer or cell phone alarm will work, but there are also applications like Insight Timer be download for free to a smartphone.

6. Begin and Continue. As we say in our book, the only two rules to meditation are to begin and continue. If your focus is broken during meditation - that's okay, just begin with the next breath and continue. If you miss a day or more just begin again the next and continue on.  As you begin and continue again and again, you will be able to develop your own set of guidelines for your personal practice.