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Stop Trying to Win Meditation!

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

Ill admit it, I still do it...

Let’s be honest here, it’s not hard to do when you’re someone like me who feels like I have to be the best at everything.

Being the Type-A person that I am, meditation can often feel like I am chasing my own tail in that the harder I try, the harder it seems to be. Over the years I've noticed that when I set out to do anything, I can let my competitive side get the better of me and whether I do this intentionally or not, I have as strong desire to be the best.

Believe me when I say that’s not a way for me to sneak in a quick humble-brag. What I mean by that is, I know my mental framework—in large part due to my meditation practice, coincidentally.

Being insecure as a kid, I always thought I had to be the best in order to make friends and to gain the respect of others. Ever since then, any time I try something new, I inevitably hold myself to a ridiculously high standard. If I cant do it well, I don't want to do it all....

But enough about me, let’s talk about you.

Are you trying to "win" meditation?

It’s not like we really can anyways, right?

So then why do so many of us fall into this trap?

Most people I've talked to about meditation know (on an intellectual level at least) that its not about reaching a state of bliss. The strange thing is, however, that when many of us sit down to meditate we experience a small amount of cognitive dissonance because some part of us still wants the mind to be still.

The second we realize our mind is swarming with hundreds of uncontrollable thoughts, we beat ourselves up. We tell ourselves that we will never get good at meditating or perhaps even worse, we tell ourselves that were not smart enough or good enough to learn how to be still.

So, what’s going on here? And more importantly, how can we stop trying to win something that can’t be won and have a more fulfilling meditation practice?

Over the last 2+ years, I’ve found three things that have helped me keep meditation in perspective and keep me on track and consistent in my practice.

Be Intentional:

As you might remember from an earlier blog post, I start every meditation practice by stating an intention in my mind. By doing this, I’m effectively setting the course for my meditation trip. In other words, an intention helps me in the same way a compass helped ancient travelers. Just as with a compass, anytime I feel like I have gotten off track, I can use my intention to help me get back on course.

Just before I close my eyes during my meditation practice I set an intention and remind myself of two things:

First, be kind to myself when I’ve noticed my mind has wandered and second, try not to simply get through this sitting in order to check it off my list of things to do. Instead, I try to see if I can truly learn something.

As you can tell, an intention does not need to be in an elaborate call to the universe. It can be as simple as a small reminder or a gentle encouragement. The point is, just as with anything in life, if we don’t live with intention we often find ourselves lost.

Be Kind:

I cannot understate this enough! It is far too common for us to beat ourselves up when we first start to observe our minds. When we don’t hold ourselves with compassion while we meditate, we set ourselves up for failure. This causes us to distance ourselves from the practice or worse, leave it all together.

This is why it is so important for us to hold ourselves with compassion and gentleness when we meditate. Seeing that we have a cluttered and crazy mind does not mean we can’t be good meditators. In fact, when you’re kind to yourself you will notice that observing just how crazy your mind can be is in some ways the point of meditation.

Being kind to ourselves allows us to go even deeper into our practice because let’s be honest here, who wants to sit for a meditation if were constantly being distracted by the jerk living in our minds? I know I sure don’t!

This is why I encourage you to look at your mind as a dear friend when you sit down to meditate. Your mind is not your adversary, it is part of you and to deny the mind is to deny yourself.

Be Curious:

I’m sure there are many of us that can sometimes feel like meditation is challenging because the thought of sitting with our own minds can be scary. In fact, most of us avoid meditating simply because we can’t stand to listen to our thoughts. Whether it’s a painful memory that you don’t want to relive or a nagging list of things you have to do, being alone with your thoughts can definitely cause anxiety.

What would happen though, if instead of resisting your mind, you practiced meditation with a level of curiosity? Instead of avoiding your thoughts, you looked at them with sincere interest and inquisitiveness.

You might find that if you look at your mind with curiosity it diminishes the suffering you feel when you avoid your mind because you are no longer trying to be somewhere other than where you are. When you sit with your mind and try to learn from it rather than run from it, you create the space necessary to see your mind clearly.

Instead of asking "how" did my mind get this way, ask "why" is my mind this way in this moment.. Don't try to answer anything, but rather, listen and see what comes up... The well of wisdom that resides within all of us is more powerful than we could ever imagine. So, tap into it and listen and learn...

Thank you as always for reading this week’s blog! I’d love to know if there are any other people out there who try to “win” meditation. If so, how the hell do you get yourself back on track and encourage yourself to keep going?! Drop us a line and let us know!

Until next week

Many many blessings

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