|Yoga with Ved|
|Yoga with Ved|
Meditation is presented as a very positive and uplifting experience. We always hear about the benefits of meditation and what it can do for us. I have even shared my belief in the positive power of meditation.
What we don’t hear is that meditation can be a challenging and frustrating experience. We don’t hear about how meditation can completely overturn our world.
The reality is that you will benefit from meditation. It is a self-development tool and will help you to grow on many levels. But the process is a challenging one.
Everyone knows that when you want to get fit that you have to work for it, and some pain will be part of the process. Think about what you know of trying to lose weight.
We have to do our cardio, exercise our will power in eating, and go through some “pain” as a transformation before we start reaping the reward of losing the pounds.
It is the same if I am trying to build some muscle, become more flexible, or push my fitness to the next level. We know that we will have to push our physical limits, that we will feel sore, that the body will be uncomfortable and painful. But after that we will come out stronger than before!
Even for our careers we know that this is true. We recognize that we have to put in long hours, meet deadlines, and even work with people (who we may not like) in order to progress in our career. Even though we are being paid for our work, that doesn’t change the fact that there is some pain.
It is the same for meditation. There is pain and struggle in the process – and that is an important conversation. I am taking this opportunity now to speak about all the challenges, discomfort, and “pain” that can come from meditation.
All of these I have experienced personally (to various degrees) and I am sure that others have as well. It is by no means an exhaustive list – but I have tried my best to share openly and honestly. I want you to appreciate that meditation requires perseverance in the process even as it becomes difficult and “painful.”
I fully believe that the process is worthwhile – but the reality is that it is not easy. Not easy in the same way losing weight is not easy, getting promoted is not easy, and having great relationships is not easy.
By developing the skill of meditation we are exercising those parts of us that are beyond physical. Our attention, energy, mind and emotion. And of course in that growing process there will be growing pains. To expect anything else would be self-deception.
The trouble is that we hear the positive narrative associated with meditation without gaining an appreciation of the work and challenges that are needed. So of course we feel discouraged when it is not uplifting right away.
With this side of the conversation coming out you can have a more balanced and realistic appreciation of the process. When we work with meditation genuinely we are transforming the deepest parts of who we are.
This can give us a wide range of effects and symptoms that will ultimately lead to our inner freedom. Let’s explore some of them.
The Good, The Bad, And The Just Plain Weird.
Meditation can be boring.
The practice of meditation is different from any other activity you will do in your life. It goes against all the conditioning that we have within our minds, hearts, and in our energy. When we start meditation it may genuinely be boring at first. Because we are striving to slow down our activity, to observe differently, and to become quiet.
For some people this will be big change in what they are used to. You may be used to a stream of thoughts, to always being active, and being engaged in a particular way. When you start up it may just seem like you are being forced to do “nothing.”
That is okay! If you feel in the beginning it is boring that doesn’t mean it will always be that way. When you learn to work with yourself and to go deep into meditation it will become far more interesting.
You will not know what to “do.”
It may seem like meditation is sitting and doing nothing – but that is just the appearance. In fact, we are trying to do something, in a special way. We are trying to do differently.
Just like any other skill we start off not knowing what the practice is about and how to “do” it. Think about when you first learnt how to drive, play a new game, use a tool, or even a musical instrument. In the beginning we don’t know what to do.
That is normal and natural. We need to learn the skill through practice. Slowly but surely we become more capable.
After you learn what to “do,” you still need to learn how to do it well.
Once you understand how to meditate then you have to learn how to do it well. That is not automatic. Think about it.
When you learn how to play the guitar, do you immediately go play on stage? Even when you learned the basics of driving, you still had to practice, get your license, then prove that you could drive to your parents. And even then you are not ready to drive professionally!
The skill of meditation has the same learning curve. First you learn the basics of meditation, then you must practice the basics till you become competent. After competence then you must learn to be truly skillful!
Your back will hurt.
This is true for every person I have ever met. The body needs to adjust to this new way of sitting, to being able to hold the posture steady. There is some accommodation in the muscles and in the spine that must be learnt.
Through that accommodation you will get pain in your back. For me personally my lower back hurt for a few months, then went away. Some years later my upper back started being a nuisance. Eventually my back did become conditioned that I can maintain my posture effortlessly.
Even during the early times, when we are just learning, there will be moments of freedom from the body challenges. That is because when we enter into deep meditation the inner energy, the inner power will support the body and make it easier for us.
You will have unusual physical sensations.
Aside from the pain that may come from conditioning – you may experience other physical sensations. As you work with the practice of meditation the body becomes more conscious. We awaken the physical body to its full potential. In that process we can feel all kinds of sensations.
What is important is that we do not become caught up in these sensations that come. Some may be pleasurable, some may be weird, some may just be annoying. But we should give these sensations no attention. They are just part of the process.
As we work with our practice we may notice that whenever we feel something new, the mind immediately begins paying attention to it. But that is no good, because then we lose the focus and cease driving the meditative process.
You will have to learn how NOT to fall asleep.
This is one of the most common complaints. When we have committed ourselves to learning meditation inevitably we will fall asleep at some point. Because it’s boring! (NO) Or you are tired. Both of these reasons are valid, but there is another reason.
When you start going deep into meditation you actually influence your brainwaves. The brainwaves begin changing. And what do you think happens when you get to the slower brainwaves, that we usually get when we are asleep?
Yes! You can feel like you have full energy and alertness, going deep into meditation and then suddenly you feel as though you are drifting off into sleep. Because the brainwaves have slowed down and you are literally in the place where your body will say, “oh it’s sleepy time.”
This conditioning will have to be retrained. It is possible and just takes practice. Eventually you will be able to maintain consciousness even in those very slow brainwaves that are normally associated with sleep.
Impatience and restlessness is inevitable.
Throughout the entire process there will be learning. Challenges to overcome and understand. And victories to move past. But you will certainly plateau in your meditation skill. You will reach a point where you say to yourself that there must be more. Yet the more does not come.
You will become restless and impatient wanting to overcome that plateau, that barrier. That is okay. The path to master of any skill has this learning curve in it, with multiple plateaus. That is why discipline and perseverance is one of the qualities that you learn through meditation.
Your own thoughts become the most annoying thing.
This happens more so early on your practice. You sit for meditation and your thoughts become a real nuisance. Of course we are seeking to quiet the mind, to reduce thinking and move beyond thoughts. But easier said than done.
For sure you will at some point become annoyed with your own thoughts and thinking. This is good! It will mean that you really have the desire to go beyond the thoughts. It becomes an impetus to go deeper.
For me this has been an ongoing challenge that I have made my peace with (mostly). This is one of the major skills I have had to learn. Being friendly with my own thoughts and learning to redirect from them. Instead of becoming captured by each thought.
You can experience an emotional release.
When working with meditation we are removing the limitations with us. We are also becoming more conscious of what is held within our own minds and hearts. Because humans have a habit of holding on to their emotions, bottling them up, sometimes when we go into meditation there can be a dramatic release of what is stuck.
Personally I have had both crying and laughing suddenly in my meditation practice. It came to me out of the blue, carried on for a few minutes and then just as suddenly left me. The feeling of it was incredible, and a bit concerning. Because you begin wondering if you have gone quite mad.
But after the experience you feel completely unburdened. The emotions have been released and now you are no longer carrying that heaviness around.
You can experience fear and panic.
Not all experiences in meditation are “positive” ones. Remember that we are digging up all the old stuff from within us. We are seeking every area where there is weakness and seeking to heal what is hurt.
We have all had fearful experiences in life, we have all had moments where we felt completely panicked with what was happening. In meditation those experiences can return to us – so that they can be dealt with in a healthy way.
One of the goals of meditation is being able to let go, detach, and not judge what happens within us. So when these experiences come, whatever they are, we must learn to accept. This is where the skillfulness must be developed.
You may feel emotionally unbalanced.
If you have been working on heavy emotions and on healing your heart, it is normal to feel vulnerable. This can be so after meditation and continue into daily life. Because we have opened ourselves to what needs to be healed.
It is very possible that you may feel unbalanced, sensitive, and emotionally vulnerable as you work with the deeper parts of your heart in meditation.
Incredible insights will come to you.
Meditation may bring you to some realization about your life, behaviors, or patterns of thinking. I often have these. After coming out of meditation I will realize why I have felt a certain way, or have been thinking about particular things, or even had certain behaviors in the past.
Incredible insights about life, yourself and the people around you may come. That can dramatically alter how you live. More than one insight has come to me that caused me to rethink the course of my life. Many have also given me perspective about what I want in my life, the kinds of relationships, and what my goals should be.
You may realize you were the cause of many problems.
One of the most difficult things about meditation is that it reveals your life to you. The insights that come are deeply personal. It shows you what has caused your life to be the way that it is, and that is a really tough cookie.
You may realize that some of the thoughts you have had, patterns, behaviors, and relationships have caused you much of your pain and suffering in life. This may be a hard pill to swallow, and that is okay. Because it is better to know the cause of your suffering (even if it is because of you) rather than be stuck in the suffering.
Insurmountable challenges or obstacles will arise.
At some point in your practice (multiple times for sure!) you will feel some challenge or obstacle is there that is too vast for you to approach. It may feel as though there is no way to face it and resolve it. That is perfect because it is giving you a great opportunity.
An obstacle feels insurmountable because it is just outside of our limit. In order to overcome it we are forced to grow and become more. We are forced to find our strength and use it to work on the challenge. That ultimately leads to incredible growth.
You may become frustrated with the challenge.
Because the challenge is just outside our limitations and is testing us, some frustration is expected. It is very normal to struggle as we try to grow. The important detail is not to be intimidated, to feel frustrated but not get carried away, and to look carefully at how we can overcome the challenge.
My master always has to deal with my frustration, although it has become much less than before as I have become more accepting of myself. He always seems to know how to give me encouragement without holding me back from discovering my own way to grow.
Some lesson that you thought you learnt will come back to prove you wrong.
You may work through some lesson or obstacle and feel very accomplished. It may feel as though you have dealt with it appropriately, learnt the lesson, and that you are ready for something bigger and better.
Only to have the universe create the circumstances to really test us, to see if you have learnt it well, and fall flat on your face. Remember this is the way of the Universe helping us. It will create the perfect conditions to check if you have truly learnt the lesson and are ready to move onto another.
I for one started off feeling quite defeated when this would happen. But in the long run it is better. Because you will truly find out strength and be able to face the challenges with confidence.
You may feel as though you are losing control of your life.
When you begin this process of self-discovery and self-transformation – your lives can change dramatically. It may change so much, so quickly, it is a shocking experience. This makes you feel as though we are losing control of your life.
But it is just a feeling. You are beginning to recognize that you can’t control every aspect of our lives. You begin experiencing that life happens, and we have to live in it joyfully.
Old memories will surface.
In meditation you are digging deep within yourself. As you discover more of what is hidden you will have to face those memories you might have suppressed. These are the parts of you that need healing and that will ultimately help you to grow.
Digesting these old, often emotionally-charged, memories can be tough. But it is necessary so that you can be free from them.
We will have to learn deep forgiveness.
Continuing on from processing the memories – you will need to develop the skill of forgiveness, on an unconditional level. Otherwise you can never successfully make peace with our past. It will be learning to forgive others and ourselves for all the faults.
Without learning to forgive you carry around all kinds of judgments and intolerance within you. Forgiveness is a strategy for achieving emotional freedom, which leads directly to peace of mind.
You will feel strangely detached from the world.
One of the major “symptoms” of meditation is that you begin feeling quite detached from the world. Not in a negative sense, but in a way of feeling that nothing external can reach you. You develop a certain internal resilience. Your heart and mind becomes unshakable.
This detached feeling doesn’t take you away from the world. Rather it helps you to live in the world more openly. Because you feel that no challenge can influence you or touch you. You will feel secure in our inner state. I remember this feeling growing within me, and it gave me so much confidence to work in the world.
All relationships will be examined.
Living in the world means dealing with relationships. Even if you chose to live like a hermit, there are the past relationships that you had, and your relationship with nature. In meditation everything that is challenging about your relationships will come to you.
This is because meditation is about learning to connect with life deeply, and having harmonious relationships are a part of that. You will begin thinking about and examining every relationship you have. Not just in your meditations but also during your daily life.
You will question your life purpose.
Meditation puts you in touch with your inner strength. It gives you the confidence to investigate the big questions in life. Questions like “who am I?” And, “what do I want from life?” Through deep meditation you will become more connected with the source of your being.
This will put you in touch with your life purpose. It will become more conscious with each day, with each practice. And eventually it will call you so powerfully, you will not be able to ignore it. That is why meditation is so powerful for placing us on our life’s path.
More sleep, less sleep.
I have experienced that when I meditate regularly the duration and quality of my sleep changes. When I lived at the ashram the amount of sleep I needed was drastically reduced. But I have also experienced feeling incredible heavy and tired after meditation that left me sleeping much deeper and longer than usual.
Basically just be prepared that your sleep patterns may change. There is nothing wrong with you, the body is just taking the time for the rest it needs or, getting used to a new level of energy.
Dreams may become more vivid and …. Interesting.
When I meditate it has a profound effect on my dream state. I will remember my dreams better, often have lucid dreams, and the quality of my dreams is different. It’s as though the dreamscape becomes a whole world in itself that can be explored.
Your body may reject certain foods.
As you meditate more you will be tuning up your body and your energy to a certain quality. When you do this the entire system becomes more sensitive. I have experienced that because of this your body may reject certain foods. Because the quality of energy in them no longer agrees with you.
It is for this reason that I am very conscious of where I eat and what I eat. Because if it is a little questionable, then likely my body will not like it. This does not necessarily mean specific foods (although it could be), it can also mean the quality of food, and where it is from.
Old patterns, habits, and conditioning will be broken.
Slowly over time meditation retrains us to operate differently. You may find that you lose interest in old hobbies or habits that are harmful to you. Often without any conscious effort.
Because meditation is putting you in touch with a deeper part of yourself, it often compels us to let go of those habits and patterns that are holding you back in life.
You will wonder if it is worth it.
For sure as you work with the practice and encounter all the positives and negatives that meditation brings, you will ask yourself if it is really worth it. And that is perfect.
When that question comes give yourself some time to reflect and process it. Certainly I have asked myself this question more than once. If facing all these internal challenges and working through them are worth it. But then I just need to look at how my life has changed, how I feel, and what success have come to me to return to the practice.
You will take a break from it.
Just like anything else in life you will take a break from the practice at some point. This just gives you the time to integrate all that you have learned and begin living differently. When you take a break from the practice you will actually realize that you operate different and live more consciously than before.
You will observe all the effects of meditation on your daily life. And soon enough you will want to explore and discover even more. That is how it has been for me. Sometimes I will give myself the space to just live a bit and not be pushed into practice. And I always end up feeling even more motivated to return to the practice.
Meditation will begin calling to you.
This was the greatest boon to me. I remember meditation being a chore. Now after staying with the practice and facing some of the challenges that have come from it, I feel it is a great joy. It’s like learning an instrument.
In the beginning it feels like a lot of work, but then comes the joy of making music and being in that experience. It is the same for meditation. Invest in doing the work in the beginning and eventually you will feel that meditation is a great attraction. It will be even more appealing than anything else in your life.