Hello everybody, welcome to episode 49 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Happy to see you, or at least bark at you here again for another episode. Today we’ll be looking at a question sent in that asks about meditation and the benefits…or lack thereof! We’re going to talk about much more than being patient with meditation today, though.
So without further ado, let’s give it a looksie…
QUESTION: “I’ve been committed to meditation for several months now, and I do it just about every day. I definitely feel some benefits, but my mind still races about certain things, I still have a lot of anxiety that I don’t need, and I still have trouble sleeping. Should I be more patient with meditation or should I change my practice?”
Ok. There you have it. I’m glad this question came in because I do think things maybe need to be cleared up a little bit about meditation, and I hope I don’t get burned at the stake for this.
Mind you I’m not an expert in meditation by any means. I know about it and have practiced it a lot, but I’m not out there leading retreats or anything.
But, first things first. Asker, I want to point your attention to the end of the entry. I’ll start there.
On Being Patient With Meditation
When it comes to either being more patient with meditation or changing your practice, there’s no reason not to try both of these things.
If it’s been several months and you’re dissatisfied, then you might want to re-examine your practice, retool it, and see how that feels for a little while after. I don’t know what your practice looks like right now, but make sure it’s a practice that’s really serving you.
There are definitely a lot of weird, unspoken rules about how meditation is supposed to be, and it’s always been my belief that the more restrictions there are, the more we try to assert control, and thus the further away from comfortable we are with whatever present circumstances come up.
Typically, the goal of meditation is to become more accepting of all present circumstances coming up. But meditation is different for everyone, so I’d take a hard look at what specifically you’re trying to accomplish with your meditation and tailor your practice accordingly.
Editor's Note: For more meditation tips, check out these episodes on our main show, Optimal Living Daily, which covers topics like personal development and minimalism to optimize your life.
1. Amy Pawlukiewicz with If It Brings You Joy shares a personal experience of meditation in OLD Episode 1663.
2. Crystal Fenton of MindBodyWise talks about how meditating can take the place of self-criticism in OLD Episode 1851.
3. And Shirley of Daring Living shares four ways that we can be mindful, including simple meditation, in OLD Episode 1739.
Dissect and Dismantle Troubling Thoughts
For example, one thing I used to make a point of while meditating was not to clear my mind, but instead to spend the time dissecting and dismantling the thoughts that were troubling me. Sometimes my eyes were open. Sometimes I’d speak aloud. To me, it was a time focused on addressing troubling thoughts and it was helpful when I was doing it.
That’s just an example. The point is, again, meditation is different for everyone, so if you’re looking to be patient and keep trying it, at least make sure you’re doing it in a way that serves you best – and that starts with you questioning it and not necessarily going by the book.
But here’s the thing: you present being patient and changing your practice as the only two options. And they might not be. You’ve made these two solutions assuming that meditation itself is the answer to your troubles, which isn’t necessarily the case.
Meditation can be an incredible tool. The fact that it helps to strengthen our abilities to accept and interpret anything that comes in our wake makes it incredibly valuable, but I’m not sure that’s enough to make it the most useful tool for any and all issues.
Get Clear on Your Biggest Struggles
What you need to do is get clear about what your biggest struggles are; the problems that take up the most of your time, and then be realistic about whether or not meditation is the most practical means of overcoming them.
Meditation is very popular right now and indeed very good. But that’s also why it can be dangerous. Meditation can be both wonderful and a trend that people follow blindly at the same time. We all need to be deliberate in the tactics we deploy to overcome certain things.
Think about someone who struggles greatly with finances. Money is their most common stress and it saturates more of their life than their other struggles. Meditation, while great, is not going to be nearly as useful to them as saving, looking for a new job, or sitting down with a financial planner.
Sure, it can help them feel LESS stress about money issues, but if they value money enough to be caring about not having it in the first place, there are other tools that will provide much better dividends.
Make Adjustments to Your Approach to Solving Problems
So as much as you might want to readjust the way you meditate, you might also want to readjust the way you’re solving problems in general.
What’s the basis of those thoughts that cause your mind to race? Is it those thoughts that are keeping you from sleeping well? Maybe. You need to deploy the right solutions to the right problems.
I don’t know what the source of your anxiety is, but as a reference point, we’ll look at those two things you mentioned: anxiety and poor sleep. Meditation IS great for general anxiety. So is yoga. So are walks in nature. Try these things, too.
Talk to a therapist; it goes without saying that’s your best bet for handling your anxiety. For poor sleep, sure the meditation can help quiet your mind — again it’s a generally useful approach. But maybe, your poor sleep is caused by too much time in front of screens before bed. Maybe it’s an irregular sleep schedule. Maybe it’s exercising too late. Maybe it’s because you’re sleeping on the mattress you got from your parents which is uncomfortable both because it’s 40 years old AND because you were conceived on it.
Being More Patient With Meditation: Conclusion
You see, the possibilities are really endless here in terms of how you can combat the problems that inspired you to start meditating in the first place.
No, you don’t need to stop meditating. It’s wonderful, make the most out of it.
But don’t mistake it for the one thing that can solve all your problems. Use it in tandem with other strategies that are more specific to what you’re going through and what you need.
All right, everyone. If you liked this episode, I am going to recommend one of the videos on my website to ya’ll. It was actually read once on Optimal Living Daily long before Optimal Living Advice was even a twinkle in its mother’s eye.
God, Greg. Enough with the parent relations jokes, please.
The video is called Wrong Problems, Wrong Solutions. It’s buried deep on my website, and it talks about how to accurately gauge problems before going about solving them.
It was one of my favorites and it goes along well with the end part of today’s episode, so check it out if you’d like to hear more.
We’re done for today, though. Thanks for this question, thanks for listening. As per usual, we encourage you to send your own questions in for us to answer on the show. You can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to help you out like we always do. All right?
Lovely. Have a wonderful day, everybody, and I’ll talk to you next time.