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Meditation Troubleshooting Tips

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Mental Distractions:

 

Mindfulness Meditation practice requires no concentration. It is the art of experiencing each moment as it occurs with open awareness.

 

However, we recognize there are times when we practice formal sitting meditation or formal walking meditation, that the thought patterns at that particular moment are too much to handle. Maybe there are more stressors in one's life at that time or maybe a disturbing event just occurred.

 

If this is the case, there are some troubleshooting techniques that will help. These methods require concentration, which is a helpful antidote when the mind is just too distracted. These three techniques are also forms of authentic meditation that can be used to improve one's ability to concentrate.

 

 

Caution: Use these methods as helpful tools, but not for your regular practice, if you want to truly imbibe the mindfulness state permanently in your life.

 

 

Shamatha Meditation
Shamatha Meditation uses concentration on the breath. The instructions are exactly the same as the Mindfulness Meditation with one exception: keep your focus one-pointed on the feeling of the air going in and out of your nostrils. Instead of including everything in your awareness, you "zoom in" on just the breath. If you start getting distracted by thoughts or sounds, bring your attention back to the breath instead of paying attention to anything else.
You can use this to begin your meditation session and then switch to mindfulness. Or, you can switch over to it during your meditation if you need a little extra help that day. It is a wonderful practice that has been used for hundreds of years, originating with the Buddha.
For more detailed instruction see our Shamatha Meditation page.

 

The Counting Method
Another helpful tool that can be used for troubleshooting is a preliminary practice taught in the Zen tradition - counting your breaths. Systematically count each breath up to ten, then repeat. For example, breathe in and silently count one, breathe out and silently count two, breathing in again is three, breathing out again is four, and so on, until you reach ten. After a couple rounds of this you can simplify the practice by just counting the exhalations up to ten.
The counting method is a great way to focus your mind on the breath by giving it a task to coordinate with the breathing process. Feel free to use this method during your Mindfulness Meditation practice if necessary, just until you can settle back into the standard mindfulness technique.

 

Labeling
The third suggestion for troubleshooting is based on Vipassana meditation, in which you label what you experience to diffuse its control over your experience. This is actually what we are practicing when we begin walking meditation with "Lift, Step, Place". When coping with a difficult meditation session, briefly bring your full attention to breathing and silently repeat "Breathing in" as you breathe in and "Breathing out" as you breathe out. You are literally stating what you are doing. As thoughts enter, you can label them as "Thinking". Gently return to the Mindfulness Meditation practice after a few minutes of labeling. You will probably feel more centered and grounded, able to complete your session successfully.

 

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Physical Distractions:

 

Physical Pain
Sometimes the mind is fine, but the body is not cooperating. Maybe physical pain is too intense one day, or the position you are sitting in just isn't working. If pain is taking you away from a successful experience of Mindfulness Meditation, we do not recommend forcing yourself to endure it.

 

Living Stress Free® is not about "no pain, no gain". We are all about balance and ease. 

It takes a while to find your "seat". It is very individualized.

We encourage you to experiment, try different positions, try different cushions, pillows or chairs. Be patient.

Ask questions. But always honor your body and its needs.


If you have an injury, illness or disability that requires bed-rest, you can meditate laying down to accommodate your body. The challenge is to position yourself in a way that enhances your ability to stay alert.
Meditation is an alertness practice more than it is a relaxation practice. Staying alert and aware is essential.

 

Eyes Open or Closed
Many people have asked us about the eyes being open or closed while meditating.

The truth is, both ways have been taught for centuries. We teach keeping the eyes partly open because it allows for visual awareness of the moment, which helps the mindfulness practice be more inclusive of everything. It also helps prevent falling asleep or getting distracted by visualizations that do arise from time to time while meditating.


However, sometimes a person can settle into their meditation better with eyes closed. If you suffer from eye strain or have other issues with your eyesight, feel free to close them.

 

You can also keep them open some of the meditation session and closed for the rest of the time. If you are led one way or another from your state of alert, open awareness, follow your natural inclination.

 

Bodily Functions

If you need to use the restroom during your meditation sitting and it becomes too difficult to wait until your 20 minutes is up, just get up and take care of it. Mindfulness is pure awareness, including awareness of your body's needs.

If you doze off while meditating, just allow yourself to sleep. Try not to fight with your body's needs.

 

 

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Environmental Distractions:


A few cautions about sounds in your environment.


Normal sounds that come and go are part of the mindfulness experience. Just notice them without concentrating on them, allowing them to pass through your awareness.
If you are meditating in a place that is prone to sounds that will distract you too much, such as hearing your children arguing in the next room, hearing the television blasting, or being subject to overly loud music, it can be difficult to practice. We suggest choosing a quieter time of day, meditating in a more peaceful place or wearing ear plugs if needed.


Regarding the use of music: If the music is instrumental and non-intrusive it can be used. It is preferable to use a drone sound, such as a tamboura, singing bowl or white noise. Resonating bells and gongs can also be used. We do not recommend familiar music or songs with lyrics as this usually activates the mind too much.
For the most genuine, authentic experience of mindfulness it is recommended to just allow what is happening naturally in the moment to occur. By introducing music to your meditation practice, you may interfere with the natural process.

 

 

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Troubleshooting Cautions:

 

Our LSF intention for teaching Mindfulness Meditation is to help you transfer your experience of mindfulness from your formal meditation practices into the rest of your life. The meditation experience will eventually become your normal, everyday experience of life. Adding any kind of "crutch" too often will affect this intention. Use these tips wisely.

 

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

 

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Happy Meditating!

 

Lou and Marilyn

 

 

 

 


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