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February 2, 2021
Why Meditation Doesn't Work...

If you don't make space for it

We all know the benefits of meditation. Perhaps not on a scientific or spiritual level but certainly on an intuitive one. When pressed, the average person will readily suggest the following; stress relief, abated anxiety, increased creativity, even a one way ticket to enlightenment if they stay the course. Sounds great right?

And at a time like now where our global society is shakily sustaining a mental health crisis, we need tools that promise these benefits now, not next year. Most of us both want and need to become the person we are after meditating. The results are real and the desire is there.

But its not that simple...

Much like the astonishingly low rate of successful new years resolutions (standing at 80% failure rate) many of us have tried meditation but the practice soon slips through our hands. The perks are felt but fleetingly and the tangible peace is short-lived. Why can’t we get it to stick?

Well I think there are various reasons; all solvable.

Looking at the journey most people go on when beginning meditation can help shed some light as to why this is. What is the route to market for meditation?

Much like ‘art’ is an umbrella for creative expression, meditation covers a vast swathe of practices; from Zen, Vipassana and yogic forms. However, far away from Eastern temples and steeped sacred spaces, most peoples' first taste of meditation is via apps on their phone.

Now apps are absolutely a great entry point to meditation but there is a problem; huge dropout rates - up to 92%. A common pattern ensues. We take the initial 30 day trial, experience some benefits then... the daily tribulations and obligations of life get in the way, and consistency and structure are invariably left in the drain.

Recognise this process? I've been there. If many end their journey here its truly a huge shame. We need the daily, concurrent practice as it leads to neural networks being rewired and positive patterns ingrained.

But some people do create a path forward...

These meditators, after a taste of improved mental health, opt to dig a bit deeper, uncovering layers of potential hidden to the newbie. Intuitively, they reach a conclusion that meditation has been commoditised via apps and to a degree, watered down.

Now humans are naturally inquisitive and want to find the real deal. The authentic or at the very least, sustainable. A modern day meditation practice that requires neither a smart-phone or direct debits. One that makes a remarkable difference in their life.

Having tried apps, the next port of call for many is usually to take a course. Here you’ll be instructed in a particular technique by a teacher. Your teacher may also become your meditation mentor, providing guidance and helping your practice develop and strengthen.

Hand in hand with courses comes physical group meditation classes. Community settings are absolutely crucial for our health (not just in meditation) and one of the biggest absences in the world we’re living in today. We crave real connection. Zooms and Facebook Groups just don't cut it.

It’s in the routine group meditation sessions that people make real breakthroughs. There is no definitive answer as to why group sessions work so well; some say it’s the collective gamma waves that heighten the experience. Whatever it is, people consistently report higher rates of efficacy in these settings. It just works.

To a degree, we can still remotely meet and maintain contact with teachers. We can learn new meditation techniques and practice in a dialled-in group setting. However, it’s the absence of a real group setting that’s missing though; you just can’t just recreate it at home. Missing this means that many fail to move from app to course, ultimately removing the potential of a deeper and consistent practice.

So the question is, in the absence of groups, how can we optimise our environments to create a regular and powerful habit, making meditation work for us?

One of the most effective is creating a dedicated space for your practice. Consider this; monks, masters of meditation still go somewhere - to a place and partake in ritual. It's important.

This can be as simple as using a meditation cushion in the same space everyday or as complex as building a temple. Somewhere free from distractions, where your flatmates or family won’t intrude, is the ideal. We’ve written about some suggestions on this before. However you do this, the important thing is to create a space that you can go back to day after day and stick to it.

By doing this you will create a ritual, and in 66 days form a habit. You’ll build up a positive cognitive association with the space and be more eager to spend time there each day. Meditation teachers talk of positive energy building up over time, increasing the effectiveness of meditation.

Making meditation a ritual is key to making it a habit. Photography by Hans Vivek

Tangible energy fields or psychological placebo... does it really matter? The effect is the same; a much greater chance of creating a daily, deeply transformative meditation practice. Even if the tried and tested way of learning in a group setting was still an option, why wouldn't you want to create a dedicated, physical space for your daily health and peace.

If you want to make meditation work for you, this is the way to go about it.

#myhomenotmyiphone

#meditation #mindfulness #vedic #mentalhealth #transcendental

#enlightenment #Buddha #selfcare #stress #stressrelief #depression

#anxiety #positivity #wellness # covidcare #selfheal #letschangetheworld

Cover image by Ricko Pan

Leigh Chapman

Founder at Yinshi
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