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Trouble meditating?

Advice on some common meditation issues

Everyone runs into a few bumps when they're first learning to meditate. It’s pretty common. Fortunately, just recognizing and acknowledging an obstacle can often help you overcome difficulty meditating.

Here are 12 common problems that people tend to run into and some advice on how to move past them.


Am I doing this right?

Doubt inevitably shows up in our meditation practice. It’s natural. "Am i meditating correctly?" is a common concern, but the real problem only occurs when we buy into that doubt. Don’t forget, no matter what the thoughts are, they’re still just thoughts. And all you need to do is gently return your focus to the breath.

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Lack of motivation


There is no one thing that defines our experience of Headspace more than our motivation or our intention. Our motivation is not a fixed thing, it's something that evolves and changes over time. For some people, you might come to Headspace already knowing, very clearly why you want to create a daily meditation routine. For others, you just kind of know that it doesn't quite feel right in the body and the mind and want to experience a little more focus, calm or clarity.

Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe talks about motivation



Restlessness 3000x950


Restlessness can manifest in many different ways. It can be a body that just doesn't want to sit still and keeps fidgeting or moving. We may not be able to find that place of quiet ease and comfort. Or it might be a mind that's overly active, that's overly busy, it just doesn't seem to stop chatting away to itself. It's doing everything it can other than simply being present in this moment.

Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe talks about restlessness





When doubt rises in the mind, it's really tempting to buy into those thoughts. For some reason, those thoughts sound a little more important, a little more believable than the other thoughts. And like any other thoughts, the aim here, the intention is to step back and have a little bit of distance from the thoughts and the feelings. Not to buy into them, not to get swept away by them, not to get overwhelmed by them, but instead to see them clearly and to let them go.

Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe talks about Doubt



Posture Image

Finding a comfortable position

However you choose to do your meditation, it's going to involve either sitting, standing, or lying down in one of the recommended positions for meditating. For many people, it can be a challenge to sustain a sitting position. Here's a helpful tip: The way the back sits is dependent very much on the position of the hips. So, if we tilt the hips just slightly, then it helps the back maintain that position without any kind of effort at all. It also allows the shoulders to fully relax so that we feel the weight of the hands and the arms resting on the legs.

Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe talks about posture



Meditation 101 - Falling  asleep

Falling asleep

It’s easy to drift off to sleep when you’re starting out. So don’t worry too much if you occasionally doze off during the first few weeks. If it keeps happening though, try a different time of day, sit up a little straighter, or maybe splash a little cold water on your face before you meditate.

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Impatience, irritation and rage

These emotions are all pretty similar and, unsurprisingly, we tend to suppress them. But, the more we push them down, the more insistently they spring back up. So, instead of avoiding them, try allowing them to be present (with restraint of course). Give them the space they need to arise, unravel and fall away.

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Worry Meditation 101


Whatever you choose to call it, whether it's worry or anxiety. Whether you characterize it as a tightness in the chest, butterflies in the stomach, or perhaps a headache. Whether the mind is very restless, or stuck on one particular thought or feeling -- worry can change our lives to such an extent that for some people, it's as though there is nothing else in life. When you experience worry within your meditation session, please be reassured that it is very normal. Again, worry is just one of many human emotions. We wouldn't want to be without it. It's important. At times it's necessary. It's just when it develops to such an extent, when we become fixated on it in some way, that it begins to overwhelm us or occupy too much of our life, our time, and our attention.

Meditation 101 - Feeling down

Feeling down

Sadness is natural. And it’s not a bad thing. It’s common to shed a few tears and cry while meditating. It can even bring you a sense of relief, having acknowledged something painful and let it go. So if you’re feeling down, that’s okay. Just keep meditating.

Planning image


It's really important to say at the beginning, planning is not a bad thing. We need to be able to plan. If we didn't plan, our lives would be chaos, the world would be chaos. So, it's not that all thinking and all planning is bad, absolutely not. It's just recognizing the planning that is productive and helpful, and the planning that is unproductive, unhelpful and at times, perhaps even unhealthy. In planning so incessantly, we're not really even planning in a very constructive way. It's not even a way we can really engage with; it's just an idea of the future that we're playing over and over in the mind. When you see that tendency, and within the framework of the exercise, it doesn't matter whether it is productive or unproductive -- within the meditation exercise, when you see the mind going in that direction, we let it go and we come back to the focus.

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Trying too hard

How much effort we apply to our Headspace, ultimately defines our experience of Headspace. Sometimes just the right amount of effort happens quite naturally. It's almost as though we get out of our own way and we just sit down and there it is. We don't know why it's there one day and not another to begin with, but there it is. And then sometimes it's that feeling that we're pushing ourselves too hard and making too much of an effort, either it's because we're so used to doing things this way all the time in our days because we're so busy and used to working so hard, or sometimes it's because we're trying so hard to project an idea of what we want our Headspace meditation to be, that we're not even giving the experience room to breathe. We're not even providing the framework or the opportunity to experience what we'd really like to experience.

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Not putting in enough effort

For many people, they probably identify a lot more easily with over effort than under effort. But for quite a lot of people still, this idea of finding the sweet spot between focus and relaxation, and perhaps not applying quite enough focus, is still a real thing. If you're someone who finds yourself becoming sleepy or even falling asleep, or you find that the mind is very cloudy, then hopefully this little guide will be helpful.

How to create a regular meditation practice with Headspace

When you’re ready, press play on Headspace’s 10-day beginner’s course on mindfulness basics — available with your membership or free trial. Jump into your new practice with the essentials. Then explore hundreds of exercises for sleep, stress, focus, and more.

Be kind to your mind today and every day. Start with a free trial of Headspace.

READ NEXT: How to start a morning meditation practice

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