Learning to meditate correctly is essential. Your mind is like a wild horse. Learn to befriend it instead of trying to break it. Here is a troubleshooting guide for your spiritual toolbox.
Meditation Troubleshooting Strategy
Most people know meditation enhances your health. But learning to meditate correctly is a source of frustration for many people. First, we’ll discuss the most common issues with meditation and how to fix them.
We use the analogy of a wild but curious horse to describe the mind. So, you have two options. You can either befriend the horse or rope and then try to break it. Believe it or not, they both take about the same amount of time. But, with one, you end with a friend and the other an antagonist.
The Most Common Issues with Meditation
Whether you are learning to meditate or someone who has been practicing for a long time, there are four issues you will probably encounter.
The four most common issues with Meditation are:
- You get an avalanche of thoughts or emotions. So you end up ruminating on problems.
- You feel anxious and wonder, am I doing it right?
- The practice becomes boring.
- It makes you sleepy.
If you have an overactive mind, you can become restless. Since we don’t usually draw our minds’ attention to the body or breath, we can experience frustration. Perhaps even difficulty breathing.
We also rarely focus our attention on our posture. We can even notice pain here and there we didn’t realize we had. We get bored because the mind is not quiet. It is fighting against the process because our Ego is not comfortable when it is not in control of our awareness.
When we get sleepy during meditation, this is often a sign we need the healing rest that comes with sleep. It’s a way for your body to tell you it needs to shut down. So, don’t fight this. If your body needs rest, then allow it. Sleep is our repair cycle.
If the practice involves a mantra or sutra, then besides the above, the practitioner can become anxious over “doing it right” or getting off track. There can also be external distractions, noise, temperature. Our unmet expectations drive all the above issues.
Thankfully, this meditation troubleshooting strategy can help with all these issues.
The Mind is Like a Wild Horse
The mind is a wild creature; it is curious and independent. The mind wanders and explores. But, the mind also seeks peace and comfort. We can use these traits to overcome most of the common roadblocks to meditation.
When something doesn’t work, we become frustrated. When meditation does not work, it usually surfaces as one of the issues above. When this happens, remember that the mind is only following its natural tendencies.
Breaking A Wild Horse
Our first option is brute force. We think we can force the mind to be calm. But if you try to take this approach, the active mind buck and jumps just like a horse. You think you can ride break the will of the beast. The Ego will comply, but you cannot break it.
To be sure, this is the tactic used by armies to break the will of recruits. However, you aren’t trying to break the “will” of the mind. You want to build up and strengthen the mind. So, we don’t suggest using the brute force approach. Just like a wild horse, it runs wild at the first opportunity. When the Ego aspect of the mental struggles, you are back to the common issues mentioned above.
The silence of meditation is something our mind needs. The Ego is that wild aspect that we need to tame with kindness and gentleness. Otherwise, it will act out to maintain the center of attention.
There is a better or gentler approach for befriending the conscious mind. Instead of forcing attention, we learn to guide it gently. When we are peaceful and polite, we can direct the mind back in the direction we desire.
Befriending a Wild Horse
The most effective and powerful strategies are always the best. It is the same for this meditation troubleshooting strategy. The idea is to befriend the Ego and coax it to do what you desire. This strategy works for all the common issues above.
Whenever you recognize that you have any of the above distractions, discomforts, or issues, stop. Gently return the awareness to our body and breath from the thought, feeling, or emotion. If the problem persists, gently return the attention to your posture and breath. Keep using gentleness, and the conscious mind will respond.
Remember, the mind is like a wild horse. The easiest way to train it is with persistent gentleness, not brute force. You don’t want to break the horse (mind). Instead, you want to guide it in the direction you desire. To do this, you offer it a treat. You learn to use a mantra or sutra like a treat.
All horses like treats. Bring an apple. They may not approach you yet. So, leave it far enough away so that the horse feels safe. Then, it will come and take the apple. The next time you visit, the horse will allow you to be closer. Eventually, it will take it out of your hand. Then, it will enable you to touch it and pet it. It learns you are a friend.
Use a mantra or sutra like an apple. Over time, your mind will respond to your gentleness like the wild horse. It will react to your gentleness and go in the direction you desire. It will learn to follow your lead. Meditation will become very easy. When the mind understands the benefit, all that’s needed is the proper intention. The mediation process will be more spontaneous because it’s a pleasant experience. Even our wild hyperactive mind will respond to this gentle approach.
If you use a Mantra, then use them with kindness. Meditation should be enjoyable. The mind likes the easy route and will return to the “path of least resistance.” If you find yourself off track, gently return to the process. So, remember, be gentle. Take it easy.
Befriending a wild horse is a philosophy to help you understand how the mind works. This meditation troubleshooting strategy is one of the best practices.
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(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia