Learning to meditate correctly is essential, but being able to do it is difficult sometimes. Why? Because our mind is like a wild horse. Here is a meditation troubleshooting strategy to help you overcome the common issues with meditation.
Most people know meditation enhances your health, but nothing is more frustrating than having problems when you try to meditate. First, we’ll discuss the most common issues with meditation and how to fix them.
The Common Issues with Meditation
“The voice in your head is like a wild horse taking you wherever it wants to go…When the voice in your head finally stops talking, you experience inner peace.” — Miguel Angel Ruiz
The four most common issues that cause difficulty meditating are:
— You get an avalanche of thoughts or emotions and ruminate on problems.
— You feel anxious and wonder, am I doing it right?
— The practice becomes boring.
— It makes you sleepy, or you fall asleep
— You get frustrated or distracted by outside noises
Your Mind is Like A Wild Horse
A good analogy will help you remember important tactics and strategies; that’s why we use the analogy of a wild but curious horse to describe the mind. You have two options. You can either befriend or try to break it. Believe it or not, they take about the same amount of time. With one tactic, you end with a friend. With the other tactic, you create an antagonist.
Meditation can be more difficult when your mind is overactive. It can be frustrating if you don’t know how to overcome your restlessness. One tactic to calm the restless and overactive mind is to focus on the body. Since we don’t usually draw our minds’ attention to the body or breath, it can help us compensate, but the mind wants to maintain control; it bombards us with thoughts and emotions.
That’s right. Your Ego is the wild horse of the mind. We need it because it is that part of consciousness that connects us to our bodies. It is home to our personality and instincts. These elements can vary in their respective levels of health, just like our bodies, so it is important to treat ourselves with kindness and compassion.
We also rarely focus our attention on our posture. We can even notice pain here and there that 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 uncomfortable 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. 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, noises, bright light, temperature, and even our unmet expectations that drive all the above issues.
Meditation Troubleshooting Strategy
The wild horse of the mind is curious and independent. The mind wanders and explores. But the mind also seeks peace and comfort. We can use these traits to overcome the most common roadblocks to meditation.
Your Ego, which houses your personality and instincts, is the default mode of awareness. They want to control what’s happening, so we need to coax the mind to go where we want it to go.
“Until your personality has exhausted its obsession with running the show, your soul isn’t given the space to express itself. Your personality can be threatened by your soul because your personality has controlled your life for a long time and does not want to give up control. Your personality is like a wild horse that tries to throw off the rider, trying to tame it. The rider is your soul.” — Corinne McLaughlin
When something doesn’t work, we become frustrated. When meditation does not work, it usually surfaces as one of the four issues we outlined above. Remember that the mind is only following its natural tendencies when this happens. You aren’t doing anything wrong.
When we feel resistance, we tend to try to force the mind. But this doesn’t work. Our personality will often bombard us with thoughts when we try to force it to be quiet.
Breaking the Wild Horse of the Mind
The first option is brute force; we think we can force the mind to be calm and do what we want. Wrong. This troubleshooting strategy doesn’t work. But if you try this approach, the active mind bucks and jumps 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. Mind is like a wild horse, and it runs wild at the first opportunity. When the Ego aspect of the mental struggles, you are back to the common issues with meditation listed above.
The silence of meditation is something our mind needs. The Ego is that wild aspect 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. We can direct the mind back in our desired direction when we are peaceful and polite.
Befriending the Wild Horse of the Mind
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.
Stop whenever you recognize that you have any of the above distractions, discomforts, or issues. Gently return the awareness to our body and breath. Keep doing this when the thought, feeling, or emotion returns. Keep using gentleness, and the conscious mind will respond.
“Ego is something that you come to know — something that you befriend by not acting out or by repressing all the feelings that you feel.” — Pema Chodron
Remember, the wild horse of the mind will respond best to 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 horse will allow you to be closer the next time you visit. Eventually, it will take it out of your hands. 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 to the mind. Over time, the wild hours of the mind will respond to your gentleness like most creatures. 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 the wild horse of the mind is a philosophy to help you understand how the mind works. This meditation troubleshooting strategy is one of the best practices. Go against the grain of popular culture and meditate often.
“I mean it’s very hard to meditate and live a spiritual life in America. People think you’re a freak if you try to.” — J. D. Salinger
When you overcome these common roadblocks, meditation will become a welcome oasis.
“One thing I do personally started 20 years ago. I started meditating, and I know twice a day I can kind of let everything drop. It’s just about being quiet, like drawing back the day, and it allows me to have energy.” — Hugh Jackman
“When you start meditating on your ego, on your thoughts, on your mind, you are suddenly separate, because whatsoever you meditate on, you are separate from it. That has become the object, and you have become the subject.” — Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Osho