In my 20+years of practicing yoga and meditation, I’ve heard all kinds of reasons why people don’t do these ancient practices.
And hey, there’s no requirement to do this stuff. There are compelling motives, yes, but you will not fail life or be a bad person if you don’t spend regular time on the mat or cushion.
It’s just that many of excuses I hear over and over again are also really great arguments for giving yoga and meditation a try. When it comes to meditation, for example, I most often hear things like “I’m too ADD” or, “I can’t sit still.” Ironic, since meditation is an excellent way to learn how to relax and quiet the mind.
Not all fears about meditating are so obvious. In fact, they can be downright tricky. Some people believe they aren’t good enough to meditate. Others feel they are too smart. As a counterargument to these objections, I reached out to Lodro Rinzler, author of numerous books on Buddhism and meditation, including How to Love Yourself (And Sometimes Other People Too), to get his take on these smarty-pants questions.
Here are my questions and his responses:
I like my thoughts too much. They are too important for me to take my eye off of for even 10 minutes.
Science validates that it’s worth taking the time to take a break from thinking. It increases the gray matter in the hippocampus, which leads to better focus and better memory. It has also been shown to reduce knee-jerk reactions and produce a greater ability to self-regulate.
Beyond that, the more we meditate the more we learn to be more present to every aspect of life, which will only increase your ability to observe and make meaningful connections.
Overall, if your thoughts are so brilliant, they’ll still be there when your practice is through.
I’m afraid if I meditate I will lose my edge–what makes me, me.
I hear from people that they are worried if they start meditating, they’ll be so absorbed in the moment they’ll never get anything done. Which would be in a similar category of having diamond shoes that are too tight, or a wallet too small to contain all your cash—it would be a great problem to have!
Meditating allows you to be fully present to whatever’s going on. So if you’re in a business meeting and everyone’s trying to make themselves heard and win out, it’s the person who can take a step back and see reality as it is really happening who will be able to connect the dots, see the big picture, and shape the outcome. It helps you act in accordance with what the situation requires instead of being caught up in your own head.
If a goal of meditating is to ‘get more Zen.’ Won’t I miss out on a whole range of human experiences, such as getting excited, frustrated, fired up or sad?
I’ve been meditating to get riled for 25 year. I’m more able to relax when that happens, less likely to get swept up in getting back at them, more able to say I see that I’m annoyed — and then come on back to my breath.
Will meditating make me less ambitious?
Meditation allows you to be more discerning with your activity. So if you’re ambitious, you’ll be better equipped to decide how you want to spend your time. Instead of being attentive to your inbox, for example, you’ll be more likely to recognize that maybe what would truly be a needle-mover for you would be connecting with people.
What’s your favorite meditation method that you teach to folks who fit this ‘gotta be thinking all the time’ mentality?
The basic meditation practice I encourage is stupidly simple. Sitting still, taking a good upright seated posture. Relax the muscles in your shoulders and back. Then rest your attention on your natural in breath or out breath as it actually occurs. Be with it. Notice it. Feel it. When you realize you’ve gotten distracted, that’s ok. Just bring it back to the breath. It’s an elegant and forgiving way to learn how to be present to just one thing at a time.
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