To Everyone Who “Can’t Meditate”

Mindfulness and meditation have been a big part of my life for several years now. I’m always happy to share with people how helpful meditation is for me.

Unfortunately almost everyone I talk to about meditation “can’t meditate”.

“I wish I could meditate. My mind isn’t made for that!” or “I can’t stand being still”, a few of the most common excuses why people tell me they “can’t meditate”.

People assume meditation was always easy for me, while in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

I started meditation because of a deep internal need for change.

My twenty-fifth birthday was coming at me like an out of control locomotive with a sleeping driver. The number made me uneasy and it was coming too fast. Like a doe, hypnotized by the headlights, I felt helpless to stop it.

Something was wrong, missing, empty and completely inexpressible. I’d been searching my entire life for something. . . peace, stillness, answers, meaning maybe?

In my mid to early twenties, I was very out of touch with my own feelings and emotions.

At first, my meditations were distracted, plagued with racing, unwanted, thoughts. When the goal was to count to five without allowing your mind to wander off, sometimes I only got to two or three before starting over, and over, and over.

It was hard, but as I kept on it things got easier.

Finally, with Buddhism, I was beginning to unlock the tools needed to understand and shape my own mind. Somedays progress crawled along at what felt like a snail’s pace, but every week as I continued to practice it got easier.

As I’ve grown older and incorporated mindfulness into my life over the years, things have greatly improved. I still meditate every day but the way I meditate has changed.

I meditate all the time. At times I may meditate for only a few minutes or seconds, whenever I need to calm and relax my mind, think more clearly, or gather the words for an important conversation.

Meditation has become the tool that I use to recalibrate my brain. Sitting tall I close my eyes and bow my head as I take in a deep, slow breath. As I breathe in I focus on the feelings of my feet on the ground or my butt in a chair (depending on where I am).

As my lungs expand I shift my focus to the feelings of my breath. With eyes closed, I listen and feel, asking myself – “what’s happening now?” Depending on available time I may stay for a while, eyes closed, nose pointed at the floor.

This micro-meditations can be as quick as a few breaths. I’ve even learned to meditate with my eyes open, although I wonder if I have a blank stare when I do this.

I take the time that I need and if I get flustered I remind myself not to rush, gently whispering in my own ear “relax, stay in the present”.

Every day I am needing to remind myself less and less, thanks to a very conscious choice I made years ago to change my life.

Dear people who “can’t meditate”, there are many different types of meditation. If you WANT to meditate – keep trying.

86 thoughts on “To Everyone Who “Can’t Meditate”

  1. You echo similar words that mirror instances in my life. Everything you say is true however. In similar fashion, friends of mine believed that my overall calm demeanor now just kind of happened, when that’s not the case. Instead, its grown out of a newfound mindset by employing mindfulness as much as possible the last few years once I became aware of it. There’s a lot of benefits to it too!

    In any case, just wanted to say thanks for sharing. Hopefully people ruminate upon what you say.

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  2. Hi, nicely written blog. I have been meditating for approximately 3 years. I meditate regularly, normally after a workout which is normally about 4 times a week on average. I will sit for about 10 minutes. For those who have not yet realised the benefits, I suggest putting all concepts and expectations aside. That’s not the point of meditation. The point is to just be, in the moment, accepting what is.
    Just get started. Get into a routine. Don’t fight your thoughts, just remind yourself to be here, now.

  3. Excellent post! When people tell me they can’t I usually just say there isnt anything to do. You just breathe and keep going back to that. There is no right or wrong and after time you will realize there is more room in between your thoughts. When I first started meditating I thought I wasnt doing it right. Understanding that it is not about “shutting down thoughts” was liberating to me. It has since been such a more fulfilling practice!

    1. “more room in between your thoughts” ah that is a great description. For someone with a racing mind being able to create quiet moments is amazing. Something I never imagined before meditation / mindfulness.

    2. Your comment about understanding that it is not about “shutting down thoughts” resonates with me, because it is something that I have come across repeatedly over the years in people I guide with meditation, especially with people newer to the practice. I make comments like it is human to think a lot and that even noticing this is good. I also comment that for most people, the first time that they even have an awareness of how much they are in their heads is when they begin to learn the practice of meditation. I also suggest to be gentle with themselves, even if they find that they have been lost in their heads for the whole meditation, that, as you mention, there is no right or wrong in this (which, in my prejudiced opinion lol is an excellent point.)

      1. Thank you! Learning that helped me a lot to be able to enjoy my practice. As humans in our society we often dont do things unless we are going to get a result, but meditation isnt about a result it is about the moment it is difficult for us to wrap our heads around, but once we do we can really open up and enjoy the practice for what it is. It’s not about being a mindless calm robot its about training your mind in mindfulness and being present. It is still somthing I sturggle with however 🙂

  4. I started just a few days ago! I was always under the impression it was a complicated endeavor with groups and a yogi, etc. I realize the people that told me those things were also CrossFit enthusiasts.

    After a few days, it’s now part of my routine. With a little Estas Tonne music, and some wishful thinking that the dog won’t bark at the wind, it gets me motivated to actually get out of the house instead of having my morning ruminations.

  5. I have been a meditator for seventeen years. The difference in my life has been huge. When I meditate, the only thing I am doing is to try to be present with whatever arises, be it lots of thinking or next to no thinking, sleepiness, strong negative or positive emotions, physical sensations, or that space between breaths. I have learned not to judge myself harshly for whatever arises. If I find myself thinking the entire time, that’s okay. I just stay gentle with myself. When I meditate regularly, I find I feel at peace, even in the midst of turmoil.

  6. Great read. I’ve struggled to keep a meditation routine for a couple years now. I start but then after a week it fizzles because I get distracted. Recently things have been different. I hit a low point a month or so ago that has inspired me to really make needed change in my life. I love meditation, I do. Any tips on good practices for establishing that routine I’ve been searching for?

    1. I left post-it notes EVERYWHERE when I first wanted to remind myself. I also set alarms on my phone & calendar reminders to meditate. When I FIRST started meditation I worked at a job that gave me 3 ten minute breaks so I would meditate for 5 minutes on every break. Even just meditating for 5-10 minutes a day can be very helpful. The hardest part is building a new habit but eventually you start look forward to meditation after that it just becomes another tool for your mind.

  7. I’m a hopeless meditator (spell-check doesn’t like that word but I think it should exist!) but as I’ve got older – nearly 70 – I spend a lot of time being quiet, often without much conscious thought. I reckon this may be as good as meditating! 🙂

  8. I am that person, the one who has hopelessly tried again and again to only feel my mind is fighting against me. I love the concept of bringing in “more room in between my thoughts” into my hectic life. I felt it should come easy, but after reading this I’m going to make that commitment to keep at it. Thank you.

    1. The best things in life take works and years of practice. At first I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Then, months after I started I could look back and realize that (gradually) things were getting better.

  9. I find that many people respond the same way when talking about prayer – which is a kind of mediation conversation. What I have found helpful in this instance is not to try and dismiss or block the distractions and whirling of my brain rather it’s to bring that mess into the prayer and talk about it with the One who can help make sense of it and bring it to peacefulness.

  10. I am so glad to see this post. I never thought I could meditate because my mind never stopped thinking about “all that other stuff.” I am still new to the practice, but find that I grow more every time. I hope that more people will open their minds, just for a while, and try a few (or more) times.

  11. As one of those folks who is challenged by the sitting practice, I appreciate this encouragement to stick with it! I personally have found Vedic chanting to be very helpful in focussing the mindbody : )

    1. I agree with you. I learned about chanting 16 years ago from my teacher, Karma Yeshe Wangpo. What I discovered was that if I start to think while I am chanting, I can’t chant because I lose track of the chant. I even use chanting at bedtime (in my head as I don’t want to disturb my husband) to get to sleep when my mind won’t stop.

  12. I appreciate your story, and can relate to it. I know there are so many benefits to meditation. I am exactly the person you described, thinking I can’t do it. Hopefully after reading your article I will be more disciplined with it.

  13. A great addition for those looking to improve their quality of life. Good health is NOT just about the physical structure; it is EQUALLY about mental function.

  14. I love this!! I used to believe meditation wasn’t for me but when I started to get into witchcraft, things fell into place. Even though my mind can end up a hundred miles away at a given moment, guided meditations are fantastic because it helps you focus on the different parts of your body, your breath, and helps you imagine all different sensations. It’s helped me so much!! And wanting to lucid dream helps me get to sleep sooner too and there are similar audio guides.

  15. The busy mind can be our best teacher. I like to imagine a clear blue sky (true nature of the mind) and anytime distractions arise I imagine those distractions as clouds that slowly move away to reveal the clear blue sky again. Great post!

  16. I really needed to read this. Mindfulness is something I’ve been trying to incorporate into my life. Just being in the present is hard for me. Thank you so much!

  17. I REALLY should meditate more.

    People always associate meditation with Buddhism and Hinduism, when in fact Christianity has its own meditative techniques. (e.g. the Catholic Rosary)

    I must remember that if I want time, I must take it.

  18. I’ve always found meditation difficult, except when it’s guided. My poor brain really has so much trouble switching off. I downloaded a mindfulness app a few weeks ago and have found that enormously helpful, so would agree with your sentiment to “keep trying” I still have trouble doing it without guidance but I am still trying 🙂

  19. One small question: Do you follow Buddhism as a religion or a practice?

    I learned meditation at the Catholic church from a counselor. Yes, it takes time to really get something out of it.

  20. I love this. Meditation is seriously not as hard as we think it is, nor is mindfulness, except the times when it’s really really really hard. Sometimes when I talk myself through a situation, I realize I just kind of meditated without even knowing i- because I brought my awareness back to survival and breathing, and I didn’t let my though or emotion get the best of me. On my best days I am really good at this, and consider myself my own guru, on my worst I throw tantrums and wonder why I am not happy. LOL

  21. This is super helpful. I am a person who thinks I can’t meditate because of anxiety. But I do try every once in a while.

  22. My mind can still easily drift off between one and two. But the benefits are amazing.

    When I was in high school it was all about being unique. Don’t follow others, be unique. But not overly unique, because then you’re crazy. 🙄 Seems to me the uniqueness has been exchanged for something else along the way.

  23. Thank you for liking my posts and following my blog. I wanted to add to my previous comment that I also do walking meditations and gentle Hatha yoga, which is very meditative for me. Thank you for the cool stuff you write about.

  24. I’m working on it! I’m miles away from my goal, but I’m trying to look at it as a road trip and not a quick errand – I’ll get there eventually. Like anything else worthwhile it takes practice and commitment. I even have a sleep app – Sleep with Dr. Andrew Johnson which sounds naughty but it’s not 🙂 and I’m hoping that will help with slowing down my brain.

  25. This is a great and accurate message that is very difficult to get across. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the monkey mind when first sitting mindfully. I think that it’s quite natural to see the mind’s truly busy and buzzing nature and react by thinking you aren’t good at mindfulness/meditation or aren’t cut out for it. The secret is that everybody has a busy mind, and it’s sitting with it that reveals all the intricacies of its movements. I hope that this post moves many. I’m glad to cross paths with you. Thanks for creating all of your videos and your posts on this blog. 🙂

    Best Wishes,

  26. Well your timing is pretty perfect. thank you! I keep saying I’m going to do this. Nothing like the now. My car shall be my studio. I can park under a tree and no kids shall find me!

  27. Unfortunately, I really do have serious issues trying to be mindful and meditate. It usually results in me feeling extremely anxious.

    I’m still trying, and will keep doing so in the hope that it works. A few deep breaths can help when an anxiety/panic attack hits, but beyond that I still end up with the hyper-awareness of my body that brings on all my tics and compulsions.

    Hell, even just thinking about it is making me twitch!

  28. I’ve incorporated meditation exercises for medical cannabis patients with PTSD, ADD, and high functioning ASD. It’s been incredibly helpful at calming overactive sensory stimulation.

    Also, there are many different types of meditation. The tradition I follow (guided mediatation) doesn’t require “emptying” your mind. Rather you are given prompts that lead your mind to very interesting places and insights. People who get restless may find this of some benefit?

  29. I have a hard time maintaining a meditation practice because when I need it most my mind is too noisy to easily settle and when I don’t need it I tend to forget. What helps me are apps with guided meditations, because they keep me still enough to meditate but grounded enough to not let my mind wander off unchecked or fall asleep. That might be something you could suggest the next time you hear that “can’t meditate” refrain!

  30. Great post! I used to be one that said I can’t meditate. I definitely feel it takes a LOT of practice for some. (Myself included for sure.) My therapist encourages 6 minutes of mindfulness at a time. I’m working my way up… it’s a great thing to do!

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