If you’ve ever tried meditating and concluded, “I just can’t do it. My mind is too busy,” there’s something you need to know. Meditative Zen like bliss doesn’t always come easily. Most people can learn to meditate, but some find it very challenging at first.

Though physically easy to do, meditation techniques can present a mental and emotional challenge for beginners. People who have experienced a trauma or have an untreated addiction might find it particularly challenging to start a formal meditation practice. Individuals who avoid dealing with their emotions or personal challenges might also have a great deal of difficulty when they first start.

Many forms of meditation exist. In spite of the meditation technique, they all share one common theme: the goal of focusing the mind. This sounds simple, and it is, but it can also present challenges. Many people stay in a constant state of mental flight without recognizing it. Mental busyness gives them a way to escape uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, or memories. If you fall into this category, calming your mind can initially feel uncomfortable.

Meditation can help you learn to tolerate intolerable feelings. It can also, however, bring suppressed feelings to the surface. This can create a mentally or emotionally overwhelming experience for someone who hasn’t developed good coping skills.

Overwhelm can show up as thoughts flooding your mind while you’re meditating. Other times it might lead to increased feelings of sadness, anger, or other “less than Zen” emotions. Don’t despair. If this has been your experience you can still become a successful meditator.

You might have to ease into it at a slower pace or with a different approach, however. These two techniques can help busy minded newbies ease into mental and emotional relaxation.

1) Create an informal meditation practice instead of a formal practice: Many people first attempt a formal meditation practice. They pick a quiet time, sit still, and try to meditate for fifteen or twenty minutes twice a day. This approach doesn’t work well for everyone. It can feel too intense. An informal, less structured approach might bring better results while your mind and body get used to the new experience:

  • Use a specific activity as a meditative practice instead of scheduling a formal quiet time. For example, when you wash the dishes, walk the dog, or drink a cup of coffee, use it as a time to focus your thoughts on what you’re doing without judging it. These short periods of mindfulness can help you ease into longer periods of meditation.
  • If unrelated thoughts come to mind during your activity, notice them and then bring your attention back to your activity.

2) Practice self-soothing: Some people never developed the skills or ability to calm themselves during times of stress or upset. This can create challenges when beginning a formal meditation practice that has the goal to calm and center yourself. If this sounds familiar you might find this easy, quick exercise helpful:

  • Put one or both hands over your heart.
  • Focus your attention on your heart.
  • Say three simple, positive, affirming statements to yourself. For example, “May I be safe. May I be healthy. May I be at peace,” or “I am happy. I am loved. I am safe.”
  • If possible, focus on feeling positive emotions like love or compassion while saying the statements and concentrate your attention on your heart.

Notice how you handle uncomfortable feelings that arise during meditation. Pay particular attention to avoidant, numbing, or self-destructive urges. If at any time you feel frustrated or concerned with your ability to calm yourself, focus your mind, or deal with your emotions seek professional help.

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Originally published at manifestexcellence.com

Originally published at medium.com