Why Most People Fail at Meditation

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There's a reason that so many people fail when it comes to meditation, and it's not because their minds are too distracted.

It's not because they lack discipline.

And it's not because they have the wrong technique.

It's actually much simpler than any of that.

The reason that most people fail when it comes to establishing a regular and lasting meditation practice-a practice, by the way, that can literally transform their entire lives, is because of one simple reason.

And it's this: unrealistic expectation.

Somehow, we've got it in our minds that meditation is supposed to be blissful.

It's supposed to be relaxing.

It's supposed to be comfortable.

I'm supposed to sit, close my eyes, and drop in.

And so, when we start a meditation practice and the back hurts and the mind is spinning out with every conceivable thought and I'm filled with anxiety or frustration or impatience, it's very easy--with this unhealthy expectation that it should be blissful--to come to the conclusion that, well, I'm just not cut out for meditation.

But here's the really important thing that we all need to keep in mind is that the greatest benefit that meditation has to offer us is its ability to train the brain and the nervous system.

To recalibrate the habits of mind that are sabotaging our best lives, that are literally manufacturing feelings of anxiety or feelings of impatience or feelings of anger.

You know, we've been talking about the Gap of Misery. A quick reminder: The Gap of Misery is created when the mind departs from the moment and chooses for an alternative to the moment.

So, right now in Phoenix, Arizona, I look out the window, it's about 106 degrees outside. That's reality.

That's the unchangeable reality, at least for this moment.

And when the mind departs from that and believes that while it should be 75 degrees, the difference between 75 and 105 is the Gap of Misery.

The further away the mind gets from reality, the more miserable I feel, the more disappointed, frustrated, irritated I feel.

So that raises the question, how do we prevent the mind from being thrown out of the moment, from departing from the moment and choosing a fantasy that is not possible right now?

The answer is brain training or meditation.

In yoga, we have a word, dharana, which translates as concentration. But it's really the practice of getting your mind to sit and stay. Getting the monkey mind that's always running here and there and making a mess of things to sit calmly and presently, wherever you ask it. And meditation is the process through which we train that monkey every time the monkey departs into some alternative.

This should be that way, or that should be this way, or why this or why that. We take the monkey and we bring it back.

No, here.

Sit here.

That's it.

Good monkey.

And then of course the monkey runs off and then, no, no, no, no, no, no. Back here.