There are a lot of different reasons people want to learn meditation. Maybe you think meditation will help you relax and better handle stress. Perhaps you play a sport and your coach recommended meditation to improve your performance. Maybe you are focused on spiritual growth and believe that if you meditate, you will move faster down your path or find an easier way to get where you are going.

Perhaps you are experiencing some illness that you think meditation will help you better manage. Maybe you are in pain and meditation was recommended to you for healing or pain relief. Maybe you have heard about Hindu or Buddhist monks who have reportedly been seen in two different places simultaneously and you think this would be a cool party trick to learn.

Perhaps you’ve just noticed that your thoughts feel out of control and you’ve heard that meditation calms the mind and increases effectiveness in all areas of life.

For the moment, I'm going to stay mum on whether or not I think these are realistic expectations. I'll save that discussion for another article. Let me just say for now that knowing why you want to meditate is very important. That’s because if you don't know why you want to meditate and what you want out of it, you will not be able to tell whether or not you are making any progress as you practice. It will be hard for you to determine if meditation is even relevant on the path towards your goals.

You may find yourself getting closer to your goals and thinking that it is the meditation practice that is helping. Fabulous. Or you might find that you aren't any closer to your goals and think the meditation you are doing isn't solving anything.

But perhaps meditation isn't the cause of what appears to be your success or failure.

It might be that the issue is the specific meditation technique you are doing. Or maybe it’s the ideas you hold about mediation - ideas you got from gurus and experts, doctors and psychologists or books and tapes. No matter where you got these ideas, they could be standing in the way of achieving the goals you have for meditation.

When I first stumbled upon meditation at the age of eight, I quickly came to the conclusion that meditation would be the solution to any problem I might ever have. Meditation would fix my troubles in school. Meditation would make me a better athlete. Once I began walking a spiritual path, meditation became the way to reach that ultimate goal of enlightenment (or what I thought enlightenment was at the time).

Looking at all of this more carefully, I realized I was actually hoping that meditating properly, for long enough, with the right technique and the best teacher… would protect me from ever experiencing any kind of suffering. I would be eternally happy. Nothing would be able to disturb me – not even my own death.

Since then, my thinking about meditation has evolved a lot. But the truth is that the main issue that stood in the way of my reaching the goals I had was not the actual meditation technique, or whether I had done enough meditation, or taken the right classes. It was my own ideas about meditating that were preventing me from having everything I really wanted.

So stop for a moment and let yourself ask this question, "Why do I want to meditate?"

It might be helpful to write down your thoughts. When you discover an answer, perhaps you can ask another question – why do I want to reach that goal?

For example, if you say that you want your meditation to bring you peace of mind, then ask yourself why you want that peace of mind.

It could sound a little odd, but by asking that question, you may discover that there is something more fundamental underneath your initial desire. You might also realize that what you’d really like to have doesn’t require meditation to get.

You might discover that you wish to meditate to improve your parenting, but that looking for quiet and solitude in the house so you can meditate actually distances you from your children. Maybe what you really need is a new way to interact with your kids, rather than a way to vaccinate yourself against them. What you are looking for might be easier to find than you think…and may not involve having to sit on your meditation cushion at all.

Now, believe me, I am not suggesting that you never meditate. I teach meditation, after all!

I am just playing around with examining your motivations and goals. Perhaps life – and meditation – might be easier than you’ve come to believe.

Author's Bio: 

Steven Sashen began meditation when he was eight years old, was one of the first biofeedback pioneers, and researched cognition and perception at Duke University. In addition to a successful career as an entrepreneur and entertainer, Steven has taught transformational techniques around the world and developed the Instant Advanced Meditation Course, which Dr. Gay Hendricks calls, "Perhaps the fastest and easiest way to relax, expand awareness, and find deep inner-peace."

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