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Why Meditation Doesn’t Always Work and What To Do About It

Featured in: Pick the Brain

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How often have you carved out time to meditate, only to squander those twenty to thirty minutes obsessively thinking of what you need to accomplish, or drifting off to sleep from exhaustion only to emerge with your anxieties intact? I can certainly attest to having this type of meditative experience and I’m not the only one. My clients often express that meditation makes them more frustrated and sometimes even erroneously validates their sense of being a failure, simply because they cannot achieve stillness. It would seem that unless you grew up in a Buddhist monastery and learned to still your mind at age eight, meditation is likely more exasperating than refreshing for you.

The bottom line is that few of us are meditating well. Yet, rather than judging yourself for what seems like an inadequacy, recognize that quieting the mind is not the only way to reach a state of peace and calm. The biggest reason mastering stillness is difficult is because we approach the process from only one perspective. In reality, there are at least two ways to meditate; both of which you need to practice in order to truly achieve personal enlightenment.  In fact, the best way to alleviate anxiety is to meditate on it rather than avoid it so you can come to understand its message, as well as how to overcome the limitations it poses, and you do this by using a form active meditation. In the end, it is through active meditation that true peace and enlightenment is attained.

What you might not know is that meditation can be performed from either a passive or an active perspective. In passive meditation, or traditional reflection, serenity happens when you focus your mind on nothing, freeing yourself of the titles and ideals that define you. Unfortunately, if you are lucky enough to experience peacefulness from your meditation, when you re-emerge from your moment of zen, life resumes with little having changed in regards to your health, relationships, wallet and feelings of living a purposeful life. In that sense, the minute you are entrenched back into the daily grind, your anxieties and stressers plug in like an app, and start running in the background without you even knowing it until it’s too late and you are in desperate need of a re-boot. Except, rather than perpetuating the never-ending cycle of stress and de-stress, I would suggest opting for an active meditation so you can actually eliminate your fears and worries and not have to keep reliving them.

Surely you’ve heard athletes and nature lovers describe their workouts and activities as meditative. Even though they are running, or hiking, they are actively focusing their attention on one task for an extended period.  Their focus in turn sends them into a so-called “zone”–the equivalent of a meditative state, where they often receive epiphanies about their goals and desires. In that sense, these individuals are practicing active meditation. When performed consciously, active awareness allows you to obtain understanding and solutions to your anxieties, which ultimately is how you establish a sustainable sense of relief, joy, and tranquility.

Thankfully, you don’t have to run a marathon to receive the value of active attentiveness. You can approach it the same way you would passively – sitting comfortably, or lying down. However, this is where conscious focus changes the game. Rather than trying to clear your mind, actively you will allow your mind to contemplate and seek answers regarding one specific thing in your life. For instance, I once wanted to know why I was having trouble staying at a corporate job for longer than three years. After an intense period of inner-focus on my question, and with many words, images and feelings encapsulating my query during that time, I eventually realized that my passion was to work for myself and that I would need to design a career around an entrepreneurial endeavor if I was truly going to be happy and committed to my field. Today, I work independently as an intuitive therapist and have been for the past fifteen years, obviously having found the solution to my career dilemma.

Active meditation allows you to find deeper answers to the issues causing your fears or anxieties, resulting in a type of relief that passive meditation never reaches and is why being active in this process is what eventually provides you with the power to sustain peace of mind. To practice active meditation, all you have to do is become hyper-focused on seeking understanding regarding one element of your life, such as, “Why am I unhappy in my relationship?”, “What can I do to improve my health?” or “Why would my soul pick the family I was born into?”

Ponder your question while using your intuitive faculties of hearing, seeing, feeling, and knowing to seek understanding.  As you focus, be aware of the images, sounds, ideas, and feelings your intuition is conveying. For instance, you might have a feeling that you need to listen more as a partner rather than speak as this will help your connection, you could witness an image of yourself getting outdoors more, or you could even hear the words ‘because you wanted to learn independence.’ The trick then is to follow your wisdom by either taking action or assuming a new belief, as this is the key to lessening your anxieties and establishing your higher fulfillment.

Play with active meditation the next time you want to calm your mind. Even if you don’t get your answers immediately, continue being aware of what your intuition is conveying throughout your day, knowing that you are not only receiving the value and benefit that meditation brings, but that you will also find the cure to your life’s ills, allowing you to truly achieve higher being at all times.

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