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Meditation doesn't have to be hard...
Unless you make it that way!

Author and Meditation Teacher Lorin Roche, Ph.D. offers insight into how we make ourselves uncomfortable during meditation and how we can change this approach

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Meditation techniques are infinitely varied. There are thousands of ways to access this natural state, and some form of meditation has been practiced in all the world’s great cultures. Instinctive Meditation is an approach to learning and practicing meditation that emphasizes naturalness, spontaneity, and inner guidance. Meditation feels like something that comes from within, and seamlessly fits into your daily life.

How to Make Yourself Miserable in Meditation

* Sit in uncomfortable postures. Especially, try to sit cross-legged.
* Meditate longer than you want to or need to.
* Resist thoughts. Demand a blank mind.
* Resist falling asleep, no matter how tired you are.
* Sit in a stuffy room.
* If you are a woman, study meditation with men who fear women.
* Choose a tradition or meditation that reminds you of the worst aspects of your childhood.
* Try to block out your inner voices.
* Worry about whether you are being a good meditator.
* Suppress your emotions.
* Use a mantra that grates on your nerves.
* Worry about whether your chakras are balanced or not.
* Resent all noises and sounds you hear.
* Wear new, uncomfortable contacts while meditating.
* Ban specific types of thoughts--such as sexual thoughts or angry thoughts.

In case I didn’t list the perfect Odious Rule for you, just make one up. Anything that totally goes against your grain is OK. It will surely make you miserable.

If you are sitting in a group of ten people for a meditation class and the instruction is given, “OK, let’s all close our eyes and find something about our breathing to enjoy,” maybe five to seven people willl find something to enjoy. One person will sit there sort of perplexed, not knowing where to begin. A couple of people will be sitting there scowling.  If you ask one of them what he is doing, he might say, “I was trying to block out noise.” Inquiring further, you would find that he was starting to become aware of his breath, then he heard a sound somewhere, then he briefly wondered what the sound was, then he invented an Odious Rule on the spot that he should not hear the sound, then he got angry (or else he was recalling an internalized, angry parental voice), and then disgusted, he returned to his breath. This all took place in ten seconds. This guy is not going to have a happy time in meditation. His critical inner voice will win every time. Not only that, but it will get to score a hit on him by proving that he failed at meditation.

Be alert when you are starting to make up an Odious Rule, and start making fun of it. The rules can vary from person to person. For one person it may be “You have to make your mind blank,” and for another it might be, “You have to believe in the teacher,” or “You’re not allowed to feel too happy,” or “Mood swings must be controlled.” Sometimes it is just the voice of the Inner Rebel that must be banned, and obliterated with the drone of the mantra.

One way of finding out if you are being run by an Odious Rule you have going is to notice whatever you call “difficult.” If you have any feeling of difficulty at any time during meditation, check in with what rules you have made up. When people say meditation is “difficult” and I ask them to describe in detail what is going on, often one or more of these is going on:

Many thoughts are coming and everyone knows you aren’t supposed to think during meditation.

Some thoughts flash through very rapidly and everyone knows thoughts should obey the “thought speed limit” and move slowly, gracefully, with immense decorum, like a funeral procession.

Sensations in the body are calling your attention and everyone knows that the body is supposed to be numb during meditation.

Tension is being released--the body is going into relaxation and by contrast the tense areas show up--and everyone knows that tension is supposed to instantly disappear, like kitchen stains do in TV commercials.

Emotions are welling up and you don’t want to feel them. Everyone knows you’re not allowed to cry during meditation. Or else, “unauthorized” emotions are coming up. This is different for everyone.

What you may be encountering here is your internal manual of meditation. It already knows everything there is to know about everything. Its title is “How to Make Yourself Miserable” or “Meditation Made Difficult.” As you pay attention in an easy way, this contradicts the inner programming about making things difficult.

This tendency is just in the culture. Not everyone has to deal with it right away. All meditators have to deal with it eventually. If the “Made Difficult” instruction set comes up and wants to take over your meditation, just make fun of it. Don’t get into a struggle with the tendency to make things difficult. It’s a tar baby.

When you approach the activity of meditating in a healthy way, you violate all the dysfunctional rules you may have learned along the way: don’t feel, don’t think, don’t wiggle, don’t ask questions, don’t be angry, don’t be sexual, don’t doubt, don’t be a rebel, don’t do it your own way, do it the official way.

If you are not meditating everyday, it could be that you do not know enough about the way your individuality meets meditation. You may be trying to squeeze yourself into too small a box. Your technique should feel totally relaxing--a refuge, a vacation, a rejuvenating retreat.

Meditating is one of the great things you can do for yourself, your health, and those you love. It’s a way of accessing your natural self-healing instincts. The practice is so restful that within 5 minutes of beginning a meditation, there is a 17% reduction in oxygen consumption, compared to the 8% reduction of deep sleep, according to research conducted at Harvard Medical School over the last 34 years. This allows the body to heal itself deeply; cholesterol goes down, stress hormones are reduced, and the immune system is boosted. All the standard meditation techniques produce similar physiological effects, but the more natural your technique feels to you, the deeper you will go.

©2004 by Lorin Roche

Dr. Lorin Roche has been exploring, researching, and teaching meditation since 1968. He is the author of several books including Meditation Made Easy, Breath Taking, Whole Body Meditations, and with his wife Camille Maurine, Meditation Secrets for Women.  Lorin offers workshops, retreats, and individual sessions by phone and in person. For more information, visit his website at


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