The hardest part of learning anything is convincing yourself that you are ready to start and accept a possible (and beneficial) initial failure. The second hardest part is consistence and continuity, because once you have decided to go on and achieve something, you have to invest yourself in it fully.
Meditation, and practicing mindfulness in general, consists exactly of the same learning processes as any other skill. Initially, and I speak exclusively from personal experience here, meditation can seem trivial at best and useless at worst. Especially if you are easily conditioned into buying into the mind’s false sense of security, you could reject the whole practice as pointless.
In reality, we generally tend to escape uncomfortable situations and briskly dismiss them by projecting an idea of self which is in opposition to the situation we are confronted with. If you have been struggling with finishing a book, or pushing yourself to go to the gym, you know what I am talking about. Our minds are prolific excuse-producing machines.
Speaking with peers and colleagues, it seems that one of the main issues that arise during meditation is the difficulty with which thoughts can be controlled. I have experienced this myself, and by reading and learning I have come to realise that there is no solution to this, simply because the objective of meditation and mindfulness isn’t controlling your thoughts in the first place. The thought of wanting no thoughts is a thought itself. On the contrary, meditation isn’t necessarily about absolute absence of thoughts as much as it is about observing and allowing thoughts to decay in front of your inner eye.
This point is crucial as it leads to an interesting realisation: thoughts exist and affect your mind and body as long as you pay attention to them. You can stop entertaining them at any time, and they will vanish completely. A good example could be those imagined situations where you are having a conversation, or better an argument, with someone. You spend so much time carefully choosing the specific words you’d use and feel a sort of twisted reward by saying certain things to someone else in your head. Well, while you spent energy and time on this hypothetical situation, none of it is either real or remotely useful to you. Even still, none of it affects the real world. Learning to detach from this can create useful space in your inner world, and this will reflect positively in your external world too.
Another issue that I have encountered when I was getting into meditation was that of finding the right set and settings for it. It’s not always easy to fit meditation in our busy schedule, but once you find your inner sweet spot, you don’t actually need to be sitting down in a room filled with incense to create space in your mind. A walk in the park, a train ride, your lunch break are all suitable moments to create clarity in your inner world. Just take a step back, focus on your breathing and delve into yourself. Also start small. You don't need to force yourself into a 60 minutes practice straight away. 10 minutes a day is far better than 40 minutes every week and it will also help you build a positive feedback loop, other than making you more aware of your patterns.
Do you meditate? If so, how often do you practice? What are your tricks and suggestions? Do you have a favourite routine? Let me know in the comment section.