Aversion to meditation

Thinking about how I've used meditation over the years, and my daily practice, got me thinking about the idea of 'aversion to meditation' – that is, the experience I've had a number of times where I want to meditate, but I find I just can't.

There's many reasons one might not be able to meditate at a particular stage in life, but I'm thinking of something particular – not that one can't find the time, or can't focus properly, or one can't get comfortable.  But more that one can't start in the first place.

I sometimes find, particularly if I've not meditated in a while, that I intend to start, but I keep 'not quite getting around to it'.  I may even stop everything else I'm doing – switch off the computer, put down a book, clear everything else away… but I can't quite start.  I may find myself pacing around, or finding odd jobs like tidying things away, but I just can't get myself to stop and start meditating.  It's not like it's hard work – it's just sitting and relaxing initially – but still I can't quite manage it.

When this 'aversion' happens I tend to notice other things about myself too – often I don't like silence.  I have trouble switching off the radio, or not having music playing in the background all the time.  I often have trouble sitting still.  And by considering these habits I started to realise what was going on.

Meditation brings you very close to yourself.  That is, you get in very close contact with what is happening inside you right now – before you wander off into any altered state, or begin to really focus, you get a very clear impression of what you are currently feeling and what emotions are moving around within you.  And there are times in life where that's not a very comfortable experience.

This kind of aversion to meditation (which with me also tends to come with an aversion to silence) is usually a symptom of disquiet within myself.  Somethings up, something isn't sitting right, I'm not happy about something… but right now I don't want to have to sit down and deal with it.

If I'm meditating regularly I notice I'm a lot more comfortable in silence, a lot more comfortable to just sit and be, and I'm generally very aware of the processes that are happening within myself (happy or otherwise).  Being away from it is like avoiding that friend that you know you need to have a difficult conversation with.  You know you enjoy their company really but right now you are avoiding sprending time with them because you know the first topic of conversation isn't going to be easy.  But it isn't someone else you're avoiding, it's yourself.

Meditation is a commitment to stop, and deal with whatever it is that's lurking at the back of your mind, waving, trying to get your attention.  If there's disquiet I may well avoid meditation, keep putting it off, keep distracting myself, until I finally find the courage to face up to whatever it is that's making me uncomfortable – sadness, anger, frustration, disappointment, whatever is bubbling up. I think some of the people who talk to who say they 'can't' meditate, or haven't meditated in a long while even though they think they should, are in a similar situation.

Of course, when I finally do get around to just sitting and feeling, it's just like the situation with a friend – you realise it's not as bad as you feared it would be and wonder why you didn't do it earlier.  But we all have these little aversion issues now and again and it takes times to find a way to be comfortable withing our own skin once again…

2 Responses to "Aversion to meditation"

  1. Judy says:

    Thank you. This is exactly what I needed to hear. I have had meditation practices and then just stopped, and couldn't seem to make myself do it. The whole thing seemed odd to me, because I enjoy my meditations. This makes perfect sense. It seems we drag our feet just when we should be making the most of the experience. I wonder what you do to bring yourself back? Does the awareness do the trick for you, or must you ride out your resistance?

    • Warlock says:

      How do I deal with the aversion? To be honest, experience helps – knowing that I've been in this situation before, I've felt this way before, that I'm avoiding something and at some point I'm going to have to deal with it. Remembering when I've felt exactly like this before helps – because I'm usually able to also access the memory that 'it's not going to be as bad as you think it is'.

      But in the final moment it comes down to an act of will – a push, a confronting of the block. I have to not let it win.

      So I remind myself that I've done this many times before and I know it won't be as bad as I fear. And then I don't let the resistance win.

      Related to this is the fact that, as with exercise, it's much easier to skip your fourth consecutive day of meditation than it is to skip your fortieth consecutive day. Building a practice you do every day, keeping count, and then not letting yourself break the streak, is very good motivation for keeping going even when it's hard. I think we like getting high scores!

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