My Never Ending Struggle With Meditation

I’m a terrible meditator. Though I need it (I guess), I resist it. Whenever I settle down into a routine of meditation, which usually lasts four days, I feel like a phony. Which is why I suspect a couple of friends recommended the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris. He describes feeling phony when he started meditating. While the book wasn’t as helpful as I hoped, it was worth reading for one meditation nugget that very possibly provides the only chance I have of success. He suggested making meditative moments a game. Basically, make meditation self-competition. Sold. Basically, this is the game:

  • Inhale & Exhale
  • Pay attention and notice the sensation somewhere in your body (nose, stomach, chest, etc.)
  • Think the word “in” when you inhale and “out” when you exhale.

Now, here is the real challenge.

  • Keep count. With each breath count, one, two, until you get to ten and then reset.

The first week I tried, I couldn’t complete two breaths without getting distracted. Seriously. I’m apparently that much of a spaz. Thinking of the monotony of meditation like a game really helped me. Because now I could set a goal that wasn’t just to fill a minute. If you’ve ever wanted to stop time try meditating for a minute.   I’ve been trying this tactic inconsistently. But sometimes I get to twenty—the number where I throw in the towel and presume I have complete control over my thoughts. Yet, sometimes I still can’t get passed two. My average is probably six. Not stupendous.

When my mind wanders, I don’t get frustrated, I just laugh at myself, recognizing how unfocussed I am.

But here is why I still can’t commit to it. I expected more.

I don’t see any consistency. I was using this method most often when I woke up at night. I’m not a great sleeper. I’ll usually wake up between 1am and 3am and lie awake for anywhere from five minutes to two hours. I thought if I could keep my mind from wandering then I’d fall right back to sleep. Sometimes it works. Sometimes six breaths in and I’m out cold. In fact the first time I tried it that’s what happened and I thought it was magic. But like anything else, there isn’t a magic pill. Some nights I lie awake counting with good focus because I get to twenty with ease. That’s when I give up. If I can’t sleep it doesn’t matter if my mind is wandering or if I’m counting and breathing. So I let my mind wander.

I’m not discounting it. And I still find the game fun. Yes, I used fun and meditation in the same sentence. I’m still trying when I wake in the night or in almost any scenario that involves waiting. When it seems to work, it does make me feel better, calmer. The game method makes it doable.

I’d love to hear comments or thoughts about why the method only sometimes helps at night. Any tips on mediations that are along this line?


About the Author:

Maggie Downie
Thank you for giving your time to stop and read my blog. I hope it encourages you to keep moving. Move and the body will be happier. And when you're moving you can hike, run, swim in Jell-O, race over non-Newtonian fluids, travel the world or build igloos--if that's your thing. If not, you can watch me do it. This is just a spot to try and feel good about life.


  1. Deborah Bax July 29, 2015 at 8:27 am - Reply

    I know I need to return to meditating regularly. It helped me to remain calm in the face of a tense (or potentially tense) situation, and I was simply happier when I meditated for 10 minutes daily consistently. The problem: concentration. I can verify, Maggie, that you have been easily distracted since birth. So unless something truly intrigues you, you lose interest. Our minds are always wanting to connect to the next thought so they do not truly cooperate when trying NOT TO THINK. Sounds like you have the desire so you will need to use your reserve of self-discipline, patience, and consistency….you tell me all the time that any particular exercise becomes easier the more I practice. Here’s another “game” that might help you, especially at night. Disclaimer: it works 50% of the time when I don’t give up. As you inhale & exhale to a slow count of 4 each concentrate first on your toes. Concentrate on those toes no matter how many breaths you take. Concentrate on toes until you are unaware of them and cannot feel them anymore. Then continuing with the deep, slow breaths move to ankles until you cannot feel them; then calves, knees…..and so on. When it works, I’ve never gotten passed my thighs. Good luck and don’t give up.

  2. Charlotte Scaviola July 29, 2015 at 8:52 am - Reply

    It is interesting that I finally received an email on your blog on the very day that I am finally going to attend my first meditation class. My mind never stops racing, so I relate to your post. I have tried different methods on my own, but – every time – there goes my mind again!
    However, the past several weeks, I have found that certain meditation videos that I have found on Youtube have helped me to finally get some sleep at night.
    Time to dive in and finally commit to this.
    I take this post as one more sign that I am on the right track here.
    Thanks, Maggie!

  3. Maggie Downie
    Maggie Downie July 29, 2015 at 9:43 am - Reply

    Good Luck, Charlotte! I do find it helps to know someone else is on the same battle path. Keep me posted. Mom, I’ll try your game, but it sounds a little disconcerting. If I don’t want to feel body parts I could just drink some vodka. 🙂

  4. Maureen July 29, 2015 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    I don’t think meditation is for everyone, especially if you find it to be a struggle, who wants that? I myself find other outlets. Biking, walking, or weeding, weeding and more weeding (definitely not for everyone).
    I also am not so crazy about clearing my head. I personally like to fill it instead with happy thoughts, memories, plans etc..
    When I do want total down time, I do like to just sit/lay quietly with my eyes closed and just relax. There are lots of thoughts, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This more often than not, turns into a nap! In my opinion… there’s nothing wrong with that.
    In the end, do what feels good for you.

  5. Charlotte July 30, 2015 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Well, I went to the first meditation class. I felt myself following the leader’s voice, and relaxing my mind and body. Halfway through, I guess my mind was open enough to get a powerful revelation in my life. I was distracted for much of the second half of the class, as this was very emotional for me.
    But the next day, as I reflected upon what had happened, the understanding came. All I can say is WOW.
    I will be going back next week for my second class.

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