If you're not already into meditation, there's something slightly comical about trying to do it. You have to think about thinking. Or, stop thinking about thinking. Or think about not thinking. What you're mostly thinking is "Why can't I meditate?"
Which happens to be the title of Nigel Wellings's new book (subtitle: "How to Get Your Mindfulness Practice on Track"). Wellings, a British psychoanalytic psychotherapist who's been interested in meditation since he was a teenager 40 years ago, aims his book not at skeptics or raw beginners but at the many people who perceive the value of meditation, who have tried it, maybe taken a class, but can't keep it up. As a frustrated student named Tess puts it: "My mind still goes blah, blah, blah!"
There are more than 300 pages of explanation, anecdotes, encouragement, examples and so on, but let's jump to the end of the book, where there's a "Quick-Fix Chart for the Struggling Meditator."
Problem: Can't find time to meditate every day. Possible solution: Don't wait for the meditation mood to strike you - do it routinely, like brushing your teeth, whether you feel like it or not.
Problem: Falling asleep. Possible solution: Keep your eyes open. Or try meditating while walking.
Problem: Boredom. Possible solution: Be mindful of the experience of boredom itself - what is it like? (That's also a possible solution for being distracted, Wellings says - the biggest problem for would-be meditators. "A distraction you are mindfully aware of . . . is not a distraction - it is your object of mindfulness.")
Problem: Disappointment, the feeling that meditation just isn't working for you. Possible solution: Cultivate loving kindness toward yourself. Be patient. Develop a sense of humor.