Meditation FAQs

Collin York'19 and Lee Rosen, Ph.D.

I can’t meditate because I’m too easily distracted.

If you tend to be easily distracted, then all the better! Distracting thoughts are not only inevitable in meditation, they are expected and form the basis for your practice. The repeated cycles of getting distractions, noticing those distractions, and then pulling your attention back to your breath are the basic units of meditation. Furthermore, constantly pulling your attention back to your breath cultivates the capacity for attention and avoiding being consumed by distractions.

My body gets uncomfortable or even starts hurting. Is it okay to move to feel better?

At early stages of practice, moving to relieve significant discomfort is perfectly fine. If you feel that you need to move to relieve discomfort, we recommend you move deliberately and mindfully.

I tried meditating and I’m so bad at this! I can’t focus, can’t sit still, can’t count my breathes, etc...

Try not to judge yourself! If you end a session and have had a very hard time concentrating, this is fine. Simply note this fact, and try again. Go easy on yourself.

I am a goal-oriented person, and I need to become better and better at meditating to know that I am making progress toward my goals.

While it is important to have goals with respect to your practice, the sorts of goals one has with respect to a meditation practice are very different than the sorts of goals that orient most medical students. Having rigid, performance-oriented goals can actually inhibit your progress in a meditation practice. For example, some practitioners may become annoyed or disappointed if they have not achieved the sense of calm that meditation can bring about. Then they attempt to force it, which sabotages their practice.

What sorts of goals are productive for meditation, then? And what goals are unproductive?

Productive goals include setting aside time to meditate; eliminating or reducing outside distractions while meditation; having a sense of humility; and having perseverance after a session that has not matched your expectations. Unproductive goals include being competitive about your meditation and being overly focused on results.

Further Information on Beginning a Meditation Practice: