Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies
Identifying Barriers to Meditation Practice
George A. Boyd © 2002
Those who become successful meditators must often overcome inner and outer obstacles that interfere with meditation.
Outer obstacles to meditation include environmental factors like a noisy, chaotic or polluted environment. This can take the form of nearly constant interruption by family, phone calls or clients. You may lack a peaceful place to meditate. You may not have the educational materials or instruction to learn how to meditate. You may be missing the sacred objects necessary to carry out meditation or worship rituals in your faith. There may not be like-minded others to support you in your initial practice of meditation. There may be ideological, religious or political suppression of meditation in your community or nation.
Inner obstacles to meditation include physical, energetic, emotional, mental, volitional, unconscious and existential factors that interfere with the ability to meditate. These are listed below:
Physical obstacles to meditation: you may experience localized pain, itching, cramping of muscles, arthritic stiffness, or paralysis producing immobility and lack of sensation. You may have muscle armoring, spasm of muscles that blocks the flow of attention.
Energetic obstacles to meditation: These are conditions that both depress and heighten your energy levels to a point where you cannot meditate. Conditions that reduce energy include catatonia, torpor, sleepiness, or sloth. Energetic conditions that are too high include irritability, excessive excitement interfering with the ability to concentrate, and psychotic or manic states of uncontrolled energy; association and thought.
Emotional obstacles to meditation: This may take the form of various fears: fear of losing control, fear of being possessed, or fear of dying. You may doubt or devalue your spiritual experiences. You may glamorize or over-idealize your spiritual experiences, or other people, such as your spiritual teacher. You may develop unreasoning devotion to unworthy individuals. You may become over-zealous in your newly found faith, leading to excessive meditation, prayer or eagerness to convert others to your faith.
Mental obstacles to meditation: Mental retardation may influence your ability to articulate or describe your spiritual experiences. You may have beliefs that label meditation as evil. You may have learned beliefs that pervert the object or purpose of meditation, so that you seek spiritual powers for the control of others, to injure others, or satisfaction of carnal desires. Your beliefs may limit the range or context of meditation so that you cannot extend spiritual progress beyond a certain level. You may have dogmatic beliefs that fuel intolerance or hatred for other religious, cultural or political groups. You may have a willingness to believe too easily (e.g., gullibility, or the formation of faith without discernment). You may develop distortion or disorganization of your cognitive processes, producing paranoia or psychosis this is typically the result of incorrect use of meditation, which produces severe spiritual and psychological imbalances.
Volitional obstacles to meditation: You may have inner rebellion, which makes you refuse to meditate. Compulsion due to addictive patterns may take you away from meditation. You may have made commitments to projects and people that do not allow you time to meditate. You may not be scheduling time to meditate, to do a personal process, or a personal inventory. You may not be incorporating spiritual goals in your life planning. You may be choosing not to meditate because of former traumatic experiences, fears, negative beliefs about it, or ignorance about its value or purpose.
Unconscious obstacles to meditation: These may take the form of terrifying images or traumatic memories that emerge when you try to meditate. You may slip readily into sleep states or states of unconsciousness when you meditate. You may encounter blockages or barriers that do not permit deepening beyond a certain level. [These blockages may appear as inner doors or gatekeepers that do not allow you to move beyond a certain point]. You may encounter defense mechanisms or stubborn mental traits that sabotage your efforts to meditate. You may have experienced psychic attack, possession experiences or encounter with terrifying or demonic entities in meditation that makes you frightened to meditate. [These terrifying experiences typically occur for individuals who travel through Subtle Bands of the Great Continuum of Consciousness without first building an armor of Light, or going without the protection and Grace of an overshadowing Initiate.] You may hold irrational beliefs based on a religious doctrine, which makes you afraid to meditate.
Existential obstacles to meditation: You may lack a sense of purpose or meaning in your life, which leads you to make random choices that do not involve meditation. You have made meaningful commitments to projects and people that do not allow a place for meditation in your life. Your cultural and religious identification do not utilize or advocate meditation. You may value commitment to action and achievement and devalue passive introspection. Family, friends, roommates or other people may actively ridicule, devalue or interfere with your attempts to meditate. Your inner states of depression or despair are accentuated by meditation, leading you to avoid its use. You may cling to the ego or other state of identification that does not allow you to let go and experience the noetic and spiritual essences of Being.
With so many potential barriers to meditation, it is a wonder that anyone can successfully meditate at all! We encourage you to look within to identify, which of these factors may be interfering with your own ability to establish a regular, meaningful and fulfilling meditation practice?
Gradually, antidotes, solutions or workarounds can be found for your personal barriers to meditate, making it easier for you to go within to awaken, to unfold and to express your spirituality. When you identify what your barriers are, you may be able to identify what you can change or correct in order to improve your meditation experiences.
Some people have found a meditation consultation valuable for them to identify alternate means of overcoming these obstacles. It may be that there are other ways to do meditation that they do not know about that will prevent them from encountering their usual obstacles. You can learn more about meditation consultations here. For guidelines when this form of spiritual guidance may be most useful, click here.