“I’ve never been able to meditate before!” she said.
Paula was positively glowing. She was halfway through her first qigong workshop, and she couldn’t have been happier.
“Until today, I thought I was totally hopeless at meditation!”
“Ugh, here we go again!” I thought.
Don’t worry. I wasn’t mad at Paula. The opposite, actually.
It breaks my heart to see people shaming themselves for not being able to meditate.
If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard a comment like Paula’s from a new student, I’d have — well, I’d probably have about $2-3.
But that’s still helluva lot of pennies, and way too much self shaming!
Here’s what I want to tell Paula and the hundreds of others who think that they can’t meditate:
You’re not hopeless!
You just need a different type of meditation!
Move it Or Lose It
When you hear the word “meditation”, what comes to mind?
Typically, it’s something like this:
If you’re like I once was, then this image also looks like an ancient Eastern form of self torture.
I myself started my journey with zazen, which is a seated, quiescent form of meditation similar to the picture above.
I was 20 years old, I was enthusiastic, and I tried my hardest. But after 6 months of struggling, I realized that I was just torturing myself.
It was several more years before I discovered that there are actually 3 other types of meditation!
The 4 Branches of Meditation
Some people classify meditation into only 2 categories:
- Quiescent Meditation
- Dynamic Meditation
But this misses another major classification. Quiescent and dynamic meditation can both be broken into 2 more categories:
- Standing Meditation
- Sitting Meditation
When we combine these, we get 4 total options:
1. Quiescent Sitting Meditation is done seated, with no movement (e.g. Zuo Chan, Zazen, Vipassana, and most forms of yogic meditation).
2. Quiescent Standing Meditation is done standing, with no movement (e.g. Zhan Zhuang postures like Hugging the Tree, the Wuji Stance, and the Horse Stance).
3. Dynamic Sitting Meditation is done seated, with movement (e.g. Gathering Qi from the Cosmos while seated, or the Seated Eight Brocades).
Why You’ve Struggled
Here are two statements that will help you understand why you’ve struggled with meditation in the past:
- Standing meditation is easier than sitting meditation.
- Dynamic meditation is easier than quiescent meditation.
Let’s look at the list again. Now, you can see that the list is arranged in order of difficulty, with 1 being the hardest, and 4 being the easiest:
- Quiescent Sitting Meditation
- Quiescent Standing Meditation
- Dynamic Sitting Meditation
- Dynamic Standing Meditation
In other words, you are not hopeless. If you’ve struggled with #1, then try #2, #3, or #4 before feeling guilty or ashamed!
How Do You Know If You Are Meditating?
Paula, the woman I mentioned in the beginning, knew that she struggled with meditation.
But how did she know?
Here’s a simple question that you can ask yourself to determine whether or not you are meditating successfully:
Are you merely thinking with your eyes closed?
If the answer is yes, then you are not meditating. Simple!
Similarly, if you are in a lot of pain, if you are anxious, or if you are falling asleep, then you aren’t meditating.
Then how do we know when we ARE meditating?
What Meditation Really Is
Here’s a simple and useful definition of meditation:
Meditation is the art of keeping the mind in the present moment.
We can do this will all 4 types of meditation. But type 1 (i.e. seated, quiescent meditation) is, by far, the hardest.
I also don’t recommend type 2 if you’ve struggled in the past. Start with type 3 or 4 instead.
With type 3 and 4, it’s much easier to stay in the present movement because of the movement.
The dynamic movement not only feels wonderful, but also gives our mind something to grasp on to.
In other words, we can stay present with the movement itself.
The lack of movement in #1 and #2 make it more difficult to stay in the present. The mind wanders more easily. And then we’re just thinking with our eyes closed.
How To Try Dynamic Meditation
I want you to fall in love with meditation.
So here’s an easy and free ways to try out the two easiest forms of meditation, Dynamic Standing Meditation and Dynamic Sitting Meditation.
Click here to get a free online course called Beating Fatigue & Exhaustion with Qigong.
This course will teach you a simple qigong exercise called Gathering Qi from the Cosmos.
I”ll teach the exercise standing (type 4), but you can easily do it sitting (type 3).
If you need help adjusting it to a sitting posture, just leave a comment inside the course, and I’ll help you there!
Remember, you are not hopeless!
Meditation is an amazing art. It can change your life for the better in ways that you cannot imagine!
Find the right type of meditation, and you’ll see what I mean.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Did you once feel hopeless at meditation? Did this article help you to see meditation in a new light? Let me know in the comments below! Best regards, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world how to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. As the director of Flowing Zen and a board member for the National Qigong Association, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog, I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.