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Sleepiness: Many people get sleepy when they try to meditate. This may be because our minds are simply overstimulated, or it may be because our bodies are tired and need some rest. Either way, there are skillful ways to wake ourselves up so we can engage in meditation. Straighten your posture. Open your eyes. Try walking meditation. Instead of using your breath as the anchor of your attention, try listening to sounds. Or, develop a pattern of sensations to focus on: for example, first the feeling of breath passing in and out of your nostrils, then the diaphragm rising and falling, and then the gentle breeze of air just above your lips.
Restlessness: We’re so used to keeping busy, that meditation can seem boring at first. If that’s the case, try focusing on very specific sensations, like the outbreath. You can even try to control your breathing, taking shorter inbreaths and longer outbreaths. Most importantly, try not to be too hard on yourself.
Pain: You may feel pain when you begin to practice meditation for longer durations. It could be just a sharp, fleeting pang in your legs, or it could be dull cramps or aches in your back. Whatever it is, try to simply notice it and accept it at first. Acknowledge that it’s a feeling, just like any other feeling, and that it will eventually pass. If it persists, try directing your attention to another part of the body. And if the pain gets intolerable, adjust your posture as needed.
Fear: In the rare instance, panic or fear may arise. Should this happen, try to shift the attention toward something outside the body, like the air whooshing in and out of your nostrils, or sounds. But don’t force yourself to pay close attention to whatever it is that might be causing you emotional discomfort. And if it’s too intense, don’t worry about opening your eyes, or just taking a break.
Classes, apps and more.
With mindfulness now mainstream, resources abound to help people maintain and deepen their practice. Mindful publishes a bimonthly magazine and maintains a robust website full of stories and instructions. Ms. Salzberg has published several books on mindfulness, as has Ms. Brach. And there are dozens of other good books on the topic.