So You Suck at Meditating. Now What?

I’m sure many of us — especially as readers and writers on Medium — have had the numerous benefits of meditation shoved down our throats.

Well, here it is again. Meditation has been shown to increase awareness, lower stress, and boost overall well-being. However, when it comes down to actually meditating, many of us have no idea where to start. OR, if we do start, we have no idea how to maintain it.

Taking data I’ve compiled from many months of sucking at meditating, I’ve narrowed down 3 ways we inhibit our own meditation practice. Of course, there could be more — I don’t know your life — but I’ve found that these three reasons are pretty general and tend to be the most common blocks to us making the most out of the time we sit down with ourselves. I’ve also realized that simply becoming aware of these blocks translates into presence and mindfulness, both of which we can take into our day-to-day lives.

I think it’s also important to note that you and I don’t actually suck at meditating. But anyway…

1. You try to control your thoughts

I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably saying, wait — aren’t you supposed to clear your mind? First of all, that’s not even what I said, and second of all…yes.

You should want to clear your mind but clearing your mind does not mean fighting/questioning/judging your thoughts when they come because… they will. Inevitably. If I told you, WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT THINK OF SPIDER-MAN IN A TUXEDO, what are you gonna do? Yup.

Instead of jumping on the defense when thoughts enter, observe that they’re there, accept it and move on. Let it go. There’s no point in trying to control them; when you try to stop thinking about a certain thing that’s pretty much a guarantee that you’re going to think about it more. A part of meditation is being the observer — observing what is, and that’s it. Not judging it, not trying to control it. It’s simply noticing it and allowing it to be.

2. You try to do it right

This reason is sort of similar to the first one except that you are more focused on trying to define and imitate meditative practices using certain standards (usually something external) to guarantee “success”. I think many of us tend to approach meditation one way — and usually that one way is from something you’ve read or because a certain guru you like does it that way. Now, there’s nothing wrong with approaching meditation like this, especially initially. The block occurs when you start to judge all other techniques. I used to think that I had to sit with my legs crossed a certain way or place my hands in a certain position in order for my meditation to be “legitimate”. By not seeing meditation as some rigid practice we allow ourselves to flow and allow life to just be.

3. You have too many expectations

Meditating used to bore me to tears. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic.

BUT I did think meditation was broken (yes, the whole thing) because it wasn’t “working”. I thought that if I was meditating, I should be instantly enlightened, immediately thrust into this blissed-out experience where I’m floating through the galaxy and have all the answers to life. Why wasn’t it solving all my problems? There were even moments while meditating where I’d think to myself “this isn’t as good as it could be”. I felt restless and frustrated. This was all because I expected meditation to match whatever idea I had of it in my head. And I basically had Buddha himself in my head.

In the same way we might replicate our favorite guru’s meditation practice, we might become frustrated if we expect to experience meditation the exact same way others do. Get rid of your expectations of how meditation is supposed to be. And don’t just meditate to get something out of it. Meditate to meditate. Will it feel like the way pizza tastes? Maybe. But if not that doesn’t mean you should give up or that you’re doing it wrong necessarily. Find what works for you, yes, but more importantly find what helps you let go. Let go of expectations and let what is, be. And while you’re at it, let yourself be. Let yourself be to experience any and everything in that moment and all the feelings and emotions that come with it. Maybe you’ll float through the clouds; maybe you’ll ground yourself in the dirt. There’s no one experience, and meditation feels best when you allow yourself that freedom.

Fact is, in meditation, the more you meditate, the more you experience ease in meditation. Meditation isn’t about good or bad, and there’s no right or wrong way to feel.

If you suck at meditating, hopefully now you know how to suck a little less.