Why Meditation May Not Work For You

Meditation sounds like magic, but many people struggle with it. This is a personal story of failure with the practice.

Scott Rocher
Aug 26, 2019 · 6 min read
Image for post
Image for post

Why I Tried Meditation

Wellness is having a moment and I’m onboard with its big promises. Download an app, spend a few minutes a day, and transform how you feel. Sounds like magic!

Download an app, spend a few minutes a day, and transform how you feel. Sounds like magic!

I tried meditation after a therapist suggested it to help calm my mind and reduce stress, with the immediate goal of sleeping better at night. She recommended Insight Timer (because it’s free) but I also downloaded Headspace, Calm, and Ten Percent Happier. I was struggling to fall and stay asleep at night and desperate for a fix.

What I Tried

Over a month’s time, I cycled through Insight Timer, Headspace, Calm, Peloton, and Ten Percent Happier.

The car was the closest thing to an ideal meditation environment I could find — a closed environment, easily made quiet, with comfortable seating.

But even that wasn’t working for me. I felt like a failure. How could this popular habit be so difficult for me? And why didn’t I feel different?

Why I Struggled

Meditation didn’t stick for me. Despite setting goals for the practice, a time and place, and access to high quality guided meditations, the practice slipped away and eventually stopped. I have not meditated in weeks.

The Practice Itself

According to Headspace, meditation does not ask us to turn off our thoughts or feelings. It asks us to simply learn to observe them without judgment.

Prioritizing Time

Meditation seems to work best if you practice it for longer and longer amounts of time, more frequently. I started with 1-minute meditations, then 5 minutes, then 10 minutes. Can I make 10 minutes in my day available for meditation? Absolutely. But given the constraints for me as a novice, the sad fact is that I found it hard to make time alone, in a quiet, comfortable space, away from my responsibilities.

Return on Investment

Was meditation working for me? After trying it for a few weeks, I was honestly unsure. I was not sleeping better at night. I was not serendipitously appreciating my meditation at moments in the day. I didn’t find myself suddenly with a different level of emotional control.

I wanted to love meditating. I wanted it to change my life. I wanted to be a person who meditates.

What I’m Doing Instead

Meditation didn’t work for me but that doesn’t mean I gave up on finding something that helped me sleep at night.

Less Caffeine

I cut out caffeine after 10am after learning that it can take up to 10 hours for the effects of caffeine to subside. That means if I had my normal cup of coffee after lunch, I would still experience the active effects of caffeine until 11pm. To ease out of the habit, I replaced my after-lunch coffee with tea and now, most days, I just drink water.

More Exercise, Earlier

As a dad of two, it’s hard to find time for myself to exercise, but when I do jump on the bike, I try and do it before 4pm. This gives me time to calm down and prepare to go to sleep!


Through all this, I realized that focusing on my breath wasn’t going to help me calm down. I’m probably doing meditation wrong but I can’t prioritize the time to learn to do it right.

Cactus is part daily gratitude, part mindfulness, and part guided self-reflection — all wrapped up in a delightful design.

Every morning when I wake up, I have a thoughtful prompt waiting that helps me focus on what will make me happiest in life. By focusing on positive things (instead of the things that kept my mind spinning for hours, late at night), I’ve been able to slowly re-train myself to think positively.

What will work for you?

Your success or failure with meditation may vary from mine.

Scott Rocher

Written by

Founder at Cactus (https://cactus.app) | Past: @stitchfix, @bluebottleroast, @tonxcoffee, and @yahoo. http://scottrocher.com

Scott Rocher

Written by

Founder at Cactus (https://cactus.app) | Past: @stitchfix, @bluebottleroast, @tonxcoffee, and @yahoo. http://scottrocher.com

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store