Last week I shared my own experience learning how to benefit from meditation, even though I feel like I’m pretty bad at it. But what makes someone “bad” at meditation? Many people who try to meditate feel as if they failed. A lot of “failures” in meditation are in fact completely normal and a part of the process. They’re only “problems” because we all have such misconceptions about what meditating should be. When you search meditation online, the image results are more discouraging than they are inspiring. For instance, very rarely am I sitting cross-legged by a tranquil lake at sunrise. Tragically.
Here are common issues people face when trying to get into meditation, and why these things don’t actually make you bad at meditating.
Thinking about work and family during meditation
The biggest myth about meditation is that you can magically turn your mind into a distraction-free zone. In reality, meditation doesn’t require you to think about nothing. It’s about paying attention to the thoughts that do occur. Anxieties about your daily life are going to drift into your mind; rather than trying to banish them completely, sit back and witness them fully.
Feeling impatient or doubtful
I’ll be honest. I’m usually a sceptic with things like meditation. Thoughts of “Is this working?” and “No, this isn’t working” plague me every time I sit down to practice mindfulness. These feelings of doubt, impatience, and frustration are totally fine — so long as you’re tackling them. Trying to push them away defeats the purpose of meditation. There’s nothing wrong with anything you think and feel during meditation. The key is learning how to sit with these thoughts, taking them in and processing them as fully as possible.
At the start of any guided meditation video, your instructor will let you know that it’s perfectly alright to fall asleep.
Still, dozing off might be getting in the way of your mindfulness goals. If you regularly nap every time you try observe your own thoughts, consider sitting upright or meditating at a different time of day when you’re more alert.
Having a bad session
Meditation is more like a workout than it is a quick fix. Look at meditation as a muscle; it might not work at first, but that’s because you haven’t put in the work yet. Even bad sessions are useful, as long as you keep returning to it.
There’s no such thing as “perfect” meditation. The only thing that can make you bad at meditation is giving up right away. In fact, the worse you are at meditation, the more you have to gain from practicing it.
And if it’s really not for you, don’t sweat it — consider these alternatives to meditation instead.