It’s OK to be Terrible at Meditating
As a teacher of mindfulness, I’ve heard so many people tell me, “I can’t sit still for a minute,” or “I can’t quiet my mind, so I just don’t do it”.
Good. That means they have taken the first step.
Meditation is hard. Noticing that you’re not good at it is part of the process! If it were easy, more people would do it.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be unbearably hard, and it does get easier with practice.
The other good news is: Nobody is good at meditation, per se. It’s not a competition. I mean really, it’s about paying attention — and focusing for long periods of time is hard work. People are as good as they are in the moment, and there is no standard for what makes an ideal meditation session. We all want to pat ourselves on the back and want to feel totally blissed out all the time, but when our ego-mind gets its fill from a totally chill session, tomorrow’s terrible and distracting practice can dismantle everything you thought you accomplished.
There’s no destination. It doesn’t matter how your practice is going – as long as it’s going.
Meditation gives you space to observe the internal subconscious mind-brain chatter you weren’t fully aware of so you can actively choose what to keep and what to let go of. The path of self-discovery isn’t a straight line. And neither is anything else in life we do for the very first time (or for years). I still fall into daydreams most of the time I sit for meditation, and my back hurts like crazy when I sit on the cushion some days.
So what’s the point of meditation anyway? It sounds uncomfortable, why do this to ourselves?
I can answer all of these questions by sharing what the point of meditation is not.
The point of meditation is not to quiet the mind. It’s not to relax. It’s not to de-stress. Of course we want those things, but that would be like starting a business to make money. Yeah, we want to earn a living, but the most successful businesses grow around ideals that serve humanity to some extent.
If you sit one day and your mind shuts up, then ok – it shuts up. It’s neither good nor bad. Getting caught up in how good you think you’re doing is just another mind-thought-distraction from the fleeting moment of silence you just created within yourself. See how fragile inner peace can be? And if you decide that maintaining your inner peace requires quieting your mind, your capacity to remain at peace is doomed.
The point of meditation is to train your awareness.
With practice, you might get better at concentrating on your focus object (things like the breath or sensory input) despite having a very noisy distracting mind-voice (like mine).
Let the mind do its thing. Thinking is the mind’s job like pumping blood is the heart’s job. I don’t know anybody who’s walking around saying, “Man, if I could just get this heart to stop beating, I could finally relax.”
The other other good news is: When you practice meditation to be of service to yourself and others, the relaxation and anti-stress benefits that we hope for do come. They’re fortunate byproducts of the practice, just like making money is a byproduct of serving people in business.
You’ll notice the feelings of inner peace within yourself as long as you don’t get caught in the auto-thought-mind-pattern of judging yourself for sucking at meditation. It’s ok to suck at meditation. And if you do get caught in all that, just remember everything I just told you.
So my advice is this:
The important thing is to practice. Practice every day. It’s a practice, so it’s never the final product. It’s never perfect – including practicing every day. Sometimes life gets in the way. So set your goals according to what’s realistic for where you are now.
If we improve by 1% every day for 100 days, it’s better than trying to hit 100% every day while starting from 0.
And WHEN, not IF, you do fail, be kind to yourself. It makes wanting to try again a lot easier. Feel free to nurture yourself with kindness during this process. You’re human, not some lifeless performance machine.
Lastly, meditation doesn’t only happen on the cushion. It can happen every moment of your life if you choose to pay attention.
If you want to get into the habit of using mindfulness in every moment to maintain inner peace and balance despite your wild-and-sometimes-sadistic-monkey-mind, I invite you to join my colleague Cory Hardaker in Vero Beach, Florida for an immersive meditation weekend for those who want to start or strengthen their personal discipline of meditation so they can have a springboard to develop their ideal selves into an ideal future.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to meeting you soon!
With love and gratitude,
Mindfulness of Doom Co-host and Barry University Mindfulness Professor.
Mindfulness & Meditation
Brian trains overwhelmed professionals and businesses to fulfill their purpose using mindfulness and meditation. He is the Professor of Mindfulness at Barry University and the co-host of the Mindfulness of Doom podcast.