Meditation Myth - "I'm bad at meditation"

Have you tried to meditate but just feel like you are "really bad at it"? Well my friend you're not alone. Many people who try meditation for the first time often get lost in the idea that there is a so-called "correct" way to meditate. While there are many techniques that help one to cultivate a state of meditation, in the beginning of building a practice it is beneficial to not get so caught up in the idea of if you're doing it right.

The idea of meditation is to reach a state of pure awareness. A state where you are able to watch thoughts, stories and sensations pass by like clouds in the sky without reacting or getting lost in them. Just like the clouds in the sky, our thoughts are constantly changing. Sometimes the clouds are dark and full of rain, sometimes the clouds reflect the sun to spread hues of orange, pinks and purples all across the sky. Sometimes there are no clouds at all. However be the case, the sky still remains the same. It is still vast, big and blue. Underneath (or technically above) the clouds, the sky sits in a present state unaffected by the passing of its' ever changing friends. This is the same state that meditation is meant to bring you to.

A lot of people struggle with the idea that their mind should automatically calm down and they should be able to find a state of pure awareness right away through meditation. If you're like most beginning meditators you are going to be able to watch the breath for a moment or two before your mind gets lost back into thoughts, stories and inner dialogues. This does not mean you are a bad meditator. This means you are human.

When starting a practice it is more important to focus on how you bring yourself back to awareness ( your attention to breath, or which ever form you chose) than to maintain a state of awareness.

For example:

You are focusing on the sensations of breath, feeling the air at the tip of your nostrils as it moves in and out, touching ever so gently. You've followed the breath for a few cycles and you start to really feel like you're getting the hang of this meditating stuff. You hear a bird chirp outside of your window and start to think about how nice of a day it's supposed to be. Maybe you'll go for a walk with the dogs in the park or find a nice tree to sit under and read that new mindfulness book you purchased. You can pack a lunch, make some fresh guacamole with those avocados you just purchased at the store that are perfectly ripe. That reminds you, you forgot to get milk, better go back to get that. You wonder how busy it will be on a Sunday afternoon, maybe you should go later, well you can't go later because that new episode of your favorite show airs on Hulu tonight. But wait! You forgot you made plans with your friend tonight! You better call him/her and make sure they haven't forgotten. Where did you put your phone? That's right you're using it as a timer for your meditation. MEDITATION! That's right you're smack dab in the middle of a meditation. Well at least you were but remember you're bad at meditation so probably just best to give up right? Sound familiar?

Giving up, or as I like to say "getting up" is always an option once you have lost your focus. But here's the truth. Anyone and everyone who has spent any amount of time going inward has faced the same experience. The difference of those who continue with their meditation practices is how they react in that very moment.

Next time that happens to you, try instead of getting up and telling yourself you're no good at this and never will be, notice the moment for exactly as it is. Meet yourself with loving kindness. It helps to silently say to yourself things like; "ah there's thinking" or "what a nice story" and then proceed to let it all go and return to your original practice. That's it. The secret to all successful gurus, monks, lamas the whole nine. It's that moment where we are able to recognize that we have gotten lost in thought and welcome ourselves back with a loving kindness that cultivates inner peace and awareness. That is the present moment you always hear about in books and tv.

Meditation is so easy to overthink and for that reason I believe it scares many of us away from the practice. So many of us believe we are just no good at it and that quieting the mind is impossible. In reality, if we just stop trying so hard to be our idea of a good meditator and instead let go of our preconceived ideas of what a meditation should be, we will discover moments of pure awareness eventually without even trying.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few”

Shunryu Suzuki,Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out and ask. If you enjoyed this please subscribe for more meditation, mindfulness and lessons on the Dharma. Namaste my friend!