Updated: Sep 5
"Oh, I've tried meditating, but I'm just not good at it." This is a refrain I hear from clients often and my response is always the same. "That's impossible." I have no doubt that clients believe they are bad meditators, but this reveals more about their approach to the practice than it does about their innate abilities. This is particularly true of mindfulness meditation, which is simply about noticing and not about acheiving.
In an acheivement-driven society, we tend to believe there are two ways to do absolutely anything: well and poorly. But the whole idea of meditation transcends this sort of judgment. In fact, judgment is not really something that's invited to the party. Therefore if you think you're a lousy meditator, what needs to change is your approach and understanding of what meditation actually is.
For years I was told by doctors and therapists that I should meditate to help with my anxiety, a suggestion I didn't take because I didn't really understand exactly how to do it. I thought meditation was just sitting there with your eyes closed and how the heck was that supposed to help me with anything? Many years later, out of desperation more than anything, I got a meditation app. Through using this app, I discovered the ideology of meditation, particularly the idea of noticing the mind and accepting whatever condition it happened to be in at that moment.
This is a crucial concept because as any beginning meditator knows, your mind will be brimming with chatter and nonsense to the point of near hysteria. When you're quiet and still, you will notice this. In our daily business, we ignore our hysterical mind, but that doesn't mean it's not there. Meditation is simply bringing awareness to how things really are. It's not really about trying to create anything. Then when you notice your monkey-mind, you will say, "well obviously I'm no good at meditating" when instead all you're called to do is note the natural state of your mind as a bit of a curiosity.
"The mind is a drama queen that gets too embarrassed to continue acting up after only a few seconds of getting our undivided attention."
-Thich Nhat Hanh
It takes a certain amount of courage to sit with your mind and notice how it actually is. Many people don't want to do that without trying to change the state of their mind instantly. Or they want some tangible methodology, as I did. Noticing on its own seems too simple, but simply noticing the state of the mind will begin to bring about a change over time. It's a kind of magic.
So you don't have to meditate "well". You just have to show up for the practice regularly and notice the state of the mind. If you can't focus your attention for long in the beginning, then you've just learned you can't focus your attention for long. How could you without practice? But it is what it is. Judging it as a skill you don't possess is just your mind trying to get rid of you. You don't need to buy what it's selling.
The key is consistency. It's better to meditate every day for 2 minutes than once a week for 20. If you do this, you're brain will begin to change and the benefits continue to add up over time. Even one session of meditation can provide an uptick in your sense of calm. But if you add the frustration of judging your meditation performance, you risk obliterating any calm that would otherwise come.
This is all learning. Notice. Notice your tendency to self-judge. Notice your desire to do things properly. Notice your crazy, busy brain. And then show up the next day and notice it again. That is all that is required. Then one day, you notice something has begun to shift. Then the magic has begun.