Getting above the clouds of your thoughts and worries and experiencing the benefits of meditation is very doable, no matter your experience level. Here are seven different experiences that I tend to have on a regular basis to give you an idea of what you can expect.
Oh. My. God. Do you meditate?!
The best thing you don't know how to do
At this point, meditation is a thing. It’s arrived, it’s real, people are doing it.
You probably hear about it at work, in your social circles, on TV and the radio. The fact is that meditation carries tremendous mental, physical and emotional benefits that can be delivered in only a few minutes a day.
However, a lot of people who might benefit from meditation are still pretty damn skeptical about it. Besides the very real fear of sitting alone in silence, one of the biggest complaints that people have about meditation is that they don’t know if they’re doing it right. It’s so unclear.
In a culture where we have been raised to expect that there is a clear right and wrong way to do things, learning to meditate can feel a bit unnatural. In stark contrast to the typical efforts we embark on, the deeper you get into meditation, the more you will learn that there is no wrong way to do it.
But there is probably nothing more frustrating for someone trying to get into meditation than asking an experienced meditator if they’re doing it right, and getting a response like:
- “Don’t worry about 'right or wrong,' just sit”
- “Just focus on your breath, and clear your mind."
- "If you have thoughts, don’t get attached, just let them float on by like a cloud."
Hearing these statements over and over again can be confusing at best and infuriating at worst.
Just a little direction would help. Anything. Help us, oh enlightened ones!
The secret is that there is no "right" way to do it
There are many ways to meditate
As someone who has been meditating consistently for four years, I have some ideas that can help you quiet your inner critic and develop your meditation practice.
In an effort to shed some light on what you may experience when you meditate, I’ve given names to 7 different ways one of my meditations might go.
These are not types of meditations, but rather what’s going on in my head while I meditate. Hopefully, some of these assuage your fears that you’re “doing it wrong”.
1. The 100% Distracted Meditation
In this meditation you sit in your preferred position, close your eyes (or keep them open depending on the type of meditation you do, and then immediately begin thinking about random crap: what you had for breakfast, what you’re eating for dinner, all the work you should be doing instead of sitting here doing nothing, if you’ve gotten any matches on tinder while you’re sitting here doing nothing, that crazy thing that happened on Game Of Thrones last week. And then… DING! Your timer goes off and you feel like you haven’t meditated for even a second. Is it meditation? Yes.
2. The Sleepy Meditation
This usually happens when I meditate first thing in the morning. I wake up, shake of the sleep, maybe shower and then hit the cushion. Throughout this session, I’m in a kind of trance state and I’m never sure if I was in a state of complete emptiness like the guru’s talk about, or if I was just asleep. 95% sure I’m asleep. Is it meditation? Yes.
3. The Achy Meditation
This one is common, especially when you first begin meditating on a cushion or on the floor. There’s an aching pain in your back that you’re terrified of having to deal with for the rest of the session. Your body is trembling and you want to quit, but you’re also meditating and you’re not sure if it’s supposed to hurt. The answer is not really. It shouldn’t be excruciating, but you may deal with some discomfort. Learning to deal with it is part of meditation. Learning to deal with pain is not, so if you’re really in pain, switch things up to get more comfortable. But if you’re dealing with an achy back that isn’t killing you, sit on. Is it meditation? Yes.
4. The Calm Meditation
When people think about a meditation session, this is what they typically think about. You sit there, your breathing slows, you feel relaxed, and you get into a feeling of your flow. You have a nice focus on your breath, you become aware of your surroundings, you’re chill. Your mind my float away to random thoughts, but you’re unattached and easily come back to your breath. Is this meditation? Yes
5. The enlightened meditation
This is a step beyond the calm meditation. In an enlightened meditation you feel a loss of self. You feel a deep settling into the world, into the universe in a way that’s hard to describe if you’ve haven’t experienced (if you’ve done psychedelics, you may have an idea). It’s an amazing feeling and one that meditators lust after. The funny thing is that the more you lust after it, the less likely it is to happen. Is this meditation? Yes.
6. The Flip Flop Meditation
Falling between the completely distracted meditation and the calm meditation, in this one you are jumping back and forth between being calm and focused to getting completely lost in random thought. When you get pulled away into your thoughts, you may be in this world for several minutes before you realize that you’ve lost focus and return to your thoughts. You may remain focused on your breath for a while or it might only be a few seconds before you get lost in thought again. This what I most commonly experience when I meditate. Is this meditation? Yes
7. The Nervous Meditation
This one is very common in the beginning. You sit down, set a timer, and then immediately go into panic about the fact that you are now sitting there, for what seems like forever, with nothing to do. You may feel nervous, you may even feel panic. This may set in at the beginning or sometime in the middle, but it almost always it passes. The good news is, nothing bad can happen to you while you’re meditating, so dealing with this anxiety is just another part of the learning to be with yourself. Is this meditation? Yes.
Bringing it home to you
As a meditator, I am always experiencing new forms of meditation, and I’m excited to continue my meditation journey. And what I want you to take away from this is that anxiety about whether or not you’re doing it right is almost never warranted. Just worry about doing your meditation. Doing it “right” shouldn’t be a concern.
The point is that you are setting aside time for you; showing up for yourself in a quiet space to let what is inside of you rise to the surface.
And if you are still concerned about the uncertainty involved in meditation, you may benefit from trying out a device like the Muse, which gives type-A people feedback about how "calm" they are during a meditation.