Meditation Expectations

Sometimes friends and family will ask me about meditation.  Wait! That’s not it. Usually, I am quietly waiting for any opening in a conversation that will allow me to discuss meditation. 🙂

I first meditated over eight years ago.  It was a guided meditation from Kristen Neff intending to foster feelings of self-compassion. 

Initial Meditation Experiences

I took to meditation almost immediately, which is not an uncommon first response to meditating. People often find the initial attempts rewarding.  If for nothing else, it allows them to disconnect from the vast stimuli in their lives; like television sets, phones, and tablets.  The world slows down; the mind slows down.  Therefore, people often feel peace, stillness, content, refreshed, and a sense of calm.  This impacts their behavior; they are more patient, focused, loving, and receptive.  It also alters brain chemistry; increasing intelligence and creativity, opening up new pathways to lasting change.

Accepting Meditation Outcomes

While these experiences are wonderful, it creates an interesting contradiction between setting particular outcomes or goals of a meditation and the Buddhist principles at the heart of meditation.  Many guided meditations attempt to achieve a particular outcome for the practitioner.  However, at the core of meditation is the awareness and acceptance of any type of outcome, regardless of whether it was the goal of the meditation. 

For example, a guided meditation might intend to focus attention on occurrences in your body.  However, when practicing that meditation, you might not be able to focus or calm yourself to the point of feeling like you have successfully focused enough on your body.  In other words, your thoughts might jump to any number of experiences you might have had throughout that particular day, instead of arisings within your body.  

No such thing as Bad Meditation

Unfortunately, this can lead people to berate themselves; to believe they are not meditating properly; that they failed.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  If there is a failure, it is just one of perspective.   At the heart of meditation is the acceptance of any type of arising; to kindly notice occurrences from a distance and gently observe. While your mind might be racing and having a difficult time focusing, don’t berate yourself. Rather, just gently notice and observe; accept that your day may have been challenging and that your mind is fixated on those particular events at this particular time.

And if you can consider further, you probably were focusing on your body throughout the meditation; maybe just not as much as in previous iterations of the same meditation; thus, falling prey to the comparison game, deeming yourself a failure based on what you perceived to be more successful experiences of the same meditation in the past.  You might feel like you aren’t improving or getting better since you weren’t able to focus on your body as well as the list time.  You might believe that you are meditation wrong.  Which brings me to my final and main point.

There is no failing at meditation.  There is no such thing as doing it wrong. You don’t need to be taught anything. You are ready right now and you can do it at any time.

If that time is now, try any of these self-guided meditations by Kristen Neff.