What if You're "Bad At" Meditation?

June 6, 2013

People often have concerns about being "not good" at meditation. They say things like:

  • "I've tried meditation before. I'm not very good at it."
  • "I can't sit still for that long. It's just not for me."
  • "I get distracted very easily. I'm not a good meditator."

If you've ever meditated before and walked away feeling like you didn't do a good job ... this is for you.

The truth is, the worse you are at meditating, the better it is for you. In fact, you're doing your meditation just right. Even if you're doing it "wrong." Here's why.

The "Perfect Meditation" - It Doesn't Exist
Beginning meditators often think that there's a "perfect" way to meditate. Where their mind is completely blank, devoid of all thought, as if floating in an abyss with no distractions. Or, perhaps, the meditator is sitting in a perpetual state of bliss. Or maybe they're basking a spiritual divinity so amazing, it can't be explained in words.

When they compare this mental image to their own meditations, they come up short. Their own meditations often feel like distraction after distraction. Stray thought after stray thought. Emotion after emotion.

No wonder people walk away feeling like they aren't "good" at meditation.
Yet that state of feeling distracted, spacey, emotional, sleepy (and so on) is exactly what meditation is all about.

Meditation: It's Like Training for Your Brain
The brain muscles that you "work out" during a meditation mimic the brain muscles that you need to develop in your everyday life.

In meditation, you might practice noticing when you get distracted by stray thoughts, then bringing it back to your breath. This has a direct impact on your ability to focus at work. You'll be able to notice when you get distracted by email or Facebook, then quickly bring your attention back to your work.

In meditation, you might practice noticing your emotions, then being non-reactive to them. You honor them for being there, without attachment to them staying or going. You let them be without letting them drive or affect you. That has a direct impact on how you react to emotions in real life. Instead of reacting to anger when a co-worker does something you disagree with, you can just observe the emotion, be non-reactive and make a rational decision instead.

You Can't Be "Bad At" Meditation
Meditation is a practice. You start from where you're at, then practice keeping and moving your attention in different ways. Those ways directly translate into real life benefits.
If you were perfect at meditating already, there'd be almost no reason to meditate. You'd have perfect attention and perfect emotional control. Of course, that isn't the case with any of us.

That's why meditation is such a powerful practice.

Don't worry if it seems like you're "not good" at meditation. The perfect, serene meditation is mostly a myth. Treat meditation as a powerful tool for developing emotional intelligence, attention and leadership qualities. Start from where you're at, even if it seems like you're "not good" at it, and build your practice one step at a time.