There’s no greater feeling than a good meditation— the kind where you feel completely connected to your breath and your body.
The kind of zen-like state where you feel the forces of the universe pulsing through your veins.
Which is why I would get insanely frustrated whenever I had a bad meditation.
When I first started to meditate, there was no worse feeling than a bad meditation. Especially on the days when I really needed a good-ol’ thought-clearing. When what I desperately needed was a little peace and clarity, a bad meditation left me feeling even more frustrated than before I sat down and closed my eyes.
I knew when I was about to have a bad meditation. They inevitably happened when I tried to muscle my way to feeling calm and zen. It would happen if I was trying to meditate my way out of a feeling like sadness or anger.
I would sit down, and immediately my meditation had a purpose and a goal attached to it: clear the thoughts and feelings and get to zen. That’s when I would try to meditate hard.
And that’s when the biggest thought battles in my head would ensue.
I would enter into the meditation forcing all thoughts out of my mind. As more thoughts poured in, I would fight them away with everything I had. As the thoughts kept coming and coming (which they always did), I would fight harder. And I would end up thinking so hard about all of my thoughts—why they were there and how I could get rid of them.
My thoughts would build and build to a point until I realized that my brain was even more clouded and confused than before my meditation. I would get up feeling incredibly frustrated by my inability to clear my mind.
It was a bad meditation, because I didn’t beat back my thoughts.
Months of meditating went by and I still found myself battling my bad meditation sessions. I fought and fought to get to zen, and felt even more frustrated when I couldn’t get there.
Then one day, I caught myself in the middle of my frustration. I examined the thought and I realized what I had been doing.
I was being really, really hard on myself.
I had been judging myself on my meditation, instead of celebrating myself for even meditating in the first place. I had been holding myself to a standard of perfection, instead of letting whatever happened happened. That’s why my bad meditations were so bad: not because I didn’t get to that zen-like feeling that I was craving, but because I was labeling them as bad in the first place.
And that’s when my entire meditation practice changed.
I stopped using the words “good” or “bad” with my practice. I stopped expecting an outcome when I sit down, close my eyes and start to breathe deeply. I stopped fighting and working so hard to clear my mind and get any state of zen.
And most importantly, I stopped judging myself.
There are times when I spend my whole meditation wrapped up in thoughts. There are other times when I feel totally clear and connected to my body and soul. But no matter what happens, I thank myself for showing up and coming back to my practice.
I’m meditating, and that’s what matters.
I’m meditating, and whatever comes up is supposed to come up.
I’m meditating, and I get to be a curious observer of what happens.
I’m meditating, and that’s enough.
And that’s a good meditation, no matter how you judge it.
Author: Stephanie Halligan
Editor: Renée Picard
Original illustration by the author!