Meditation has become a popular practice in recent decades as more people recognize the need for inner peace and healing in our fast-paced world. Yet, despite its growing popularity, many find themselves struggling to fully connect with the essence of meditation. You might be one of the many who believe you are “bad at meditating.”
I’ve been meditating for 17 years and have had the privilege of helping numerous students access deeper peace and healing as a meditation teacher. I believe it’s time to shift the paradigm surrounding meditation by moving away from the notion of stopping our thoughts, which is what so many people feel they fail to do during meditation. Instead, we can embrace meditation as a nourishing and embodied experience. Let’s explore some tips on how to make meditation a truly transformative practice.
First and foremost, it’s crucial to shift our perspective on thoughts during meditation. Instead of attempting to forcefully stop our thoughts or thinking we shouldn’t be thinking, it helps to cultivate an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment. Thoughts are a natural part of the human experience, and will inevitably arise during meditation. Rather than resisting them, allow them to come and go without attaching any significance to them. By observing our thoughts with curiosity, neutrality, and detachment, we create a space for inner stillness and deepening awareness.
Grounding yourself in the present moment is a fundamental aspect of making meditation a nourishing experience. Often, we find our minds wandering to the past or future, losing touch with the present. To counteract this, bring your attention to your body and senses. Feel the weight of your body on the chair or cushion, notice the sensations of your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Engage your senses by tuning into the sounds, smells, and physical sensations in your environment. Notice your mind wishing certain experiences would change in some way, then come back to the experience itself. This moment, as it is. This practice of grounding ourselves in the present moment brings a sense of stability and deepens our connection with our bodies.
You can also incorporate mindful movement. While traditional meditation often involves sitting in stillness, introducing gentle movements can help us cultivate a deeper embodiment. Before or after your seated meditation practice, engage in mindful walking, yoga, or stretching exercises. Pay close attention to the physical sensations, the rhythm of your breath, and what it feels like to move your body.
Integrating self-compassion into our meditation practice is essential. Often, we approach meditation with expectations or judgments about how we should be feeling or what we should achieve. Instead, embrace a compassionate attitude toward yourself. Understand that meditation is not about perfection or reaching a specific state of mind. It is about allowing yourself to be exactly as you are in each moment—a truly radical act. Treat yourself with the same love and acceptance you would offer to a dear friend.
Lastly, consider trying guided meditations or soundscapes into your practice. You can explore various meditation apps or online resources that offer guided meditations tailored to specific intentions or themes. Experiment with different types of soothing music or nature sounds that resonate with you.
Meditation is not about silencing our thoughts or achieving a state of emptiness. It’s about simply being with what is. And we are all, to a certain extent, bad at doing that. But that’s why we practice.
If you shift your perspective, accepting and observing your thoughts with curiosity, you might find yourself leaving the cushion feeling better than when you sat down. By implementing these tips, you can transform your meditation practice into a profound and enriching journey of self-discovery, healing, and inner peace.