Self-Hospitality Pt. 6 – It Doesn’t Matter What The Experience Is
The problem with novice meditators is not that they aren’t experienced with the art and technique of meditation. It’s not that they aren’t “achieving” a certain state of calm and emptiness. It’s that they think that whatever state you reach matters at all. This mindset when meditating can lead you down a road of misunderstanding and unnecessary frustration. You’ll always be analyzing and quantifying whatever you’re experiencing in meditation.
“Is this right?”
“Is that right?”
“I’m thinking about that time in third grade, should I be?”
“I’m feeling calm, but creative thoughts are coming up. Are they the right ones?”
“Am I doing it right at all?”
“Am I having the right experience?”
Yes you’re having the right experience. I don’t even have to know what you’re experiencing for me to confidently assure you of this because that fact is it doesn’t matter what experience you’re having in meditation. It’s not a reliable sign of whether you’re practicing correctly or something good is happening. There’s no “Yes! I’m nailing this!” sort of signifier. You’re practicing, that’s enough. And this isn’t me setting the bar low to give you more confidence. It’s just how meditation works. There is so much clicking into place underneath the surface. You could be having the dullest experience imaginable – nothing but inane repetitive thinking, boredom, dwelling, agitation, fidgeting, ever “un-meditative” behavior you can imagine – but underneath all that, transformation is happening.
With meditation, transformation works on a level of our consciousness that cannot be immediately seen or experienced. Pre-conscious, subconscious, deep conscious or whatever you want to call it. But the effects of each meditation will unfold through the day, week, month, year.
And, yes, the next question you might be asking is the right one: “If my experience of any meditation is in no way a sign of whether I’m doing it properly, then how do I know if it’s working?”
Exactly. Well, are you doing this?
- Think mantra as effortlessly as it is, well, effortless to do so.
- Seeing your attention drift spontaneously and accidentally from the mantra.
- Returning your attention to the mantra gracefully and easily. Without any resentment that you had drifted.
- And repeat for 15-20 minutes.
If you’re following this protocol, however messy the process looks, then you’re doing it properly.
If you aren’t evaluating your experiences as “meditative” or not, then you’re doing it properly.
If you’re meeting the dull, uncomfortable experiences of meditation with the same moxie as the ones that are deliciously calm, then you’re doing it properly.
The resulting experience of each meditation doesn’t matter nearly as much as your mindset around your experiences. Meditation is not a state you reach, but an attitude you maintain.
It’s an attitude that is translatable into your daily life. No matter how unpleasant or uncomfortable an experience you might be having is, it’s never the wrong one. You don’t have to like it, but you always benefit from accepting it. What else is there to do with it? It’s happening. You’re wasting time, energy and learning potential from wishing it was something more comfortable for you.
Besides the deep, restorative benefit they get from a regular practice, meditators are also cultivating a very powerful skill: observation. Anything that comes up in meditation is simply observed without the need to evaluate as something that should or should not be there. And this doesn’t mean we abandon our desire to understand. It means that we start with openness and save the evaluation for later. Our evaluation energy can be directed away from our meditation experiences and saved for any observations we make about the quality of our daily lives and experiences. That is truly the positive experience to root for: the 23+ hours that constitutes our day outside of meditation.
Apply The Principles
Today, after meditating, simply observe what’s happening in your mind. Observe with interest. This is all that’s required to gain insight. Worrying about whether things are good or bad will simply disrupt the payload of understanding that is truly available from open observation.
Learn The Essentials
The purpose of this series is to give you everything you need to get the most out of meditation, self-care and this fresh new life we get to live with such powerful tools at our disposal. The weekly tools and principles I share will help you become more skilled and confident at meditating and just generally living with this thing called a mind.
Whether or not you’ve already learned meditation (with me or elsewhere), refer to this guide to either get you started or refresh you on the essentials.
I bet, even if you’ve been meditating for awhile, this series will reveal aspects of it that will make you say, “Wow, how come I didn’t know this?” You did. And you do. You just needed reminding. Meditation is a very radical way of being in ourselves…and yet it’s the most familiar place we know.