You're Not "Bad" At Meditation
First of all, Happy 2020!
In social settings when I talk about my work, people often say to me, “Oh, I am so bad at meditating! I could never do that!” I never know how to respond. But I do know that when I tell myself I am “bad” at something, I am much less motivated to do it. Few of us enjoy doing something when we think we are “bad” at it.
A good friend of mine says, “If you fire it, you wire it.” In other words, what we tell ourselves, our brains will believe, and act accordingly. Our messages to ourselves are powerful.
The label of “bad” may prevent us from establishing a regular practice. Maybe we can shift our language by saying that sometimes meditation is more challenging than usual. The label of “bad” also seems absolute and doesn’t give us room to grow. Another way of framing it is to see it on a spectrum. Maybe some days we have a higher capacity for meditation than other days based on health and various life circumstances. It’s important to remember that our place on that capacity spectrum changes constantly.
A few months ago, I was feeling out of it, and my meditations seemed pointless. I asked Namchak Khen Rinpoche for advice on getting through a time when meditation felt like a struggle. He reminded me of impermanence and that sometimes meditation is more challenging, but the challenging times will pass. There is comfort in impermanence. Challenging times will not last forever, nor do they mean we are innately “bad” at meditation.
If we sit to practice and find our minds racing and scattered, we can still acknowledge that we practiced and are aware enough to recognize that our minds are racing and scattered. Gaining that awareness of our minds is one of the goals of meditation. Regardless of what we observe in our minds, we can give ourselves credit for taking the time and care to observe. By practicing, we are still moving toward our goal.
Call to action: Try to remove the word “bad” from your vocabulary as it applies to your meditation practice. Acknowledge and accept where you are on your own capacity spectrum, practice anyways, and let that be enough.