Why I'm Glad I'm a Bad Meditator

Recently, Dr. Christine Carter wrote an article called Confessions of a Bad Meditator and shared that despite a deep belief in the benefits of meditation and compelling research evidence on the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of the practice, she just doesn’t make the time to do it because of a fear of not being good enough.

Boy, do I relate. Even though I do practice meditation daily and have done so for years, that old gremlin “not good enough” followed by its cousin “you’re doing it wrong” have been my sitting partners for many a practice. As I have taught others how to meditate and hosted group mindfulness challenges and programs, that is the most often expressed thought across the board. As well as the why behind those thoughts, and why their mind keeps wandering.

It can be surprising, frustrating, and downright disturbing when we are in stillness and realize we can’t get through a single breath without our minds running off. From thinking about past arguments to future vacation plans and even composing a mental grocery list for the week, we are stunned when we realize just how hard it is to have a quiet mind. Frustration and negative thoughts start telling us that we’re just not focused enough, just not disciplined enough, just not enough!

But wait! I have good news! I’m really glad I’m a bad meditator and here’s why:

1. At the moment we notice and become aware that our thoughts have wandered, that in itself is a moment of mindfulness. Use those wandering thoughts are an opportunity to practice awareness. Noticing is the first step of mindfulness, so be grateful you noticed. You’re on the right path!

2. When we are aware and notice our mind has wandered off, we can then practice non-judgment. We can gently let go of the thought without labeling it or ourselves as good or bad and return our focus to our breath.This is an excellent practice in our daily life to let go of judgment of self and others and be less critical. This will soothe our stress response and reduce anxiety as well as help us be a more caring and understanding person.

3. When we release the thought without judgment and return to the breath, we can practice self-compassion. Realizing we are only human and doing the best we can, we can replace the negative self- talk with kindness. As we increase our capacity for self- compassion, we can then increase our overall compassion for others and the world would be a kinder place because of that.

4. Returning our thoughts to the breath over and over again creates new neural pathways for attention, focus, compassion, and non-judgment making mindfulness an automatic response to stress instead of over-whelm, anxiety, judgment and criticism. Every time our mind wanders and we notice and refocus, we are literally changing our brain for the better!

So every time my mind wanders in my meditation practice, instead of berating myself for not being good enough, I’ll take it as an opportunity to practice awareness, non-judgment, self- compassion, and be grateful that change is possible.

About the Contributor: Shonda Palmer is a Health and Wellness Coach specializing in Mindfulness and Mindful Self Compassion and is a Qi Gong instructor out of Vista, California. To learn more or schedule a free 1 hour discovery session please click here.

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