When you start meditating, it can be hard to know what’s happening. Are you doing it right? What’s it supposed to feel like? Unless you’re in a weekly meditation class, it can be tricky to understand the territory.
I’ve tallied nearly 14,000 hours in meditation over 20 years, so I thought it might help to share some common experiences. Knowing what to expect will help you stay steady on the path. But there’s an important caveat I need to share at the outset.
Meditation Doesn’t Feel Like Anything
Meditation doesn’t feel like anything in particular. It’s a choice, an action, and a process. You’re learning how to focus your mind on one thing and to let go of everything else. That feels different depending on the day, the weather, your mood, and what you ate this morning.
Meditation is about acceptance, about being with what is and not resisting. It is the choice to be OK with everything that’s happening. Your goal is not to react or manipulate your experience in any way. Like a grand old stone through the winter, spring, summer, and fall, you don’t move at all.
For most of us, that’s challenging. What's more, it’s hard to remember that meditation shouldn't feel one way or another—we like targets: a purpose, a direction, a bullseye. We want something concrete in the cross-hairs of our intention.
But meditation is different. You’re training your attention to let go of things, learning how to renounce everything and be still. In that stillness, you’ll discover why meditation is a miracle. Here are ten experiences you’ll have as you build your meditation practice.
Sometimes you’ll get sleepy when you meditate. I’ve sat for hours on end and in one sitting I could experience the heights of exalted bliss and the epic struggle to simply keep my eyelids (and the rest of my body!) from collapsing. Don’t get down on yourself about it. It happens.
2. Dullness and Confusion
Confusion and dullness are common in meditation. Just let it be and keep going. Don’t make it about you. Sometimes the road is bumpy, sometimes it’s smooth. But you’re in it for the long haul, so it doesn’t really matter. Just observe it and accept it as it is.
3. You’re Going to Explode
We’re all moving pretty fast. So when you sit down to relax, be still, and let go, you might be in for a surprise. At times, it can seem like parachuting into a Vitamix blender, like you took steroids you got from The Incredible Hulk, or like you’re going to explode. Maybe you even start sweating.
Don’t worry about it. Slowing down like you do in meditation can highlight all the stress and intensity that you’re tamping down just below the surface. Meditating takes the lid off that pressure. It will pass. Just put on your seatbelt.
It’s not uncommon to experience agitation when you meditate. Your feet sting, your knees ache, your skin burns, and it’s like someone hooked you up to Dr. Frankenstein’s happy table when you weren’t looking. Admittedly, it’s hard to be still, relaxed, and attentive when this happens.
But let me tell you, if you stay still and maintain your powerful intention, you’ll feel like a real champion when it’s over.
Sometimes it seems like you’ve been meditating just short of eternity when only five minutes have passed. Who knows why this happens sometimes, but it does. The clock slows way down and you officially move into turtle time. Time slows down, but you don’t. It’s a weird if not uncomfortable experience.
When you meditate, it can seem like all the parts of your life fall into marvelous alignment. Powerful patterns emerge in your mind, creative ideas well up, your next masterpiece presents itself in finished form.
Tempting as it may be, diving into that creative cauldron will bring your meditation to a swift conclusion. You’re there to meditate and let go of the world.
You can experience incredible states of relaxation when you meditate. All your cares, concerns, conundrums, old festering resentments, and wounds melt away. Life is good and smooth like a sunny tropical day at the crystalline blue lagoon. There’s really nothing to worry about.
This is a wonderful experience. Just remember, it comes and goes like the wind. Enjoy it, but don’t get attached.
Bliss is common in meditation. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a rich spring of energy wells up from within like a geyser. Your body is flooded with ecstasy and an intoxicating sense of the goodness and beauty of life. You’re kind of out of your mind (no pun intended).
It’s amazing when you find yourself swimming in awestruck wonder at life and your own existence. This can happen in meditation like nowhere else. You could be sitting in the back of a fish house, and you’ll still be overwhelmed by the miracle of it all.
Somehow, you perceive the magnificent order in things. It all makes sense. There’s no friction anywhere in the system. It’s truly awesome and you’re the luckiest person in the world to be right in the middle of it all, right NOW, savoring each moment with every ounce of your being.
Genuine stillness is one of the most dazzling meditation experiences. When you grow very still, it’s like you disappear. It’s such a beautiful and delicate place. It’s also mysterious. You’re senses expand to include everything.
You become permeable to the world; there’s no longer a sense of inner or outer. There’s just one thing happening. More than anything, you don’t want to disturb this delicate place. You just want to dissolve into that oneness more and more.
Just starting out on your meditation journey? Which if these experiences are familiar to you? Let me know in the comments!