Once people start meditating for a while, they start feeling a wide range of different changes in their practice and their life outside meditation. But can you actually feel that you’re getting worse at meditating, rather than progressing?
Some report that and based on observation after meditating for years, I’ll give some reasons as to why this is happening.
Keep in mind that these reasons may not apply to you, but they are common reasons people quit meditating and deem the whole practice useless, even if it’s not.
Everyone is different, but if you ever find yourself getting worse at meditation, you can do two things: keep doing it for longer or find a meditation that better speaks to you.
Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash
True meditation detaches you from expectations, even if the expectations are something you look forward to. The keyword here is forward, while meditation takes place in the present moment.
It’s not uncommon to get addicted to expectations when meditating, and thus, after having feel-good sensations from meditating, it’s hard to stop, but the same can’t always be said if those feel-good sensations are missing.
1. You Don’t Enjoy The Meditation
If you don’t enjoy the process of meditation, it creates a cycle that leads you to believe that meditation isn’t for you, and thus, your mind is able to convince you that you’re getting worse, even if you’re not.
There’s a short-term expectation to meditation, and the mechanisms inside you that don’t want you to meditate, like your mind, will do anything to keep you from pursuing it further, sometimes, making you see it as a practice you don’t enjoy.
You might have enjoyed it at the beginning and relied on that to continue the practice, but your mind has found a way to make you lose interest in it and give you logical reasons as to why you shouldn’t continue.
I say this because it has happened to me. Willpower alone won’t get you to meditate, it shouldn’t feel like a chore, at least, in the long term, otherwise, you run the risk of despising the practice and believing your mind, when all it takes is for you to push through a little longer.
2. You’re Not Meditating Enough
One reason you might start feeling like you get worse at the practice is that you don’t commit to the practice in the first place, and just get to know the surface side of meditation. Meditation is one of those things that you have to approach with a mindset of believing to see, rather than seeing to believe.
A meditation that’s only a few minutes can work, but over the long term, you’re unlikely to see any substantial change in your life from just a five-minute meditation, that is, if you want sustained stable levels of calmness and tranquility, rather than meditation only being used as a temporary fix, as in the case of short meditations.
Short meditations are a bit like the trailer of a movie, a preview, while a long, deep meditation is what allows you to take things to the next level.
Thus, it’s harder to get things right or feel like you are getting things right if you’re not dedicating any real time to meditation.
It doesn’t also have to do with the length of the meditation, there’s both a quality and consistency factor, where, if you stick through meditation, despite feeling like you’re getting worse, something that’s often influenced by external things but still, manage do it, you can teach yourself to embrace the hardship that sometimes is presented with meditation.
The idea of embracing hardship or facing it doesn’t sound attractive, but meditation helps romanticize the idea, in a way that allows you to go through a hard experience while simultaneously having a deep sense of tranquility, without any of the constraints hardships would normally bring, or at least, to a significantly reduced degree.
You won’t find many reporting substantial changes with short 5-10 minute meditations as you would with those committing themselves to longer practices on a consistent basis.
3. You Choose The Wrong Meditation
While you can do a meditation on anything, which meditation you choose can keep you on track, rather than feeling like you’re getting worse. A meditation that speaks to you is more likely to keep you consistent. With consistency, you’re less likely to feel like you’re getting worse, because meditation has just become a habit that you don’t have to force or add any willpower to, initially you found the enjoyment which allowed you to build the momentum.
But if you’re choosing a meditation that doesn’t let you see any development in yourself, but that might have felt good from the start, you should rethink the type of meditation you’re doing. It’s not impossible for meditation to feel good in the short term and feel less fulfilling in the long term.
The equation is often reversed when we talk about deep levels of meditation because the average Joe doesn’t commit themselves to meditating for hours a day to start with.
4. You Aren’t Actually Meditating
What? But I thought meditation could be anything…right? Yes, meditation can be anything, so long as you keep yourself present. But if you’re just sitting there, and letting your thoughts go anywhere they please, rather than meditating, you are daydreaming, and thus, your mind is more likely to associate the practice with daydreaming rather than meditating.
This can even happen subconsciously, often because you have this worry of whether you’re doing the meditation right, which the worry in itself is what causes you to not actually meditate but just focus on your worries.
Now, worrying thoughts might come when you’re truly meditating as intended by mindfulness, the difference is that when you worry about if you’re meditating right, you’re no longer dwelling, you are doing the opposite of meditation.
Allow yourself to fail, even if you are experienced. No one is perfect, and at some point, even for the most experienced meditators, it happens that the attention goes elsewhere, rather than the intention to keep it in the present. That’s not the time for self-judgment, but rather, self-acceptance, taking a step back and directing that thought to the now.
5. You Depend on Feel-Good Sensations
If you’ve been meditating for a while, you place a certain expectation on what the meditation should feel like. A good rule of thumb is to not expect the meditation to be enjoyable all the time.
You will have some negative memories that will try to dissuade you from the practice, and this can also be true if you’re already familiar with the feel-good sensations you can get from a deep meditation.
While it’s a bonus for the meditation to feel enjoyable, it doesn’t have to be, it mainly has to be immersive, which in turn, often brings feel-good sensations, but they’re not to be taken for granted. Because with meditation, you let things be, you are in a particular state where you open yourself up for any thought or emotion.
If you, however, don’t depend on whether you’re gonna meditate based on whether you feel good or not, and instead, have a mindset of allowing it to happen, there’s less resistance, also from the mind when the mind notices you’re not being reactive to the thoughts it presents to you.
In this way, meditation can be liberating, if you don’t make it outcome-dependent, but rather outcome-allowing. However, there’s nothing wrong with having a goal while meditating, in fact, it’s recommended. But don’t be dependent on it.
The lack of feel-good sensations can also make you feel like you’re getting worse because you’re withdrawing from something. As you may be aware already, meditation allows for easier detachment. In that case, the feeling of getting worse can be a sign of progress in disguise, making you less reliant on a certain sensation or emotion to sustain your meditation practice long-term.