How To Meditate & Why Most People Fail
Hello, my name is Noah Elkrief. In this blog post I’m going to show you how to meditate. This blog post will comprise of an explanation for how to meditate, mostly in the format of telling you what to avoid. Telling you how not to meditate is really the easiest way to show you how to meditate. And in the process of explaining this all to you, it will also take the form of guided meditation in some way.
First off, just take a moment to get in a comfortable position. In your chair, on the floor, wherever you are, just get in a comfortable position. Make sure you turn off any distractions. And now, just take a deep breath to start out.
As long as you have a goal, your mind will be busy trying to achieve it
For most people, when they want to start a meditation practice, they have a goal in mind. The goal generally is to silence their mind. I’m here to tell you that doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. There’s a very simple explanation why. If you come up with any goal, your mind will help you get there. That’s very useful with external goals. But, if the goal is to silence your mind, then your mind will help to get rid of the thoughts in your mind, and what that creates is a headache, agitation and a busy mind, right?
When you have a bush in the backyard you want to get rid of, what do you do first? Well you think, “What is the best way to get rid of it, how do I get rid of it quicker, what are the steps I need to take, am I doing it okay?” Right? If the question is how to get rid of my mind, who’s going to answer it? Thoughts. You need to do this more, you need to do that more, you need to try this, you need to try that, why isn’t it working? End that failing game. That will only create a lot of suffering. As long as you have any goal of trying to get rid of thoughts or get somewhere, there’s no relaxation. There’s going to be effort and there is going to be a mind that is busy trying to help you. Whatever goal you have created, forget about it.
Whatever you are trying to get rid of, that’s what you will think about
Just let yourself sit there with me, let yourself just be there and rest. Let thoughts do whatever they want just for this moment. The other goal people create is to get rid of a particular thought. The only issue with that is you can’t just get rid of a thought by trying to force it away or push it away. Just look for yourself, if I tell you “don’t think about honey”, what happens? Close your eyes for a few moments, and don’t think about what honey looks like when it comes out of a jar, don’t think about what you put honey on, don’t think about the taste of honey, give that a shot. What happens? You think about honey. That’s the way mind works. If you try to get rid of a thought you’ll just end up thinking about it more. So don’t do that.
Don’t try to silence mind, don’t try to get rid of a particular thought, you’ll just end up making mind busier and just giving more attention to that thought. So stop, bring your attention back to my voice (the words on this page).
You don’t control thoughts, so stop trying to control them
Let yourself be there as you are, whatever thoughts come, let them come. Thoughts come and go, it’s ok. They don’t mean anything about you.
You see the tendency in meditation is to try to control thoughts. But do you control thoughts? Can you control thoughts? Look for yourself. What’s the next thought to pop up in your head? Do you know what it will be before it shows up? Really be honest with yourself. Do you know what the next thought will be? Take a moment to look. Do you know whether it will talk about the future or the past? Do you know whether it will be a question or an answer, a judgment or a comment? You don’t know. If you don’t know what the next thought to pop up in your head is, you don’t pick your thoughts. If you picked the thoughts that entered your mind, you would only pick positive ones and never pick negative ones. You don’t control the thoughts in your head, so stop trying.
Trying to control your thoughts leads to endless internal struggling
As long as you’re trying to control thoughts, you’re fighting a battle in your head, get rid of this one, get rid of that one, control this. It’s like trying to control a bull – if you’re trying to control a bull and you can’t control it, you’re just going to be fighting and it’s not enjoyable, it’s not relaxing to engage in a war in your head. Stop. Let your mind do whatever it wants, simply because you have no choice anyhow. Stop. Let thoughts come and go as they please.
Since you don’t control thoughts, they don’t mean anything about you
Let thoughts say anything they want. If a negative thought pops up, ok, you don’t need to get rid of it, you don’t need to fix it. It doesn’t signify there’s something wrong with you, and it doesn’t signify you are negative, it’s just a thought. You didn’t put it there, it doesn’t mean anything about you, it just showed up, you didn’t decide to put it there. Okay?
It’s like if you see somebody hitting somebody outside, you may think the action is bad, but you’re not going to feel guilty and to blame for it because you didn’t make it happen. You didn’t control whether it occurred or not. So you may think a thought is bad, but if you didn’t put it there and you’re not in control of it, then it doesn’t signify anything about you. Stop, let thoughts do whatever they want.
Bring your attention back to reality – what is here now
Bring your attention back here, to my eyes, to my voice, or to these words on the page. Not because my eyes or my voice are better than your thoughts, just stop. Just out of curiosity, what is here now, what is here in this moment, away from my imagination? Because that’s what thoughts are – imagination. Let thoughts do whatever they want and then bring your attention back here.
Are you sure that you control where your attention goes?
The next trap that meditators are plagued by is believing in the fallacy that you control where your attention goes. What happens is, when I say “Stop, bring your attention back here,” the tendency of a meditating mind is to say, “I brought my attention to his voice. I did that. I controlled that. I took a step back, I became present, I became conscious.” And then since you think you did that, since you take credit for when the step back occurs, you take credit for when attention goes away from thoughts, you naturally also take credit for when attention goes to thoughts. That means, when when I say “Stop, and come back to voice,” there are often self-judgments that pop up in your mind. For example “It was bad that I was just following thoughts for the last 5 seconds or 5 minutes, why was I following them, why can’t I get it?” Because it’s not up to you. It’s not up to you.
Take a moment, really to be honest with yourself – do you control where your attention goes? I am not asking whether you think that you will be able to control it in the future, or whether you should be able to control it. I am asking you “Do you control where your attention goes?” In your direct experience, do you control where your attention goes? Of course not. If you controlled where your attention goes, you would never put your attention on thoughts that create suffering. You would never put your attention on the thoughts that create anxiety, worry, shame, sadness, anger. Because that’s the cause of suffering, right? If you controlled your attention, you would always keep your attention here, now. But yet you don’t.
Since you don’t control where your attention goes, it doesn’t mean anything about you
If you have the belief that you can control where your attention goes (even though you can’t), that results in self hatred and shame, amongst other forms of suffering. If you think that you control your attention, then you will blame yourself for when your attention goes to thoughts. You will have these judgments, “Why can’t I keep my attention on his voice? Why do I keep going back to thoughts? What’s wrong with me? I am failing at this for not being able to keep my attention on the present moment and away from thoughts.”
But, when you see clearly that you don’t control your attention, then you allow attention to go wherever it wants because you recognize you don’t control it and it doesn’t mean anything about you. We see “okay, attention went there, attention is here”, end of story. There’s no “I did bad or good”, it doesn’t signify anything about you when attention goes to thoughts. Because you don’t have any control over it, you’re not to blame for it. If your attention is constantly on thoughts, fine, okay, that doesn’t mean anything.
So when I say “Stop, bring your attention back to my eyes, bring your attention back to my voice,” just for a second then the tendency of mind is to say, “Okay, I need to make sure I stay focused on his voice and his eyes.” You can’t, you can’t do that. Look, try, try to stay attentive to my voice. Try to keep your attention on my eyes, just notice what happens – oh, another thought. Oh, another thought. It’s okay, that’s what happens. Thoughts pop up and then they go, thoughts take your attention and then they go, but it doesn’t mean anything about you and you don’t have to stop it.
Allow everything to be as it is in your mind because there is nothing actually wrong
Meditation is about allowing this moment to be exactly as it is. Before you try to fix, solve, or get rid of anything, we first have to ask the simple question, what is wrong? How do I know? Where’s the problem in this moment? Where is your nose? You can find it right here in reality. You can touch it and see it. Now, where is your problem? Where is your hair? Now, where is your problem? It doesn’t exist in reality.
Stop, bring your attention back here to this moment. You see, the regularly trained mind says, “It’s bad to look like this, good to look like that, bad to have this job, good to have that job, bad to be single, good to be married, bad to live in an apartment, good to have a house, etcetera, etcetera. But the spiritual mind says none of those things are “bad” or “good”, but then makes a whole new set of concepts about what is “good” and “bad” in your own mind. It’s “good” to have these types of thoughts, and “bad” to have those types of thoughts. “Good” to have a quiet mind, “bad” to have a busy mind. “Good” to give attention to this moment, “bad” to give attention to thought. “Good” to be dis-identified with thoughts, “bad” to be identified with thoughts. Forget about all that. All that exists in your imagination, not part of reality. There is no “good” and “bad” in reality. Thoughts come, thoughts go, that’s it. No need to do anything, no need to fix anything. Stop, allow this moment to be as it is. That’s what meditation is, stop, allow this moment to be as it is.
Please close your eyes and imagine a big house in your mind right now. Then, imagine a small house. Which house is bigger? Neither, they are both imaginary.
If nothing is wrong with here, then you don’t have to try to get “there”
Allow your thoughts to do whatever they want. If they’re positive, let them be positive, if they’re negative, let them be negative. If thoughts are questioning everything, “I don’t understand this”, “I can’t figure it out” – okay, let them do that. But recognize the one that is trying to figure it out, the one that is trying to understand what I am saying, trying to make sure they can practice it, apply it, remember it, that’s not you – those are thoughts. They pop up and then they go, they try to understand and then they go, they try to figure it out and then they go.
But that trying to figure it out is based on the idea that something is wrong now, something is missing now. Because if nothing is wrong, if nothing was insufficient, then you wouldn’t need to get anywhere, and if you don’t need to get anywhere, you don’t need to figure anything out, right? If you’re sitting where you are, and that’s a bad place to be, then you have to figure out where to get to and how to get there. But if you’re okay with where you are, you don’t have to figure out anything, you’re just sitting.
There is no better or worse experience, so stop trying to get to the “great” experience
So the same is true with this mental world that you’ve created – we think “I need to get from my current experience to that wonderful experience”. But that’s a trap. What’s wrong with your experience now? Who says? If you have a feeling in your chest, your mind could say it’s bad, it’s anxiety, it’s this, it’s that. It’s just a feeling, how do you know if it’s bad or good? Who says in reality? A thought pops up and it says it’s bad, good, or it says that this feeling means there’s something wrong with me, or it means I’m okay. Mind creates these ideas of states – one experience is good, one experience is bad. We think “I need to go from the bad experience to that good experience.” That’s a trick.
Peace and freedom comes from recognizing that no experience is bad because no experience means anything about you, and there is no experience that is inherently wrong or insufficient or lacking. If you have a bruise, can you be at peace in the midst of a bruise? Yeah, because it’s just a feeling on your arm, of course you can be at peace with a feeling on your arm. If you have a stomach ache and you go and watch TV, or you go and eat something that distracts you from it, you’re fine. You can be in peace in the midst of a stomach ache. Why? Because it’s just a sensation in your stomach, it doesn’t determine whether you are in peace or not. The same is true for all the physical sensations that you experience. A feeling is just a feeling, end of story. No feeling is “bad” or “good”. These are just concepts in our imagination that we superimpose onto feelings.
As long as you are using meditation to try to get and keep a “good” experience, you will suffer
Meditation is not a tool to get you from a bad experience to a good experience. Because then you’re going to spend all day judging your current experience to be insufficient which creates the feeling of lack and disappointment. You will have anxiety about whether you’ll ever get to that good experience. And you will be using mental processes (busy mind) the whole time trying to get to that good experience. Sometimes you will get to that good experience, but when you’re there, you’ll worry about losing it, you’ll worry about keeping it.
You can’t keep any experience because that is not how experiences work
Once you fail at keeping the “great” experience, you’ll start having the thoughts “Why can’t I keep this experience? Why can’t I stay with that experience? What am I doing wrong?” Well, the answer is very simple – experiences come and go, they change. But who you are is always here, just aware. You are there in the midst of every experience. You are there when there’s heaviness, you are there when there’s lightness. Stop. Allow your experience to be what it is. And if you notice your mind says there’s something wrong, ok, mind says there’s something wrong, it doesn’t mean that there is.
“Good” and “bad” aren’t a part of reality
Please take a moment to clap your hands. Now, tell me, is that a good movement or a bad movement? It’s just a movement. Mind could say it’s ugly or pretty, nice or bad, creative or not, but it’s just movement, none of that is part of reality, part of the facts. Now take one of your hands and rub your other arm with it. After you do that, take one of your hands and tap your other arm with it. Which sensations/feeling was better and which was worse? It doesn’t exist in reality. The feeling can’t be bad or good, that is an idea. The feeling is just a feeling, then we create the concept of good or bad and we superimpose that concept onto reality and say that the feeling is good or bad. But, in reality good or bad wasn’t a part of the feeling itself. Stop, let yourself be as you are, stop, just be with yourself.
Meditation is all about allowing this moment to be as it is
Meditation is not about getting somewhere, it’s not about fixing something, it’s not about creating a better state or experience, it’s about being here as you are and allowing that. And if your mind can’t allow that, allow that your mind can’t allow it, it doesn’t have to. Because who you are is not thoughts. Who you are is aware of thoughts. So if thoughts are saying, “I can’t allow, something’s wrong,” just watch – ok, mind says something’s wrong, okay, mind says I can’t allow, okay, that’s fine. You are a step behind thoughts, you are a step behind feelings, they are not you, they are just experience.
Stop. Just sit there, just be with yourself, you don’t need to get away from yourself, you don’t need to fix anything about you or your experience because nothing is broken, nothing is wrong. How do I know? Because if I’m looking at you, I can’t see or hear anything wrong. Where is wrong? On your shoulder? Where is bad? On your chest? Where is something missing? On your chin? How do you know your experience isn’t good enough in reality. What is the smell of wrong? What is the shape of bad? Stop, bring your attention back to this world, back to my eyes.
How to meditate
Allow this moment to be as it is. And that is how to meditate, that is how to meditate in a way that frees you from the constant efforting, anxiety, shame and lack. If you try to get to an experience in meditation, you’ll spend your whole life comparing experiences and that’s not a very enjoyable way to live life. So I welcome you to sit there and allow this moment to be as it is. And any time you notice any degree of not allowing, allow that. Any time you notice thoughts being busy, allow that. Allow attention to go wherever it wants. Allow it. Because you don’t control it anyhow.
Thanks for reading this blog post about how to meditate
Ok, so that’s all I have to say about how to meditate. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. If you have any comments, feel free to share below. It was a pleasure being with you. Bye.