What Does Meditation Feel Like?
It is a common experience when you first start meditating to wonder if you are doing it right.
I know that when I first began my daily meditation practice I was constantly questioning myself, asking is this how it is meant to feel? Am I breathing correctly? What am I supposed to be experiencing? Should I have cleared my mind completely? Did I do it wrong?
For many people meditation is a word laden with spiritual mystique. We think of Buddha and Buddhist monks and meditation retreats. We think of people in white or orange robes with incense and special bells and gongs. We find it hard to imagine that we as simple meditators just sitting at home could possibly have the same kind of meditation experiences as those more experienced, “spiritual” people, right?
The truth is everyone has to start somewhere and everyone experiences the same doubts and questions about the practice of meditation. The way I understand it, even a seasoned Buddhist can question their own experience of meditation as they are learning and moving along their spiritual path.
That’s because the process of meditation is an ever-evolving journey. You might access deep states of meditative peace and calm one day and the next day you might return to a restless mind again, mentally going through your to-do list.
Of course, the more that you practice, like anything, the better you get, until it becomes increasingly easier for you to connect with that inner stillness and be in the present moment, simply sitting with your breath.
In my own experience, I have had mere seconds during a meditation session where I realize I am doing it! I’ve tapped into the meditative state. I have lost a sense of awareness of the outside world and I experience a calm, peaceful, and deep sense of connection. The problem is as soon as you become aware of and observe that meditative state, you can get caught up in new thoughts about how you have “done it right” and that detracts from the experience again!
The answer is in letting go of that kind of ego-driven (but entirely normal) observations. Instead, try to simply be in the present moment as a full experience.
I recommend that you release any judgment about how your meditative experience should be going, and surrender to whatever comes up for you each time you sit to meditate.
There are Many States of Meditation
It’s good to remember that just because someone looks as though they are peacefully meditating, what’s going on inside could be quite different! They might be experiencing a whirlwind of emotions, impatience, frustration, body aches, etc.
Meditation is not something you can perfect right away, it is entirely individual and depends on many factors such as, how calm you generally are in your daily life, what type of meditation technique you are using and how often you have been meditating.
Frustration is normal at first. If you tend to have a monkey mind, you might find it extra challenging to sit and allow your nervous system to calm down. If you are in a bad mood, meditation can feel impossible. The answer is to take a deep breath, and do it anyway.
As long as you understand that meditation is complex, very individual, and something that you will continue to master as you deepen your practice, you will enjoy the process.
The best thing to do is to let go of the desire to feel anything and allow yourself to simply be in the present moment.
If you are having trouble consider doing a meditation course or finding a meditation teacher to guide you. Sometimes we need that extra input to help us stick to the practice and understand how to get the best out of it. I also recommend incorporating a mindfulness meditation practice into your everyday life. That just means remembering to stop and be in the moment as often as possible, allowing yourself to breathe deeply and relax.
Here are some of the most common meditation experiences to be aware of.
You Experience Stillness
In deep meditation, you feel a wonderful stillness present in your entire body. You have the sensation that there is nowhere else to be and nothing else to do. You are content with just breathing here now. Your nervous system feels calm in a way that you have not experienced outside of meditation. There is a sense of deep relaxation.
You Get Lost in Thought
Deep meditation means that your mind is moving into deeper and eventually no awareness. As you experience that for the first time as part of meditation, you inevitably have new thoughts that have the potential to distract and excite your mind away from this deep meditation.
It feels counterintuitive but actually observing your thoughts instead of trying to push them away is the best way to meditate. When you resist your thoughts you actually make them stronger, so let them be there but don’t get too caught up in them. Simply acknowledging their presence is enough.
You Feel Detached from Yourself
One of the best feelings I have experienced in meditation is one of disconnection from myself. It can feel a bit like you are watching a movie or like you have left this world. A deep meditative state feels like you are out of your whole body, somehow beyond it energetically. You leave behind any bodily sensations or physical pain and move into a higher state of consciousness.
Clarity and a sense of Vastness
It took me some time to find out that this feeling of vastness and clear thinking was one of the positive side effects of meditation. It’s a strange sort of feeling, almost as though your mind has expanded. It can continue on long after the meditation session, bringing calm and relaxation. It feels as though your mind is expansive and empty, as wide and infinite as the sky.
Sometimes as you are meditating you can experience sensations throughout your whole body like temperature changes, twitching, sudden twinges, or spontaneous movements. It’s nothing to worry about and is individual for everyone.
You can also experience frustration and irritation in your body as a reflection of your frustrated or busy mind. We are curious beings, and resistance is present in all of us. If you find yourself wanting to move, stand up or quit you can be sure it’s resistance in the form of physical sensations.
This is also very normal in all meditators. The trick is to take a deep breath and allow yourself to move through those feelings. They will pass by just as your distracting thoughts pass by.
Eventually, you will experience calmer and more positive physical sensations. Your body will begin to feel light, airy, and warm and a sense of calmness will come over your entire body as you relax. There are certain guided meditations you can do that will help you overcome these physical reactions through mental body scans or deep relaxation by body part.
I hope you feel that this helps you to understand some of the wonderful benefits and feelings that can arise from a daily meditation practice. There is no one feeling that you are supposed to feel in meditation and every session will be different, no matter your experience.