I have been asked of such questions a few times, “When I meditate, I don’t feel peace, what should I do?”, or “I enjoyed meditation for a while, now I don’t have the happy feelings any more, what is going on?”
If this is what you are experiencing, first and foremost I want to congratulate you for taking the time to meditate. You are arriving at a wonderful place of discovery. Whatever you did, you didn’t do it wrong. In fact you can’t do it wrong because you are caring for yourself. Whatever you are going through is only here to help you evolve.
That said, can we make meditation more efficacious? The answer is yes. We begin by cracking open a very popular yet subtle misperception about meditation, which is, if I am doing it right, I am supposed to feel more peace and happiness; and if I am having tumultuous thoughts and feelings contrary to my liking, something must be wrong. This perception is an offshoot of our unconscious conditioning which tends to look for what is wrong. How about we take a moment and let our body tell us whether this perception is true or not? Simply repeat the statement “I am supposed to feel a certain way at meditation and I am not”, how do you feel in our body? Do you feel relaxed, at ease, expansive, and elated, or do you feel confused, contracted and limited? Right there through your feeling the truth is being revealed, as the truth always feels good. And if you don’t, the answer is obvious.
Many spiritual traditions teach us that to meditate is to align ourselves with the truth of who we are. In my experience there are three key elements to sound meditation: breath, listening and self love. Each one of them alone is already powerful, and the combination of them is supremely efficacious. Slow and conscious breath is the fountain of our wellbeing, the ever present source of healing, renewal, guidance and more. Listening without comments or interpretation shows our respect to what is happening. It is seeing the perfection of the moment. It is the demonstration of faith in a universe that always orchestrates everything precisely and lovingly to help us grow. Self love is parenting ourselves with the utmost support and compassion. It is acknowledging the thoughts that arise within us. It is feeling the feelings surfaced in our emotional body. It is loving our heart or our inner child through whatever experience we are having. All these three elements are natural, simple and quick ways to align us to peace and happiness. When we don’t feel peaceful and happy, simply immerse ourselves in these elements bridges the shortest path to peace and happiness.
By now you probably have come to the conclusion yourself that feeling peaceful and happy is not the end goal of meditation, nor is it our job to pursue it. It is the natural outcome of relaxed and conscious breathing, of respectful listening, and of unconditional self love. When meditating, sometimes we feel peace and quiet, other times we are bombarded with disturbing thoughts and feelings. How we feel don’t determine whether the meditation is working or not, how lovingly we respond to the arising thoughts and feelings make all the difference. We may not feel good right away, yet our conscious and loving response to what is happening carves out our capacity to anchor more peace and happiness. So now when you don’t sense peace and happiness during meditation, you know you are not doing anything wrong, the lack of peace and happiness is here for you to love and embrace. I encourage you to explore resting in your breath, and/or listening, and/or loving yourself through the feelings, and see what happens. May you be blessed with ever increasing self love!