How to Handle a "Bad" Meditation

I hate to break this news to you, but some meditations are going to just feel like shit.


Sitting still is a pain in the ass.
— Noah Levine, Against the Stream

At OM*Lab, we usually end our meditations by expressing some form of gratitude for the time that we’ve spent caring for ourselves, to acknowledge ourselves for being in the practice. In that moment, we are acknowledging the practice rather than the outcome.

I never ask anyone to grade themselves.

Yet for most people, especially beginning meditator, it is not uncommon to walk away from a meditation with the desire to label it as good or bad, positive or negative, especially when you’re new. In our society, we love our opinions, don't we? 

Good, for clients, usually means that they felt like they “did a good job” connecting to their breath, or they felt calm and centered. They feel “accomplished”. They feel proud. Check it off the list. 

Bad, on the other hand, usually means that a client couldn’t focus, that they wanted to run from the practice, and that suddenly every ache and pain under the sun appeared. Then when the practice is over, they feel like they “aren’t good at meditating” or berate themselves (or maybe even the instructor, silently). Maybe they even quit. 

But here’s what I want you to start to understand.

It is not the thoughts or the distractions or the painful feelings to address, but rather your reaction to them.

Like in life, some days will feel better than others. But even the “bad” days have value.

When I first started meditating, and still now, though rarely, I would sit down to a meditation, and just find it difficult to let go of anxiety or stress, gripping those feelings like a scratchy, wool blanket.  When that would happen, I would often feel the need to abandon that day’s practice or worse, pull out my phone to distract myself on social media.

Basically, if things weren’t going my way, I figured there was no point.

The beauty of really understanding meditation is that there is gold in every challenge that arises in the practice, as the practice becomes a metaphor for your life.

When things feel bad, do you quit? Do you judge? Do you walk away? Or blame yourself or someone else?

What if instead of being punitive, you got curious.

What can you learn from that so-called bad practice. In meditation, we welcome whatever arises and use it to learn more about who we are, in order to work with rather than against ourselves.

Here’s what I recommend when impatience or judgments sneak into your practice.

  1. Lean in. Now is not the time to run, but rather to sit with it, to embrace it and to just notice that the thoughts or impatience is there, without needing to change anything!

  2. Place your hand on your heart or belly. This can be really helpful to anchor yourself in your practice.

  3. Give yourself permission to have a shitty practice. Give yourself permission to let go of calling it “shitty” and instead just let it be.

  4. Question your judgments. Check in to see if that judgment is helpful or not. That is the practice of mindfulness in action.

  5. Go for a walk instead. There’s nothing wrong with adapting your practice to meet your needs in the moment. You can practice mindfulness in motion too.

There is value in every practice. It is never wasted time, because you can always work with the “good”, “bad” and everything in between.

Want some support in finding a groove? 
Join us for live virtual meditations through OM*Lab Studio. Click here for the schedule - we'd love to see you!


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