Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Experience of Meditation

Hopefully, these blogs have encouraged you to try meditation using one of the techniques that I've recorded on the website or you've found a technique of your own which you were drawn to.
On this last blog of the year I'd like to mention some of the experiences you may encounter during meditation. It helped me enormously to discuss with my teacher what was happening when I first started to meditate so going through some of the common experiences is useful to know what may happen.

Feeling tired or sleepy during Meditation

One of the most common sensations when we first start to meditate is to feel really tired or sleepy. We sit down and start to meditate and then after a while we feel like we’re going to sleep; we are really struggling to stay awake.

What is happening here is your brain waves are starting to slow down from the beta patterns we normally live with during the day. When we are at work, multitasking, answering the phone, replying to emails and so on we live with busy or hectic beta waves which can make us feel stressed and anxious. When we start to meditate, our brain waves start to slow down to alpha waves. This is normally experienced just as we are about to fall asleep.

So, we believe that this is what is happening and therefore we can feel heavy and tired thinking soon we will be asleep. Over time as we recognise that it is just our brain waves slowing down we will be able to stay conscious in meditation without feeling tired.

If we do fall asleep during meditation it doesn’t actually matter. The important thing to remember is once we are conscious again we continue with our meditation practice without judging ourselves. 

Zoning out during Meditation

There will be times for most people during meditation that there is an experience of “zoning” out. We will start to meditate and one minute we are following the technique and then next second we are gone. We only notice this when we are back seemingly having had the experience of disappearing for a while. A short or long time may have passed but we really have no experience of what happened.
This is similar to what happens every night when we are in deep sleep. In deep sleep we are not aware of time or any experience. We are having the experience of no-experience unlike when we are conscious and using our senses to experience everything.

In contrast to this we may sometimes experience being aware of every sound, every thought and every emotion during meditation and not be affected at all by this activity.

These are both experiences and are to be simply noticed and acknowledged and not seen as a goal or a desire to be experienced.    


During meditation we are likely to experience times when the mind is extremely busy and in contrast there will be times when the mind is very quiet when there are no thoughts at all. We may have times when the mind is somewhere in between these two states as well.

It is not a goal or desire of meditation to stop our thoughts. Our thoughts will naturally slowdown of their own accord as we continue our meditation practice. If we try and stop our thoughts we will generally experience more thoughts; it is simply the way it is.
Also, it is not a goal or desire of meditation to train our mind to only have good or positive thoughts. It is so much easier not to label thoughts as good or bad. There are just thoughts and thoughts are a by-product of having a human body and mind.

We may also experience cycles of repetitive thoughts time and time again when we meditate. There may be long gaps between these cycles of thoughts. We may think that the thoughts have been finally put to bed, then suddenly the thoughts are there again as repetitive as ever. We usually like to see some sort of meaning or significance in things like repetitive thoughts. However, they are really just thoughts like any other thoughts and should be regarded in the same way. 

Whenever we are distracted or become lost in our thoughts during meditation, we gently commit to the meditation again and follow the technique. It doesn’t matter how many times this happens in meditation. The important thing is to remind ourselves each time without any sense of failure, to simply follow the technique again. 
More quotes about thoughts are on my website below 


It is not a goal of meditation to try and stop or control our emotions. It is important to see there are no right and no wrong emotions; there is simply a willingness to be open to whatever emotion is experienced.

When we meditate we can feel happiness, sadness, joy, fear or all sorts of different emotions or we may experience no emotions at all. It is not a goal to try and experience only what we would label as good emotions. It is not a sign of success if we feel tremendous happiness nor is it a failure if you experience extreme sadness.

It sometimes looks as if we are trying to stop and control our emotions during meditation when in reality it is the exact opposite.

We do normally find it easier to allow the positive emotions to be experienced in life. When we laugh we usually let it all out with no hesitation, we just laugh. Therefore, in meditation if we experience joy or happiness we are normally okay with that emotion. The trick here is not to expect these good emotions or seek them out as a goal or start to judge the meditation as a failure if we experience the opposite emotion.

It is more likely to be the negative emotions we struggle with. We feel we shouldn’t be feeling them or don’t like the feeling these negative emotions brings to our bodies. Sometimes people find it harder to cry for example or allow anger to flow freely. So, it may be a surprise that these emotions come up during meditation. It may be the first time that these ‘negative’ emotions have been allowed to be felt so it can be a shock to the system. It can help if we remember not to resist any negative emotion being experienced. If we resist feeling the emotion we may feel worse. Allow the emotion to be experienced as much as you can without judging yourself in any way.

If you feel the need to cry, then allow yourself to cry. If we allow the emotion to be felt and relax, our bodies have a natural way of dealing with emotions. We may cry, we may shake, we may tremble - our bodies will know what to do if we trust and allow the body to react to the emotion.

For any powerful emotion that is being felt or if there is any sense of feeling overwhelmed then focus on the technique. Simply follow the technique without pushing away or clinging onto the emotion.

Sensations in the body

During meditation we can feel or become aware of many different sensations in the body.

As with thoughts and emotions, we are not trying to experience a particular sensation or a particular feeling in the body. There is no tick list of sensations we should experience, which tells us that we are progressing with our meditation practice. As with emotions, some people may not witness many sensations in the body at all, but this again is not a sign of progress or lack of progress. We are all unique, so we will experience different things. Some people will experience many sensations and little emotions whilst others will experience little sensations and strong emotions, and vice versa and all the combinations in-between.

It is helpful to know some of the sensations we may feel during meditation so that they are not a surprise to us.

Some of the sensations we may feel are (This list is not exhaustive):
· A general feeling of hot or cold
· A feeling of heat or cold on a particular area of the body
· Feeling of pins and needles
· Aches and pains
· Aware of pressure on a certain area of the body like the head
· A general feeling of energy moving around the body
· The body feeling light or heavy
· A gentle presence or stillness around the body

The important thing is to remain open and curious to whatever sensation is experienced in meditation. If we start to desire or wish for a particular pleasant sensation, then we may start to judge our meditation on whether we experience that wished for sensation or not. We can become distracted by desiring sensations rather than retaining our curiosity as to what meditation is.

It is better to remind ourselves that it is simply a sensation that we are aware of; just like we are aware of thoughts and aware of emotions.

Visions and other Experiences

As we continue with our meditation practice we can also experience some quite powerful and profound states. It is not a sign of success or failure if we do or do not have these experiences, but it is good to be forewarned about them, so you are aware of what may be experienced.

Some of the states in particular the more blissful ones can be very alluring. We may start to desire them, as it has been ingrained in our human nature to seek good experiences and avoid negative ones.

This is when we have to remind ourselves as stated previously, that meditation isn’t about wishing or desiring a particular state or experience no matter how pleasurably they seem. Simply be open to observe whatever is experienced without any goal, then meditation naturally happens.

We also don’t have to be hard on ourselves if we do become lost in chasing states for a while. It is a common trap people can be caught in as it can appear as if you are making progress.

Some of the experiences we can observe are listed below as examples.
· A feeling of Oneness with everything
· A feeling of love for everything and everyone
. The whole body feeling blissful
· A terrific sense of energy in the body which can result in shaking
· A sensation of rising upwards as if you are looking down at your body
· Images of people or colours forming in front of you
· A feeling of a presence sitting next to you or looking down at you
· A sense of about to fall into a great void of nothingness
· A sense of falling for a long or short time

If we encounter any of these kinds of experiences, the important thing is not to hold on to them or try to push them away. If it helps we can put our attention more firmly on the technique we are using for a while and acknowledge the experience as something that was seen and does not mean a sign of success or failure. Eventually we will be able to see these experiences simply as experiences not to be chased or avoided, simply to be witnessed.

The Secret Meditator

One more thing to mention on the blog as I realise it's quite a long one. One technique which I love is simply watching a flame or a log burner or an open fire. No one needs to know you're trying to meditate just put your attention fully on the flames. Whenever you are distracted by thoughts, emotions, sensations or people in the room just bring your attention back to the flames no matter how many times you are distracted. Just lose yourself in the fire. A really good meditation with the nights drawing in leading up to Christmas.

See link below to access my website. There are free meditations available.

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