Home Columnists Andrew McDonald: Meditation – Don’t try to make it perfect

Andrew McDonald: Meditation – Don’t try to make it perfect

If I had a Euro for every time somebody said to me “I can’t meditate properly”, I’d be a rich man.

I usually respond by turning that statement on its head. “Please tell me what meditating properly means”?

Many try meditation but don’t keep at it because they feel they can’t do it correctly. They judge themselves negatively because their minds wandered and they couldn’t fixate on a mystical nothingness for a specific period of time.

I want you to do something. Get a countdown timer (there’s probably one on your phone). Set it for three minutes. Now before starting it, there is a single instruction.

Whatever you do for the three minutes, do not think of a pink elephant. Under no circumstances think of a pink elephant. Now start the timer and remember, don’t think of that pink elephant! Come back to this article when your time runs out.

A simple question; what did you think of during the three minutes? In all honesty, can you say you didn’t think of that pink elephant?

If you didn’t, congratulations, you have an amazing and exceedingly rare ability! I’m guessing though that the vast majority “failed”. I say “failed”, but that word couldn’t possibly be more inaccurate.

Most of you will have thought of exactly what I asked you not to. The reason? You have a human brain and the human brain works in precisely the way yours just did. Simply, if you try not to think of anything, you will think of something. That is human nature.

So the question is, why do you think you fail when you can’t completely zone out and focus on nothing for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes or longer?

The secret to meditation isn’t focusing on nothing. Neither is it absolutely zoning in on one thing in particular and never wavering in your attention. A good meditation is choosing one thing to train your mind on and when you lose track of it, gently bringing yourself back to it.

Your focal point can be your breath, a particular sound, smell, something you can touch, an item you can see (you can meditate with your eyes open too!) or emotion (Buddhists, practitioners of a faith which places a fundamental importance on meditation believe we have a sixth sense, our minds).

Choose what you want to zone in on and gently bring your attention to it. If your mind wanders, that’s perfectly normal and natural. Simply, and without judging yourself or your experience, bring your mind back to whatever it is you chose to focus on.

That’s it! That’s the secret of good meditation. Try it and don’t worry about making it “perfect”!

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