Is There A "Wrong" Way To Meditate? Every Practice Is Personal, Experts Say
No matter how glamorous meditation is made to look on Instagram, keep in mind that influencers are often hyping up just one snapshot in a series of memorable moments. Honing in on your zen isn’t always easy, and I’m willing to bet that, prior to capturing such a “mindful” Kodak moment, at least a handful of these wellness gurus struggle to settle their thoughts off camera. Take it from someone who’s been meditating for years: There’s no “wrong” way to meditate. Personally, there are plenty of times when I’ll get into position on the floor, with my legs crossed like a pretzel, my eyes closed gently like a curtain across an open window — and yet serenity just doesn’t come through. And you know what? That’s OK.
Not only is it OK, my friend, but it's also pretty common to doubt yourself during meditation, no matter who you are. In fact, in a recent interview with Allure, television producer and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes mentioned that she’d recently started her own meditation practice, but felt like she just hadn’t gotten the hang of it yet. “I'm terrible at [meditating] in the sense that you're not supposed to be terrible or good,” she told the outlet. “There's no way to be good or bad at [meditation], but I feel like I'm terrible at it right now.”
Rhimes is right — it’s not really possible to be "good" or "bad" at meditation, and that’s simply because there’s no "right" or "wrong" way to practice. “Most people think that meditation means sitting cross-legged at the top of a mountain,” Patricia Karpas, co-founder of Meditation Studio, co-host of the podcast Untangle, and head of content for Muse, tells Elite Daily over email. “But that’s just one way, and could not be further from the truth for most of us today.”
I know myself, and whenever I hear someone talking about being a more "mindful" person, it almost always comes off as some kind of new-agey concept meant to replace the classic '90s phrase “take a chill pill.” Of course, meditation as a practice has been around for centuries, but still, the concept of being more mindful has definitely been reimagined over the years. Even though the phrase has become a kind of catch-all to umbrella the various ways someone can practice mindfulness and be more contemplative in their everyday life, Karpas says that, at the heart of it, meditation is any exercise that calms your mind and helps you focus.
So, when you think about it that way, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to meditate; it all just depends on what style of meditation works best for you. According to Maria Margolies, a yoga and meditation teacher, Gaiam ambassador, and certified health coach, there are countless forms of meditation, from sitting upright, to lying on your back, to walking around a park. The ultimate goal, she tells Elite Daily, is to not only practice mindfulness, but to also take that same quality of awareness from your practice and apply it to ordinary activities in everyday life.
“People tend to think that, if you can't stop thinking, you can't meditate,” Margolies tells Elite Daily — however, she adds, that’s simply not true. “If we can breathe, we can meditate. The goal is observing what is. Not pushing away or stopping our thoughts or feelings.” In other words, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
Still, even expert yogis acknowledge that, sometimes, the mind just doesn’t want to settle. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, meaning nothing ever really starts out on a perfect note. If you have to experiment a little, or even a lot, to figure out what method of meditation works for you, then so be it. Be gentle with yourself on days when your brain feels a little foggy, and the quiet doesn’t come. Know that it’s natural, and that you can always try again later or on another day.
Kelli Douglas, a Vedic meditation instructor and owner of The Meditation Studio in New York, says that, prior to finding her Vedic practice — which, BTW, is just a super simple form of meditation in which the only requirement is to practice for 20 minutes, two times a day — she always felt like meditation never worked for her busy mind. “I tried many [ways of meditating] before learning Vedic meditation,” Douglas tells Elite Daily over email. “When I went to an intro class for Vedic meditation, I was relieved to learn that the mind thinks involuntarily, just like the heart beats involuntarily, and trying to stop the mind from thinking was never going to happen, and not the point of meditation.”
Bottom line: The point of meditating is to learn how to be comfortable with your thoughts, and to bring awareness to every moment you experience in life. Again, there isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to meditate, but there is value in letting a teacher or instructor in the space help to guide you toward the right practice for your individual needs.
If you still feel awkward sitting on the floor with your eyes closed, try taking a guided meditation class, download an app, or just try your best to be more mindful during the little moments in life, like when you pour your first cup of coffee in the morning, or settle under the covers before bed. You don't have to quiet your mind; you just have to accept whatever's passing through it.