When most of us think of meditation, we think of deep, resounding peace, where we are overwhelmed by a feeling of calm. While we know meditation can improve our emotional well-being and overall health, how do we know when we’re meditating?
If you’re new to meditation, it might feel like a waste of time, especially if you’re not sure how it’s supposed to feel (or if you’re genuinely meditating). However, your perseverance will pay off in the end. We’re here to examine meditation and how it should feel, so continue reading to learn more!
What Should Meditation Feel Like?
Meditation is a variable feeling that isn’t the same for everyone. It doesn’t refer to one singular feeling. For example, you can be deep in meditation with a myriad of feeling swirling under the surface. Often, someone meditating looks expressionless outwardly, but on the inside, a whirlwind of feelings occurs.
You could experience everything from serene calm to outright rage, restlessness, wistfulness, frustration, or excitement in a single meditation session. The swing from one feeling to the next could occur in the space of a few minutes, or it could take several hours.
The point is that the feelings of meditation aren’t one-size-fits-all. You won’t always feel an innate sense of peace or well-being while meditating. In some cases, it might be an emotional rollercoaster as you’re left to observe your thoughts and feelings. This is entirely okay – it might even vary from one session to the next.
States Of Meditation
As mentioned, meditation rarely encompasses one feeling. Oftentimes, we experience a range of emotions that can abruptly swing from one to the next in the span of a few minutes or hours. While beginners may be overwhelmed by the sheer expanse of emotional swings, it isn’t abnormal – even experienced meditators experience this.
Many beginners are all too familiar with frustration during meditation sessions. This is a common feeling, where meditators are often overwhelmed with doubt and irritation over the session. These feelings may tell you, “this isn’t working,” “you’re failing at this,” or “this is pointless.”
These feelings may lead to reluctance to even practice meditation, but it’s 100% normal. As with any feeling in meditation, it’s something you need to observe without a reaction. Eventually, you can teach yourself to let go of these feelings.
In some scenarios, frustration can leave you feeling drained, bored, or restless. Like the original feeling of frustration, these feelings are something you should observe, reactionless, and let go of.
A sense of calm is often associated with meditation. However, while an overwhelming sense of calm is peaceful, it doesn’t always happen. When it does, meditators usually experience a deep and relaxed feeling of time that seems to make time slow.
It could last for a few minutes or even a few hours, giving you a respite from your busy mind, replacing the chaos with a deep sense of calm. This feeling is what keeps many meditators coming back for more, even when other feelings overwhelm the peaceful tranquility.
Meditation doesn’t focus solely on your mind, although this is often the priority. Aside from our busy minds, meditation can blur the barriers between mind and body. When your mind races, your body does too. You might feel physical sensations during the sensation, such as tingling, scratches, or aches.
Or, you might suddenly feel tired and overwhelmed with a heavy, sluggish, drowsy feeling that demands sleep. Many times, this is simply a feeling, something you can work through. Of course, if you’re meditating to fall asleep, you can let these sensations take over, allowing yourself to slip into a deep, restful sleep.
Many meditators experience light and airy feelings during calm moments, overwhelmed by an almost weightless feeling. There might be a mellow warmth that covers your body like a blanket, all the way from head to toe. Generally, at peak “meditative state,” your body will feel relaxed, completely free of tension and sleepiness.
Meditation can sometimes bring about a peculiar feeling of vastness, wherein the mind feels like it has expanded. The mind isn’t at rest, but instead of chaos flooding the mind, it feels completely empty.
You might feel detached like you just decluttered the cobwebs overwhelming every corner of your brain. Your mind may feel like an expansive field of nothingness, wider than the rolling waves of the ocean and bigger than the vast blue of the sky.
Some folks describe this feeling as “clarity,” where you feel suddenly conscious and aware of everything, yet feel empty and clean.
Many times, meditators experience a cocktail of feelings and emotions that ebb and flow throughout the session. It’s often a combination of mental and physical sensations that are difficult to pinpoint, creating an indescribable combination.
Signs You Were Deep In Meditation
Meditation can be frustrating, especially for beginners who aren’t exactly sure how to meditate or if they were meditating. As mentioned, these feelings are normal. That said, a few signs can indicate you were in deep meditation (maybe without knowing it).
One of the key indicators of a deep meditation session is unaccounted time. You may feel like time slid past without you knowing. You were busy, lost in the vastness or chaos of the mind, and overlooked the time racing past.
You might feel like you only practiced for ten minutes, only to find out you spent twenty minutes meditating. You notice time seemed to pass quicker than you could account for, slipping by unaccounted for.
Forgetting About Meditating
It might not seem like it, but forgetting you were meditating is a sign of deep meditation. You might have forgotten you were meditating, getting lost in the myriad of feelings and emotions flowing through your mind. Deep meditation can cause slight to heavy loss of awareness, including loss of awareness that you were meditating.
This can complicate the practice, as the more you think about it, the harder it is to obtain. For example, think of a time you were trying to sleep with a restless mind. The more you thought about being unable to sleep, the more elusive sleep became.
That’s why many experts recommend forgetting about trying to sleep entirely and shifting your focus to something else, like reading or counting sheep. This is why numerous meditation styles historically include some type of mindlessness, like breath awareness or a mantra, to lure your mind from its surface awareness. This can cause you to forget you were meditating at all.
Lost In Thought
When deep in meditation, your surface awareness ebbs into subtle awareness, eventually disappearing altogether. As your mind retreats from full surface awareness, your mind will be busy with thoughts, many of which won’t pertain to meditation.
Allowing your mind to follow its natural course will allow it to calm down, eventually leading to lost awareness, indicating the deepest states of meditation. The concept seems counterintuitive – why would you focus on thoughts if you’re trying to let go? The more you embrace these thoughts and let them come and go as they please, your mind will continue to de-excite, leading to a blissful, deep meditative state.
Sudden Deep Breathing
You might notice you randomly take a deep gulp of air throughout your meditation session. This is a sign of relaxation and deep meditation. Your breathing rate is connected to the amount of rest being acquired during a particular experience.
For example, your breathing will be heavy if you’re moving through a heart-pumping HIIT (high-intensity interval training) session. On the flip side, your breathing rate drops considerably when you sleep.
When you meditate, your breathing rates can drop to deeper states than when you sleep, sometimes to the point where you aren’t breathing at all. In these pockets of extreme rest, you might cease regular breathing altogether. Then, you’ll suddenly take a deep breath before returning to normal breathing.
When you start your meditation session, you might be sitting cross-legged on the floor, spine straight, eyes forward. Once you come out of the session, you might notice your posture went out the door, and now your head is dipped, and your spine is slightly rounded.
This can indicate a deep sense of relaxation achieved in your session. So, even though your posture didn’t stick around for the session, the feeling of peace and calm may persist even after finishing your session.
How Do I Know If I Am Meditating Properly?
Meditation looks slightly different for everyone, and even then, it varies every session. One session, you might feel swamped with frustration, but in the next, you feel a peaceful vastness. You can determine the success of your meditation sessions by how you feel.
You won’t always feel peaceful and calm, but you might notice the above-listed signs after a meditation session. Aside from the session itself, you might notice the benefits of meditation in other areas of your life, such as feeling more motivated and less stressed. You might notice you’re getting better sleep and have more room in your mind – there might be less chaos and clutter in there.
Remember, every session isn’t going to be sunshine and roses with immense calm. Sometimes, you might feel drained or frustrated. When these feelings come, let them wash over you as you watch them pass without judgment. It’s okay to feel varying emotions.