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One of the challenges I found when I first tried meditation was not knowing what it was supposed to feel like while I was meditating. That meant I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right.
Was I supposed to fall asleep? Go into some kind of a trance? Receive messages and insights? Experience deep bliss? Or simply feel relaxed in body and mind?
Over the years that I’ve been practicing meditation, I’ve experienced all of these to some degree.
The important thing to recognise is that we’re all different and will respond in different ways on different days. The best way to approach your meditation session is with an open mind and heart and see what happens.
Rather than hoping or striving for a specific experience, try to remain unattached to the outcome and let your session unfold. It doesn’t matter if you don’t ‘bliss out’, or even if you aren’t able to ignore intrusive thoughts for very long during a session.
Next time will be different!
Meditation feels different every time
Lots of things can influence the way you’ll experience meditation on any given day.
How stressed out you are to begin with will play a part. If you’re overtired and overwhelmed, it may take you a bit longer to ‘drop into’ a meditative state where you’ve quietened the ongoing everyday chatter and stopped getting dragged into trains of thought.
The meditation method you use is a big factor, as is the time you spend.
Even a few minutes of meditation will help you feel more relaxed but the more intense experiences require slipping into a deeper meditative state and therefore need more time.
I rarely meditate for longer than 30 minutes at a time and usually find that 20 minutes is plenty. If I can only squeeze in 5 minutes, it’s always better than nothing.
Even 30 seconds can be enough for a quick mental refresh or to stop you from spiralling into overwhelm. It’s a bit like splashing cold water on your face but for your brain.
How does focused meditation feel?
A simple breath or mantra-focused meditation usually makes me feel physically relaxed.
When I’m doing a seated or lying meditation, after a while I’m barely aware of my body, especially my limbs, so they need to be brought back gently with slight wriggles at the end of the practice.
Depending on how long I spend meditating, my mind does feel clearer.
There’s often a point, after about 10-15 minutes, where things seem to shift inside, like I’m going up a level inside my mind and I sometimes see a swirl of colours in my mind’s eye. It’s a beautiful floaty feeling, bordering on blissful at times.
I have also had some truly blissful experiences when I’ve been able to fully let go and relax into the experience or when I’ve done a guided meditation.
Sometimes there’s a little bit of pressure inside my head, especially with the mantra meditation, almost like a headache. I was a little concerned about this at the time but it seems there’s nothing to worry about and it rarely happens to me any more.
How does a guided meditation make you feel?
A good guided meditation can create strong sensations of warmth, light and vibration in your body. If you’re able to go along with the visualisation that the instructor is describing, your head or heart might feel bursting with light and energy. You might also feel tingling throughout your body or in specific spots.
You can get meditations that are specifically designed to make you feel on top of the world so if you’re looking to get your day off to a good start, they can be a great way to do it.
Often these guided meditations have music that forms part of the journey and can start you off feeling relaxed and then build to a crescendo of powerful emotions.
Some people find the music distracting so if that’s you, look for a guided meditation without music.
You can also get guided meditations that help you sleep, such as yoga nidra. While you don’t actually drift off during yoga nidra, you’ll likely be so relaxed by the end of the session that you should have no problem falling asleep.
Tips for dealing with a very emotional meditation session
Some guided meditations are specifically designed to help you release limiting beliefs that have been holding you back in life. These will encourage you to dig around in uncomfortable experiences in your past so the experience can be upsetting, although ultimately freeing.
Even a non-guided meditation where you are using a focus like the breath, or meditating on a specific question, can lead you to some painful home truths.
You might find yourself sobbing or feeling really angry; try to go along with whatever comes up for you. That said, if you’re suffering with mental health issues, you should check with a doctor or therapist before doing deliberately deep work without support.
You can feel quite drained and tired immediately after one of these sessions, such as the Release Limiting Beliefs meditation that’s part of One of Many’s Living the Change programme.
When planning to do a potentially emotional meditation, avoid scheduling any challenging activities straight afterwards; allow yourself time to rest, reflect and recover.
If you have had a powerful experience, it’s a good idea to journal about it after your meditation session so that you can capture any insights, memories or details that you noticed.
I hope that’s helped you to understand what to expect from different kinds of meditation sessions.
Have fun experimenting!