The Reason You Think You’re Bad at Meditation is Actually the Point of Meditation

By Andrew Snavely

Have you ever tried to sit down and meditate and then come to like ten minutes later and realize I've just been thinking this whole time and feel like you didn't get anything out of it and you're like, I'm actually more stressed, having sat here and just thought for ten minutes than if I had just not done this at all?

This is the first time I recognized the practical benefits of meditation in my life. I had been “trying” to do meditation for some time and wasn’t sure if I was getting anything out of it but was just going through the process.

I went to pick my pup Leela up from dog boarding and I noticed she had this big chunk of fur missing from her butt right above her tail.

It looked like someone started to shave her and then was like, “Oh shoot this is the wrong dog.” I wasn’t angry at all, I was actually just making light of it to the person that worked there. I was like, “Haha what happened here?” And they were like, “oh, I don’t know I think she was like that.” And I think, “Well no, I know for sure she wasn’t like that.”

So she calls the groomer out. And the groomer is says, “I didn’t do it and I’m the only one who has access to the tools.” And I’m thinking, “Ok…well, something happened here – there are very clean lines, this isn’t like a patch of her hair just fell out – it’s like that time you accidentally shaved part of your hair off as a kid.

And this thing I didn’t care about started to become something I cared about. So the manager comes out and is says, “Oh yeah I think I saw this other dog nipping at her and that’s probably why there’s hair missing.” So now I'm starting to brew and am thinking “So your story isn’t someone thought she was a dog that was supposed to get a haircut and made a mistake, it’s ‘we were neglecting your dog to the point that another dog was able to bite at her enough that a chunk of her hair is missing.' That’s the story you want to go with??”

And I felt the fire in my chest start coming up from my gut and I was about to explode — and then: I caught myself feeling the fire. And that momentary pause, just by recognizing what was happening, allowed me to think “these people just work here and clearly don’t know what happened. Yelling at them isn’t going to fix this.”

The goal of meditation is not to sit down for 10 minutes and NOT think: The goal is to sit down and become mindful THAT you’re thinking. Thoughts just come up, they do that automatically, there’s no way to stop them. They’re like snowflakes just tumbling from the sky. The faster you can be like, “Oh that’s a snowflake,” the less likely it will snowball into minutes of distracted thought.

So while you’ve been frustrated that when you’ve tried to meditate you just sit there and think, you’re actually doing it right.

One of the tenets of mindfulness, which is what we’re trying to foster by meditating, is recognizing that we’re thinking. And with practice, attempting to recognize that we’re thinking faster and faster, shortening the time between the snowflake appearing and our mindful realization that it’s there.

And being able to do this in our lives, being able to recognize thoughts or emotions when they appear, keeps them from being snowballs that end up taking over.

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Andrew Snavely

Andrew founded Primer in 2008 and brings 15+ years of men's style expertise. Known for his practical, relatable approach to style and self-development, he has been a recognized speaker at conferences and has styled work for top brands. Off-duty, he loves photography & editing, and enjoys road trips with his dog, Leela. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, educated in DC, and living in LA for nearly 20 years, Andrew's diverse experiences shape the relatable and real-world advice that has helped millions through Primer. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.