Meditation: What to Notice

What to Notice as You Start Meditating

By Leo Babauta

You’ve sat for 2 minutes for a few days now, and it’s possible that meditation so far hasn’t met your expectations.

You might be frustrated, confused, not sure if you’re doing it right.

Let’s start by throwing out our expectations of what meditation should be. There is no right way to do it, and it will be different for every person, different each time you do it. Go into your meditation sessions with no idea how it will be, no expectations, open to whatever happens. No judgments.

A few things to notice as you get started:

1. Your mind wanders. This might be frustrating for some, as you really want to concentrate on your breath. Don’t worry about it. Again, you might have a preconceived expectation of what meditation should be like, but in reality, what is happening is exactly what should be happening. It’s how your mind works — it’s just that we are not often aware of it. You can’t force your mind to fit a specific mold. Just notice the wandering, and gently and compassionately return to your breath. When you wander again (often immediately), return again. Keep doing it, and you’ll get better at staying there, but don’t force it.

2. Two minutes might feel very short. Or it might feel longer than you expected. If it feels short, you might worry that you’re not getting a lot of benefits out of just 2 minutes, and you’ll be tempted to do more. Don’t worry about the length of your meditation for now. If it feels long, feel free do do a minute less. What matters most is not the length or benefits, but forming the habit.

3. You might get distracted. Maybe there are kids walking around, maybe there’s music or some noise coming from somewhere, maybe you’re worried that you’re not wearing the right thing or sitting the right way. Just observe the distractions. It’s a part of meditation. Now come back to your breath. It’s OK to get distracted, but learn to have awareness of the distraction process, and learn to come back.

4. You might forget. If you were supposed to do it after brushing your teeth, but you forgot, that’s OK. Put a note next to your toothbrush or on your bathroom mirror, or somewhere you’ll see it at the right time. A reminder is a good thing in the beginning. Later you won’t need it.

5. You might be worried you’re not doing it right. Don’t worry — you are. If you’re doing it, you’re doing it right. The main thing is to sit. The second thing is to breathe. The third thing is to pay attention to your attention, and to practice bringing it back to your breath. If you’re doing the first thing, you’re good. If you practice the second and third things, even if you don’t do too well at them, you’re great.

Habit formation is about repeating a small action over and over, right after a trigger, until it becomes ingrained. So focus right now on doing a small action, repeatedly, every day.

Once you have the habit ingrained, you’ll notice yourself getting better. And the noticing is really what you’ll get good at. What to notice as you meditate: that noticing is everything.