What does meditation feel like? Similar to any other new activity, meditation beginners, or those who are interested in the practice, are always eager to know what to expect to tell if they are doing it right or not. According to the Indian speaker and writer, Jiddu Krishnamurti, to understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet and still. So, should you expect absolute stillness or a mixture of feelings when meditating?
According to Yoga International, meditating is a practice or technique for resting the mind and obtaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the usual waking state (6). It is sitting still for minutes or hours, strictly watching the mind and doing nothing else. Originating in India’s ancient Vedic times, meditation is a practice with the real purpose of connecting oneself to their deep inner self, and it is one of the modalities utilized in Ayurveda, i.e., Science of Life (4). Being a science, this practice has definite principles, follows a specific order, and produces results that can be verified.
Meditation Feelings and Experiences: What Does Meditation Feel Like?
Every beginner and even some experienced meditators get distracted (10). For example, instead of concentrating on your breathing, your mind may pull you to explore your worries, hopes, and plans. Do not give up even when such happens because, with time, your ability to focus on meditating will increase. You will begin to enjoy the subtle meditation experiences, confirming that you are on track, and these distractions will have less impact on your feelings of peace and completeness that comes with meditation.
Note that meditation analyzes human beings as consisting of the physical body, inner faculty, and deep inner self (4). The physical body is the normal tangible appearance, while the inner faculty is the working consciousness that is continuously changing and consists of the mind (processes sensory perceptions), intellect (evaluates, discriminates, decides, and judges), ego (doer and experiencer), and Chitta (stores all memories and impressions of life). Lastly, the deep inner self is the unchanging pure consciousness, source of all intelligence, knowledge, creativity, and natural laws that govern life.
What to Think about While Meditating?
Worrying whether you are in deep meditation or not may ruin your experience. Therefore, do not think about that while meditating. Approach meditation without agenda. According to expert opinion on Elite daily, it is okay to let your mind wander (11). Meditation thoughts may be determined by the type of technique utilized, such as concentration, contemplation, guided meditation, use of natural sounds, like the ocean, mantra, meditative movement exercises, like yoga and tai chi, qigong, and breathing exercises. For instance, Raja yoga meditation is a meditative yoga of the mind that focuses on calming the mind and bringing it to one point concentration (3). All these methods function at different levels, such as the mind, senses, emotions, and intellect. Some are simple to learn and practice, while others are more difficult (4).
According to Declutter The Mind, meditation is not one feeling despite people sitting still, and even expressionlessly, there might be a whirlwind of feelings within them (8). It is a practice that is much deeper and more complicated than merely using breathing methods to enter a meditative state. One meditation session may provoke a combination of the 3 main feelings of meditation, which are:
- Frustration – A feeling that whatever you are doing is pointless, not going well, unproductive, or a failure. Frustration may result in tiredness, restlessness, and boredom.
- Calmness – This is a deep and peaceful type of serenity, a feeling of time slowing down whereby the mind stops racing and thoughts slow down. It is among the most favorite meditation feelings that keep many returning to the practice even after several instances of frustration. It makes you feel satisfied being in the present moment, and it may even linger after the practice.
- Vastness – This is a feeling of clarity where the mind behaves as if it has expanded, usually after long moments of calm when the brain is at rest, and suddenly something switches. The mind feels empty, vast, and as beautiful as a clear blue sky. Your crowded mind begins to declutter, and you feel empty and clean.
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Through meditation, you learn that there is a difference between analyzing what you feel and simply observing it. We always analyze and act on our thoughts, but in meditation, you learn a different way of approaching mental events by letting them go. To know that you are meditating correctly, the following will happen (10):
Mindfulness meditation insists on the non-judgmental awareness of the current moment; therefore, the ability to easily concentrate on one activity at a time proves that meditation is working. You become less worried about the future and work on the current single task efficiently because you are more in tune with the present. You can try counting your out-breaths, and if you manage to count up to 10 without losing count, you have made significant steps.
Amazing meditation experience
Instead of worrying about the experience, focus on what you are experiencing at the moment, and maintain a position of impartial observation. The awareness confirms that your meditation is working. It is normal that while in meditation, your senses will be different from usual. For instance, they may heighten, so do not try to analyze, replicate, or even reject these experiences. Actual progress happens when you can maintain a very natural and objective awareness of whatever arises without grasping at it one way or another.
Other people noticing changes
Meditation has physical and psychological impacts noticeable to those around them.
What Does Deep Meditation Feel Like?
Thoughts, judgments, ideas, and perceptions cloud the mind, but when in a deep meditative state, there is usually vastness of consciousness that feels like clarity (8). Similar to falling asleep, transition into deep meditation can be subtle, and you may unknowingly dive deep into this state of tranquility.
Signs that You were Deeply Meditating
What does meditation for hours feel like? After a session, you can evaluate the experience to know if you dove deep (1). Common signs include:
Forgetting that you were meditating
Deep meditation would entail a heavy loss of awareness, so if you were thinking that you were meditating while in practice, you were not deep. Keep your mind preoccupied with other things. This is why some meditation styles employ the use of a yantra, mantra, or breath awareness to gently lure your mind away from surface awareness and make you forget that you are meditating.
Getting lost in thought
Progressively, the mind moves from surface awareness to subtle awareness and, eventually, no awareness as you deeply meditate. Along the way, you will be thinking of other non-meditating things, and resisting thoughts may re-excite the mind, hence, embracing the thoughts continues to de-excite and may make you lose all awareness.
If you felt that time was moving too fast, then you were in deep meditation. For instance, if the entire meditation took 30 minutes but you felt like it was only 15 minutes and you cannot remember what you were thinking about during the last 15 minutes. It means you dove deep in meditation.
You may have started the session with your back very straight and chin lifted, but at the end, your back was somehow curved, and chin dipped, and you may even drool. This may be an indication that in the process, you allowed yourself to let go and was deep into the moment- outwardly, it looks like you were sleeping but inwardly, you felt like you were still sitting upright.
Another sign that you were profoundly meditating is taking a deep gulp of air immediately after because the rate at which you breathe is connected to the amount of rest you get during the meditation experience. Your breathing rate differs when you jog, read, sleep, and meditate. It may go even lower than when you are sleeping. You may temporarily stop breathing, followed by a deep gulp of air before everything goes back to normal.
Meditation: What Does Awareness Feel Like?
From the above signs, losing awareness is a symptom of the most profound states of meditation. You may gradually loosen the restraints of self-centeredness because your mind shifts to a more subtle type of awareness, and you become less self-conscious (10). Emotional stressors and physical pain may vanish for some time, and you may feel at peace. When meditating deeply, breathing may slow down. Also, meditating deeply gives you a different experience of time, making time to seem to pass faster or much slower.
Understand that not experiencing the above does not imply that your meditation was ineffective. There are times your experience may be more to the surface than other times, so do not conclude that deep experiences are good and that the surface ones are bad. Be judgment-free; this will make you enjoy deep meditations because you will have fewer expectations of what you should feel and embrace at the moment. Be indifferent to all experiences, be consistent, and do not have too many expectations, especially during the first few days, weeks, or months.
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Meditation and the Body
Meditation does not involve the mind only, but also the body (8). You may feel random aches, scratchy, or tingly at the start of the session. The body feels the mind’s frustrations, and you may want to stand up or even give up. At times you may become tired, with your body feeling heavy, sleepy, and sluggish. Remember that these are just feelings that you should overcome to enjoy more positive bodily sensations.
During calmness, the body feels light, airy, flexible, and supple. Some mellow warmth spreads from the toes to the head, making the entire body feel peaceful and calm. At the highest point of meditation, the body is fully relaxed, free from tension and sleepiness.
Why Do People Meditate?
There are various reasons for meditating. You can engage in meditative yoga or meditate for energy or spiritual purposes. By meditating, you become more relaxed, calmer, and happier.
The benefits of this practice include:
- Removing stress and depression by shifting the mind from drowning in worry, ideas, thoughts, plans, and other stress factors, leading to peace of mind and calmness. For instance, a randomized controlled trial published in The Permanente Journal confirms that a transcendental meditation program may help minimize psychological distress in employees working in a therapeutic school for students with behavioral problems (2).
- Sitting still through different feelings teaches you to deal with comfortable and uncomfortable situations to meet life’s demands with poise and grace.
- Enhancing the immune response by increasing the production of white blood cells and antibodies.
- Increasing adaptation energy, making you less resistant to changes in life.
- Improving creativity, daily performance, intelligence, and quality of sleep.
- Minimizing both physical and psychological pain.
- Decreasing sympathetic overstimulation and minimizes cholesterol and smoking (3).
- Helping you to be a greater influence for good, personally, at home, work, and society in general.
Testimonies from meditators show that (7):
- You may feel more energetic, charged, refreshed, content, and deeply connected with a wholeness after meditation.
- It enhances concentration, attention, and decision-making.
- Clears thoughts to organize the mind and makes one think better, more patient, and less anxious. Recent studies prove that this practice complements treatment and is a low-cost beneficial method of providing support for those who experience anxiety, healthcare providers, patients, carers, and the general public during crises such as the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 (5).
- Gives balance of life and mind.
Meditation should be effortless. Do not fabricate anything and, instead, be at the moment and notice it without judging whether it is the correct or incorrect feeling. The complete feeling of meditation is indescribable. It cannot be described entirely using simple mental and physical feelings. Spiritual meditators may describe it as a feeling of the divine because they are taken to another level beyond human. Everyone feels different while meditating; therefore, the goal of this practice is not to feel something specific but to allow yourself to have a truly deep experience.
What does meditation feel like? You now understand everything there is to know about this practice to conclude that the focus should not be on choosing your meditation experiences but embracing the various feelings and thoughts that arise during the practice. Learning to appreciate everything that passes through your mind and letting go is essential in this mindful path. Remember to seek professional help before beginning your meditation journey so that you can do it right.
Take a deep breath and watch this meditation video to tap into that boundless peace within you.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 5 Signs You Went Deep Into Meditation (n.d, mindbodygreen.com)
- Effect of transcendental meditation on employee stress, depression, and burnout: a randomized controlled study (2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Meditation and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction (2017, ahajournals.org)
- Meditation: Process and effects (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices during times of crisis such as COVID-19 (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Real Meaning of Meditation (n.d, yogainternational.com)
- What do you guys like about meditation? How do you feel after meditation? (n.d, thefabulous.co)
- What Does Meditation Feel Like? (2020, declutterthemind.com)
- What Does Meditation Feel Like? (2019, meghantelpner.com)
- What Does Meditation Feel Like? – Meditation Experiences (n.d, mindworks.org)
- What Should You Think About When You Meditate? Experts Say It’s OK To Let Your Mind Wander (2018, elitedaily.com)