Meditative experience is vast and ever-changing. The body-mind plays through deep relaxation, release of stress, sleep, buzzing energy, daydreaming, mental rehearsal, all in an unpredictable, infinitely-varied pattern.

The Ahhh... And the Ouch of Meditation

1. Ahhhhhh. Physical relaxation.

2. Ouch. Reliving tension as you release it. Mental review of what you are tense about as you release the physical tension.

3. Ah and Ouch. The sensations that go with deep physical relaxation are sweet and painful at the same time, similar to sitting down or lying down when you are really fatigued. Attending to and feeling into your frayed nerves hurts at the same time it is kind of blissful.

4. Oh, No! Suddenly remembering things you forgot to do or realizing that you blew it. Usually there are things you forgot, or ways you could have done something better. Usually this is about small, daily things. Once in awhile it is about something on a larger scale, such as, OHMYGOD, I have been forgetting to enjoy my own life for like the last ten years.

5. Grrrr. Anger comes up, whatever you didn’t have a chance to feel through or express during the day.

6. Boo Hoo. Tears of relief or grief, as the heart opens up to feel. Many times women cry during meditation without knowing why specifically. No particular incident in mind, just a feeling of catharsis. Sometimes there are no tears, just a sinking down into sorrow.

7. Ommmmm. There are almost always a few moments of pure repose, very fleeting, but very refreshing. The words Om and home are related somehow. Om is being at home in your body and soul.

8. Zzzzzz. Sleep. Usually there are a few moments of sleep.

9. Hmmm. After being relaxed for awhile, a sense of reflection about your own life, a sense of wonder, a larger perspective, emerges.

10. Wow. As you get used to relaxation, your senses unfold and bring you news of the universe, new perceptions.

11. Whew. What a relief.

12. Ah Ha! Surprise insights and mini-revelations. I see how to do that!

13. Ha Ha har. Humor about yourself and life.

14. Yay. Excitement about what you are going to do after meditating.

These experiences can happen in any order. Each can last from a few seconds to many minutes. The instant you close your eyes there may be peacefulness, a million thoughts, a sense of relief, or sleepiness. Sometimes the experiences change in a slow, gradual rhythm and sometimes they change very quickly. You never know in advance what you are going to get. Meditation is a continuous flow, ever-changing.

If you are meditating in the morning, you might feel sleepy and dreamy, and then gradually wake up into a feeling of aliveness and being ready for the day. If you are meditating in the evening, you might feel ouch . . . ouch . . . ouch . . . ahhhhhh, then fall asleep for a few seconds, then emerge feeling much more rested and ready for a beautiful evening.

The path within is through the senses, through little everyday sensations. During the meditation, your attention will tend to shift to tinier and quieter sensations until you find yourself in silent repose for a moment. You never know when this moment is going to occur. You could sit down, thinking you are tired, too tired to meditate, and find yourself feeling free inside yourself, excited about your life, and full of pizzazz. Or you might just feel your fatigue for the whole meditation, and then when you open your eyes afterwards you feel greatly renewed.

No particular experience and no sequence of experiences is an indication that you are doing it right or wrong. The only thing you need to do right is accept it all — accept all of yourself every time you meditate.

The power driving what you experience in meditation is your body just doing what it needs to do for its maintenance. By “body” I mean the muscles, the metabolism, the nervous system and the brain itself. If you meditate half an hour a day, that is about 2% of your day. It is maybe 3% of your waking hours. The real point of meditating is to enrich the other 97% of your time. So don’t be concerned about what you experience during meditation. Simply pay attention to it all, uncritically.

In one ten-minute meditation you might sequence between relaxation, focussing, releasing tension, more relaxation, dreaming, daydreaming, getting creative ideas and insights, emotional healing, and general energizing. It is unlikely you will ever experience the same meditation twice.

Therefore, the attitude to have going in is something like, “I wonder what I am going to experience this time?” It will never be the same. And the more you pay attention, the more unusual and surprising tiny things you will notice.