1- I tried to meditate but I was really bad at it.
Meditation is a skill that we develop over the course of time. It requires a shift in our ideas of what it means to be “successful” at something. You might have a meditation session where your mind is wandering all over the place. The email you forgot to send, the bill that needs to be paid, a pain in your back, something so funny that you almost chuckle- no matter what has come up we simply notice and bring the attention back to the breath. The fact that you’ve noticed your mind was wandering is fantastic! It mean’s you’re doing what you set out to do; become more mindful. It’s the noticing that is important- it doesn’t matter if the mind wanders 100 times, 1,000 times or more- the noticing and bringing the attention back to the breath is the practice. We’re building a mental muscle. You wouldn’t go to the gym once then look at yourself in the mirror the next day and say “well that didn’t work” The same is true with meditation. And just like the gym, if you keep up the effort you’ll begin to see that it stops feeling like a chore, that the mind gets the message and will start to settle down more easily some of the time.
2- I couldn’t turn off my thoughts
Nobody can. Even experienced meditators continue to work with distraction. The idea that meditation requires that you stop your thoughts is a myth. And a sad one because this discourages people and leaves them feeling like they’re doing it wrong and then they give up. The mind is wired to wander to begin with- our ability to constantly scan for opportunity or danger is what allowed our species to evolve. These days our brains are over stimulated from the barrage that is happening around us all the time. It’s like you are driving down the highway at 80 mph- you can take your foot off the gas, but it’s still going to take a while to slow down. Patience, persistence and practice- when you keep noticing and bringing the mind back you’ll start to notice that there’s more and more space between the thoughts.
3- That was a terrible meditation
NO SUCH THING! It’s totally normal to want to go there- but don’t. When you really break it down- what does a “terrible” meditation look like? It probably has some physical pain, maybe some difficult emotions, maybe the mind is busy and won’t settle down right? And what does a good meditation look like? The mind is quiet, the sensations are pleasant- maybe even blissful, maybe we see colors or feel all the tension in our bodies drain out and evaporate. Nice, absolutely. When it goes that way. The glitch with this way of thinking is that it plays right into our human habit of chasing after the pleasant aspects of life and hating on the unpleasant aspects of life. It builds that muscle of craving and aversion. When we can simply be with our meditative experience whatever it is, pleasant or unpleasant we’re unwinding that conditioned response.
Why is that important? It’s not like we’re trying to completely retrain the mind so that we’re like a fire fighter running into a burning building instead of away from it. There’s a perspective that builds in relation to the difficult material. We can start to see how it opens us up and strengthens our resolve.