With anxiety and stress affecting more and more of us, it's no wonder the practice of meditation has also become more common. The idea is to calm your mind, and in doing so, your body. Which sounds pretty simple when you put it like that, but how do you actually know if you're doing meditation right?
"It’s a good question," says the founder of meditation app Headspace, Andy Puddicombe, when I put it to him. And then he clears it up for me.
According to Andy, "there's no such thing as good meditation or bad meditation," which is a relief. Because it means, really, there's no such thing as doing it right or wrong.
Instead, the meditation expert explains, "there is only awareness and unawareness, distraction and non-distraction." And like every practice, the more you do it, the more skilled you become.
"To begin with, there's a lot of distraction and not a lot of awareness. Over time, there's more awareness and less distraction. That is just the process of it." Andy compares it to riding a bike. "At the beginning, there's lots of falling over; you're not riding the bike, you're falling off the bike. But you practice and practice, and you start to ride the bike and become more confident at it.
"I think it's really important that, as much as possible, we don't judge our meditation because then we're doing the opposite of non-judgemental awareness, which is judging ourselves. Also, we're just creating more thinking," Andy says, making a very valid point.
"Often, people sit there during their meditation, thinking, 'Am I doing this right? Is this going well? Is this going to make any difference?' But thinking that somehow that thinking is bad, and all the other thinking isn’t, isn't the case."
You know the score: Your mind wanders, wondering what you're going to have for tea tonight, or which Netflix series you should binge next. And then you think, 'Oh, I shouldn’t be thinking that. I need to be thinking about meditation.' But, says Andy, "It’s all just thinking.
"Any kind of thinking needs to be treated in the same way: You see it, you let it go, and you come back to it again, even if it’s about the meditation itself. If you can do that then you’re meditating right."
So it seems what Andy is really trying to say is that attempting to banish thoughts isn't what meditating is about. It's about allowing the thoughts to come and go—as they will—and being accepting of that.
Referencing an analogy he uses in the Headspace app, which compares thoughts to cars speeding past you on the side of the road, Andy says: "If you are sitting on the side of the road, the cars kind of have nothing to do with you. If you can get that level of distance, they’re just cars passing by."
Just like cars passing by, thoughts are just thoughts passing by. Once you've got the hang of that, you've nailed meditation. Now just wait and see the calmness of mind that it can bring.
Follow Cat on Instagram.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.