Sally Kempton

Doorways to the Infinite

Dealing with Dull Meditation

Q: My meditation has been feeling dull. How can I work with this?

SALLY: Normally when meditation is dull its because of our lifestyle. It might be that you’ve gotten yourself into a chronic state of distraction, or negativity. Your diet—physical or mental—might be dulling your mind or making you agitated. Experiment with what you eat and when. Eating too late at night can dull meditation. So can drinking.

Also, you might notice the mental diet you have been feeding yourself.

You might also want take some time and notice the thoughts and feelings that you are letting into your mind. When we are dwelling a lot in negative thoughts—that is, telling ourselves stories about everything that’s wrong with us and our world—it affects the quality of our meditation. There’s a certain internal discipline that might be helpful to you—the discipline of observing your thoughts and systematically replacing negative thoughts with their opposites.

After you watch the evening news or read the newspaper, spend some time wishing the best for all beings. When you feel angry, take a moment to remember something or someone you love. If you begin to dwell more in loving, expansive thoughts, it will help your practice.

You might also make some changes in the environment of your meditation practice. For instance, if you feel sleepy when you meditate in the early morning, try meditating at different times of day. Take some time to create a beautiful meditation space for yourself, even if it’s just a corner of your bedroom. Make it a place you want to sit, so that you look forward to meditation.

Then, instead of jumping right into meditation, take a few minutes to put yourself in the mood. For many people, reading a spiritual book or poem before meditation will give you a jumpstart. Teresa of Avila, one of the world-class meditators, used to say that she always needed to read an inspiring book in order to get into meditation.