Tips for Meditation When You “Suck at It”

I’ve never been accused of being too ‘calm’ a person. I’m nearly always thinking about the next 10 things I need to get done. Sometimes I find it hard to remember to breathe normally, let alone attempt to relax. I find myself zoning out and making lists in my head mid-conversation all too often. (Sorry to all my friends, you are all too familiar with my tendency to just sort of stare blankly off into the distance and respond “OK” to anything said in my general direction.)

So, as you can imagine, I suck at meditating.

I used to get anxious before yoga classes (admittedly, I still do). But I’m not nervous about the poses anymore, even though I know I’m not very flexible and I do most of them wrong. I’m at peace with all that. The part that I’m most insecure about is the mindfulness aspect of yoga. That’s right, I’d rather fall flat on my face during an attempt at crow pose than take a few deep breaths into my nose and out of my mouth in public.


When I think of yogis, I immediately think of tranquility – and people who can embrace the uncertainty of living in the moment. Oh, how I envy those people.

I am aware that we all struggle with this, but it often just feels like other people have it figured out.

I’ve been doing the Whole Life Challenge for a few weeks now (admittedly, I sort of suck at that, too). The very first week, the bonus challenge category was to meditate for ten minutes a day. It seemed like an easy enough task and yet the first two days passed without me taking the time to even try it – mainly because I had no idea where to begin.

If you’re like me and meditation isn’t in your daily practice (but you knowwww it’s great for your creativity, productivity and well-being so you want to do it more often) there is hope! There are some tips to keep in mind to add meditation to your routine (and I promise, it gets easier and less weird as you do it more often.)

Start small.

If you try to add meditation to your routine by setting lofty goals (i.e., achieving something specific out of it or making yourself block off too much time for it), the less likely you are to do it. If you want to begin, it’s best to start small. Take a quick work break and try meditating for five minutes. Once that habit becomes more normal, you can increase the time to ten or fifteen minutes. It’s a lot more doable in baby steps.

Make it work for your schedule.

It’s hard to make the time to add something new into our routine, so try to add meditation on top of things you are already doing (for example, try meditating during your work commute, while you’re waiting in line or over lunch). The beauty of meditation is that it can be done in many places – it doesn’t just have to be done in a crisp, white room with succulents and pillows. In other words, it doesn’t have to be perfect for it to have an impact on your day.

Realize there is no “right” or “wrong.”

When I started to add meditation to my routine, my thoughts were often preoccupied with some variation of, “am I doing this thing right?” Everyone has preferences and handles things differently. The key is to be mindful and however you get to that state is up to you.

You don’t have to do it alone: Try guided meditations.

If you are new to meditation like I was (er, am), guided meditations are a great place to start. They’re like a cheat sheet for how to be chill. I’m a huge fan of the app Buddhify, which has short, guided meditations that you can listen to depending on what you are doing (including waking up, traveling, eating or just taking a break at work). YouTube is also chock-full of guided meditations that vary in style and length. There are various podcasts that post daily guided meditations to try out as well. Here is a guide of 10-minute meditations for various different situations in your daily life.

Keep practicing.

As with many things in life (and especially those in wellness), persistence is key. If life gets busy and stressful and you miss a day or two (or a week or two), so what? Just get back into it and keep practicing. It will get easier and it will be worth it.

Know this: You don’t suck.

I joke that I suck at meditating but the truth is, you can’t really mess it up. Sure, there are plenty of unremarkable moments. Not every meditation is going to lead to a breakthrough. Regardless, taking the time out of your day to try to clear your mind and pause to breathe (I mean really breathe) is always a good thing. Some days will be better than others but you don’t suck at it, so let’s stop worrying about that so much. Perhaps that’s even something worth meditating on.

Mindfulness Think & Feel

About Cass Gunderson

Cass hails from the southwest suburbs as a proud White Sox fan and a graduate of University of Illinois. By day, Cass is a full-time student at the University of Chicago's Booth Graduate Business School. Before deciding to throw away all her money to go back to school, Cass worked for a private equity firm that buys technology companies. Raised as the youngest in a family of older brothers, Cass grew up a tomboy and remains active in sports. To her mother’s satisfaction, Cass learned how to embrace her feminine side in college and has developed an interest for fitness activities that require spandex as opposed to knee-length basketball shorts. In her spare time, she runs a lot because it is cheaper than paying for real therapy. Cass has completed four marathons and one ultramarathon (she claims she'll never do this to herself again, but that's TBD). She can still be found on the basketball courts in Lincoln Park wearing knee-length basketball shorts.