The right mental attitude to bring to meditation

The practice of meditation has nothing to do with becoming religious or spiritual. It does not ask you to renounce the world and go to a monastery.

Meditation is about quieting down our minds, and coming to realize how our lives could be lived with greater wakefulness, joy, love, and compassion. To meditate is to recognize this potential and allow it to become a reality in our lives.

You may pick any meditation practice that you want. It is less important what type of meditation you pick, what matters is that you stay with it and practise regularly.

The skill of meditation

Meditation is a skill, like learning to play a musical instrument. It takes discipline and consistent practice. A few minutes here and there won’t help much.

“The process of meditation is extremely delicate, and the result depends absolutely on the state of mind of the meditator.” 

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

To build the life-nurturing skill of meditation, it is important to approach it with the right mental attitude.

Practise meditation every day, and work with a group so you feel connected and supported in a community.

In our Become A Morning Person bootcamp, you will find this community. Participants join every morning on a live Zoom call to follow a guided meditation session. 

Become A Morning Person Bootcamp

For calm mornings with a daily meditation & journaling routine

Learn More

As you continue this process of practising regularly, you will slowly build the ability to be completely open to and accepting of the present moment. 

In his wonderful book, Mindfulness in Plain English, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk, has elaborated on the essential attitudes to bring to meditation. 

#1 Do not expect anything

Bhante G. advises the meditator to see the whole thing as an experiment. 

Of course you need to take an active interest in the experiment itself, but bring to it the sense of curiosity of a scientist, or that of a little girl peering into her microscope.

Do not hold your breath anticipating any specific result. Let the meditation move along at its own pace.

The awareness that meditation brings is only about seeing reality as it is. If you approach meditation with the expectation of feeling blissed out or to be conferred with Buddha-like self-control, you’re bound to get disappointed.

Regardless of what your expectations are, as you begin practising meditation, you should temporarily suspend your preconceptions and ideas about the world. If you stay wedded to your strong opinions and ideas, meditation sessions may devolve into a mental tussle that does not allow the required quietening of the mind or the emergence of clarity.


It was certainly the case with a hardnosed skeptic like me. I had to allow a temporary suspension of disbelief to ease into the practice. What I found extremely helpful was the presentation of meditation as a mental training technique and a critical life skill to cultivate, rather than its mystical religious interpretations.

Choose the path that works for you, but keep your expectations in check as you start practising.

#2 Relax, don’t strain

We are used to the idea that we must strive hard for results. At the gym we push ourselves with progressive overloads and training to fatigue. Before an exam, we power through late-night cram sessions.

But in meditation, this kind of aggressive practice is not just unnecessary, but it can also be counterproductive.

Do not make exaggerated efforts that can mentally tire you out and put yourself off the practice.

I have seen YouTube videos of people trying out 1 hour of meditation for 30 days, and I wonder – what is the point?

Would you gain anything out of a temporary exaggerated push? That is not the nature of meditation.

Meditation is so much more than violent striving. It is learning to flow with life, opening ourselves to all the experiences of life and reality, and complete acceptance of things as they are, without struggling or fighting against them.

Let your effort be gentle and relaxed. Don’t get aggressive with the practice. Take it easy, one step at a time.

#3 No rush, take your time 

We want everything yesterday. We want to lose belly fat and develop six pack abs in one month. In the startup world, we want to build unicorns in two years.

We have forgotten how to be patient.

When we practice meditation, drop this attitude of hurry and impatience.

Stop trying to maximize your 30 minutes of meditation, stop trying to squeeze out maximum productivity.

Sit on the meditation cushion as though you have all the time in the world. You’re not racing against the clock.

Remind yourself that anything valuable takes time to grow. Cultivate the attitude of patience.

#4 No clinging

As you start meditating, the mental images that arise during the practice may strongly grab your attention. Especially if bad feelings surface, we tend to cling on to them strongly.

Cultivate the skill of dropping your assessment of each thought that arises. This is where the attitude of curious observation comes into play.

Simply observe the arising and falling of mental phenomena, rather than critically assessing them or attaching your personal story to each thought.


Don’t fight or cling to what you experience. Simply observe mindfully, from a neutral standpoint.

Relax into the practice and go with the flow of everything that comes up. Loosen up the mind.

#5 Accept everything

Meditation is a practice in radical acceptance of yourself, as you are.

We all have feelings we wish we didn’t have. We regret certain things we did and experiences we had. We keep telling ourselves the same stories where we are terribly flawed human beings with no chance of redemption.

Approach meditation with the attitude of complete acceptance of all feelings, positive and negative.

Do not beat yourself up for being human, for having human failings.

All the mental phenomena that we have are perfectly natural. Cultivate a kind of disinterested or indifferent observation and acceptance of everything that comes up in the mind.

#6 Be kind to yourself

Treat yourself like how you would a child you love and care for.

As we grow up, we forget to be kind to ourselves. We are quick with self-condemnation and self-blame for not being perfect.

Watch your internal dialogue when you do something wrong. Do you call yourself stupid for not doing something well? If yes, reflect on why you’re so harsh with yourself.

You’re not perfect, you’re not expected to be. You have flaws, yes. But you’re all you have to work with.

“The process of becoming who you will be begins first with the total acceptance of who you are.” 

Bhante G.

#7 Investigate your experience and evaluate

Just because some holy man said something and it sounds wise and pious, don’t simply believe it without questioning.

Question everything and investigate. Do not take anything for granted. See things for yourself.

This means that you must be empirical in your thinking, not that you should reject everything that doesn’t fit your worldview or get caught up in elaborate logical circuses.

Some people believe that anything that appears profound and mysterious must be meaningful and true, simply because they cannot understand or see the bottom of the chasm.

Some others think that if a new idea does not match their commonsensical worldview, it must be rejected without further thought or engagement.

Yet others are very excited about esoteric teachings by well-spoken charismatic teachers, and blindly accept whatever they say as truth.

The right attitude is one of investigation. Subject all claims to the test of your own actual experience, and let your own results guide you.


The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

#8 Don’t run from problems

Expect problems to arise as you exercise your own faculty of thinking and experiencing. It’s part of the fun.

Don’t be stumped when that happens. Investigate negative thoughts. Rejoice in the opportunity to dig deeper.

Learn to view problems as challenges to get to the bottom of, and not as obstacles that derail you from the path.

Negative experiences are opportunities to grow. Do not run away from them or stoically bear them.

Investigate, learn, grow.

#9 Don’t fall into the trap of overthinking

Sometimes in the desire to figure everything out, we fall into the trap of overthinking.

There is a slight mindset shift that is required here.

Meditation aims to clarify through bare attention, not through discursive ramblings that don’t lead anywhere.

To free us from things that are keeping us prisoner, all that is needed is a non-conceptual perception of what they are, not aggressive fighting with concepts and ideas.

Don’t overthink. Just see.

#10 Stop dwelling on contrasts

Ordinarily, our thinking is replete with all sorts of comparisons between others and ourselves, mostly focusing on how another person has it better than us.

This is what we see fueled by Instagram posts where we see our friends posting carefully curated snapshots of their lives. We’re consumed by envy, shame, and jealousy, and we fall into a depressive way of existing.

The other extreme may also be true – you see someone less fortunate and swell up with pride thinking that your natural intellect and other higher qualities somehow make you superior to them.

This sort of contrasting that humans are naturally wired to do leads to the creation of barriers between us, and a sense of being disconnected from each other.

Meditation is an opportunity to train ourselves to notice the factors that are universal to all of us, that will make us feel more connected to each other.


As we progress further in meditation, practices such as loving-kindness meditation (metta) or compassion meditation (karuna) draw us closer to one another.

Concluding thoughts

It often comes as a pleasant surprise to beginner meditators that meditation is not a technique to numb yourself to pain or to escape from life.

Rather, it is a way to cultivate a set of skillful behaviours that allow us to experience life at its glorious best, without rejecting or clinging to anything.

As we meditate, always maintain the attitude of coming back to the present moment, whatever it is. It is this act of coming back to the present that allows us to open ourselves to the dynamism and joy of life.

Meditation brings us the skill of equanimity or emotional balance, rather than getting carried away by each thought with our habitual emotional reactivity.

Stay motivated

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely somehow inspired to explore meditation. 

To keep yourself inspired and motivated, find yourself new sources of encouragement.

Remind yourself why meditation is beneficial and what you have found to be the personal reason for you to start meditating.

Read books and engage with those thoughts. Keep yourself motivated by thinking how you and your loved ones will benefit from the positive changes in your behaviour that the practice brings.

Rather than just leaving it to chance, have a plan. Prepare for meditation practice just as you would if you were beginning to work out or learning piano.

Practise in a group to support and inspire others and to let them support and inspire you.

If you are serious about building a daily meditation practice, you can join our Become A Morning Person bootcamp, where we start each day with a live guided meditation.

Become A Morning Person Bootcamp

For calm mornings with a daily meditation & journaling routine

Learn More

The bootcamp helps you build the habit of setting aside some time every day for meditation through a combination of daily sessions and personal follow-ups that keep you accountable.

Next – getting into the technique

In the next article, I will get into the actual technique, starting with connecting with the breath.


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