6 Definitive Signs Your Meditation Practice is Not Working

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I know a lot of readers here at The Daily Mind dabble at meditation. Some do it for relaxation, some for enlightenment. And when you practice meditation you expect certain results. But sometimes those results don’t occur. Sometimes, in fact, signs arise that show that your meditation is not working properly at all.

In this post I am going to show you 6 definitive signs that prove that your meditation practice is not working. If you happen to identify one or two within your own practice do not become discouraged. You should instead consider yourself extremely lucky for now you know what is holding you back.

6 definitive signs your meditation practice is not working

Meditation is a practice. It is like soccer, football, running or chess. The more time you spend doing it the better you will become. And, like soccer, football, running and chess there are signs that show whether you are succeeding or not.

If you keep missing the goal when you take a shot in soccer it means your technique is wrong. If you can’t checkmate your opponent in chess, even after years of playing it means your strategy is off. Meditation is no different. And once you recognize these signs you will be able to rectify the problem and move on.

1. You have become more opinionated
The great Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa once stated that the first sign of a successful meditation practice is that you become less opinionated. I couldn’t agree more. Meditation should make you more gentle and spacious. It should make your mind less rigid. And when that happens your become less opinionated. You have more room to hear others opinions and you have more room to allow them to swirl around and settle. You do not react at the first sign of a challenging opinion.

If you find that you have become more opinionated it is a sign that your meditation practice is not working. Try and look in to your mind and find why that might be happening.

2. You have become less patient

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As I have mentioned many times, patience is the greatest of all the virtues. It is the direct remedy to anger and as such it should increase as you begin to become more expert at meditation.

Next time someone cuts you off in traffic take a look at your mind and see if it was more patient than it might have been two years ago. Or, the next time you get woken up in the middle of the night or have to get up super early. See if you are getting more patient. If you aren’t then something is wrong.

3. You have become more dogmatic
Wikipedia defines “dogma” as Dogma “…the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted or diverged from”. And let’s face it – all of us are dogmatic in some way. We hear a teaching we like or join a club we identify with and we automatically want to prop up its teachings.

But when you practice meditation you become less dogmatic. You start to see that all teachings have a time and a place and a meaning. Some people like Buddhism. Some people like Islam. It is not that one is more right than the other. The truth is that both have their place and work for certain people. It might be right for you but not for me. Meditation opens you up to this possibility.

4. You have become more irritable
I once used to hang out at a little Buddhist Center in Australia and got to know the people there. One day I went out for lunch with a lady whose partner was one of the more “senior” meditators at the center. She was a little upset so I asked her what was wrong and she told me how her partner had yelled at her while he was meditating the day before. “What happened?” I inquired.

“Well,” she said. “I was watering the plants outside his room and all of a sudden he screamed out ‘Would you SHUT UP I am trying to meditate!‘ and then slammed the door.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Meditation is supposed to make you more open to situations in your life. It is not as if you are trying to make everything all perfect and lovely and quiet – you are trying to work with all situations that you encounter. If you are become more irritable then something is wrong.

5. Your desire/aggression has not decreased
When you meditate you start to work with your thoughts and emotions. You become more tuned in to the ups and downs of your mind and you learn to see through its games. This means that you should become less desire-filled and a lot less aggressive.

One sure sign that someone is not a very good meditator is when they become agitated, aggressive and angry at the smallest thing. It means they have little control over their mind and cannot separate their awareness from their emotions and thoughts. As meditators we should be able to deal with these strong emotions in a more patient way.

6. You still lack love and compassion
The final and the most important point is that meditation is supposed to make you more loving and compassionate. When you start to get in touch with your true self you automatically become more compassionate. We see this in great masters and the songs they write when they reach a new level of realization. Many of them break down in tears of sadness over the fact that they have realized their true potential while other beings still wander in suffering.

The more you meditate the closer you should come to this realization. If you are not becoming more loving and compassionate it means you are getting further and further away from enlightenment, God, or whatever it is you are seeking.

Recognizing is not faking

Now that you know some of these signs it is important that you stay honest with yourself. A lot of people would read this information and then try to mimic what they think a good meditator would do. This is not very helpful. The idea behind meditation is to work with your current situation, whatever that may be. If you are an angry person you need to deal with that, not fake being a patient person. If you are a sex-addict you need to deal with that, don’t pretend to be a monk. This is important.

If anyone knows any other signs that meditation practice is not working I would love to hear them. Please drop us a comment.

21 thoughts on “6 Definitive Signs Your Meditation Practice is Not Working

  1. I still have a few points to work on, obviously. 🙂

    Perhaps a nr. 7 could be: “You’re not more focused and concentrated in the things you do.” At least this is one of the benefits I have discovered from practicing meditation.

    Great list. I thought the title was a bit negative, but the content was very inspiring. Thanks!

  2. I’ve heard some goody things about this blog. Remember to balance the pics with the text tho 🙂 but over all very nice post, keep up the good work

  3. TDM
    is it necessary to do meditation everyday?cant it be like a pill for stress or troubling days?we do it, relax and then on with the work untill next time when we feel overwhelmed?

  4. Shivani – I truly believe it needs to be done regularly, everyday. Much like earning money – the more regularly you do it the soon you will reach your goal.

    But, I also think it is good to do EXTRA when you’re not feeling well.


  5. You still have addictions in life, whether work, exercise, smoking, gaming or anything like that. There is no “freeing” sensation and you still think that lots money is the best thing eva!

  6. Thanks for a great post. I realize I may not be meditating enough or not effectively. I still find myself ridgid in certain aspects and would like to let go of the resistance. Any tips to improve meditation practice?

  7. Hi Yoga.

    The most important thing to remember is that meditation is time. The more time you spend doing it the better.

    However, there are solutions to certain errors that are written about in the great texts. What specifically are you having problems with? I will see if I can help.


  8. You know your meditation isn’t working when you are rushing from room to room and fogeting what it was that you were supposed to be doing.

  9. Hi TDM,

    Read this a few days ago, enjoyed it and meant to comment, hopefully will still… but just simply too busy at the moment!

    All the best!

  10. Also, when you meditate, it’s not to spiritually extract yourself from the world, very few can and do achieve this (enlightenment). Meditation is becoming more comfortable with the situation or world you are in(earth), adapting to the unadaptable, creating possible in an environment of impossible.

  11. I thought of this post when I came across this text in Cheri Huber’s “There is nothing wrong with you”:

    “If the voices in your head are saying, for example, that you’re a bad spiritual student, you’re a bad meditator, you fidget, your mind wanders, at some point you could identify that as self-hate and let go of it. But if you start thinking what a good meditator you are, what a good spiritual person you are, how well you’re doing, how much better your practice is than others’, that’s self-hate, too, and very difficult to let go once you are hooked.

    It’s helpful to develop a habit of not believing any of the voices — listen, but not believe. It’s as if you are sitting around a dinner table with a group of people and they’re all talking. You can listen, but you don’t have to decide who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is bad, etc. You can just have the attitude of mind of being present but not involved.

    When you can have that attitude of mind with other people, it’s a big step. When you can have it within yourself, you’re moving toward freedom. Because the part of you who’s trying to figure out which is right and which is wrong, who is good and who is bad, etc., is the problem. That’s the person who is confused and suffering. When you can just step back, there isn’t anything to figure out, and there’s nothing to believe. There’s just being fully present in the moment.

    The voices take us out of the moment and make us believe there is a world other than the present. The more they can get us involved in that belief, the more we’re going to believe in the illusion of ourselves as separate, adn the more we’re going to suffer. The less we believe, the less we are seduced, the more we’re able to be in the present, and the less there is someone to suffer.”

  12. Hello again!

    Actually I think the key thing about all these great pointers to your meditation being off track, is to keep in mind that experiencing any or all of these things for a period might actually be an indication that your meditation is working!

    Why? Well simply because it is common practice among many people to experience these tendencies and to repress them. Once we start meditating the repression button comes off and suddenly we find ourselves behaving more authentically in line with how we actually feel.

    I certainly found this for a while. As a specific example, after practising meditation for a few months I started to get more angry with my children. I was quite confused at first but when I reflected on it I noticed that 1) actually I was just as angry before but never expressed it and 2) now I stayed angry for a much shorter period of time. After a while my tendency to get angry reduced on the whole without any need to repress it.

    I cannot emphasis strongly enough as I wrote above though: one might experience an increase in these tendencies for a period. If they continue then something is definitely up with the meditation practise.

    I posted some similar signs over here also which might be of interest. There are more strictly from a Zen Buddhist perspective though.

    Best wishes.

  13. My outlook on this situation, Shivani, is that it can be anything you want it to be. It is YOUR life, YOUR quest, YOUR goals so make with it all exactly what you want. I will go as far to say that patience will be more present because I feel that all things take time and all are relative accordingly. You might not necessarily become a buddhist or meditating master quickly doing it occasionally as opposed to daily but it’s all progress and all relative.

    Hope that helped.

  14. If you don’t look back and say “Wow, I was that miserable? I really need to change my life!!!” with the most best intentions. :3

  15. If you don’t realize that there is a world of suffering out there, then you’re not meditating right and certainly not paying enough attention. 🙂
    If you cannot subdue bitter influences, your meditation is not at a competent level [but everyone knows practice is a perfection itself!]

  16. When I first started meditating, I had a lot of anger rise to the surface. I clearly had repressed emotions that were coming to the surface. In a sense, it seemed like the meditation was not “working,” but in fact once the emotions were released I did have less anger and could later become more compassionate and patient.

    I also screamed at people to be quiet while I was meditating. I knew this was wrong and I felt frustrated with myself. It seemed I was more angry than I was before,but with time and practice I got better.

    I have some concern about telling people their meditation is not working for the signs you outline. People might actually begin to feel more intense emotions through meditation and this actually a sign it is working.

    So, I say stick with it.

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