Thanks so much for writing this. I can relate to a lot of what you say. As a teenager, I did a lot of “meditating,” but these were visualization exercises, more than anything. They filled me with a sense of connectedness and peace. In my earliest yoga classes (ages 16 and 17), I was introduced to the concept of meditation, as more popularly conceptualized, but I realized during my yoga-class meditations that I really wasn’t capable of focusing. At the time, however, I didn’t beat myself up over that; it just went how it went.
It was only as I’d gotten older and been hit with the “CLEAR YOUR MIND AND MEDITATE!” advice one too many a time that I started feeling like I “couldn’t.” Meditation, for me, became an increasingly stressful experience. I was absolutely a spiritually-minded person, very committed to introspection, but this was expressed in other ways (e.g., writing), and the activities that did make me feel the way that meditation was “supposed to” were more active ones, like sitting outside in nature, or taking walks. I started to feel, as a result, that there was something inferior about me, compared to people who “could” meditate without meditation itself heightening their anxiety.
It took me a long time, but I eventually came around to feeling okay with the idea that meditation (at least at this point in my life, and at least as conventionally conceptualized) is not exactly my ticket to wellness: I’m okay with the fact that I tend to find more of that sense of balance and peace from contemplative activities.
So, all of this said, I very much appreciate whenever anyone is willing to challenge popular New Age attitudes, because I think people need more messages reassuring them that they’re okay as they are, where they are, etc. and that “spirituality” is not a prescribed list of practices. Thank you again for getting this perspective out there!