Mind Games: My Hilarious First Attempt at Meditating on Nothingness

awakening reflection (blog post) meditation Nov 18, 2019
depiction of a woman meditating, capturing the humor of the 'Mind Games' blog post about the challenges of attempting meditation on nothingness

By Dr Shuna Marr

How are you at meditation? Do you/did you struggle with it? Do you find it difficult to clear your mind?

You are not alone.... and to prove that, I’d love to share a journal entry of one of my early attempts at meditation.

I hope you can have a laugh and realise that if you cannot quiet your mind at first, you are not alone… it takes time and practice.

To give a bit of background context: Very early in my awakening, someone I was following on YouTube had suggested doing a meditation on boredom, to allow issues to arise.

We were supposed to sit in the ‘blankness’. In the nothing. In the spaciousness.

Simply sitting in this space, allowing nothing to happen, with a blank mind, she assured me, would be a powerful way to develop personal evolution.

So, I decided to give it a go.

Below is my journal entry of how that went...

This is free-flow writing on my first attempt at ‘meditating on nothingness’, written just after the meditation attempt. Me and “me” are having a conversation.

Journal Entry: Monday 24th July 2017

This morning I tried the ‘boredom meditation’. I thought of when I had been bored (that recent conference keynote speech that almost had sent me to sleep) and tried to sit with those feelings.

This is what came up...

“Ah....so, do you want to analyse those feelings?”

No thanks – just sit with them... Shhh I’m not supposed to be interacting with you just now.

“Can I show you some pictures?... How about a visualisation of nothingness?”

No – I’m just trying to ‘be’...

“Are you sure you don’t want me?”


"Ok, I’ll just have a snooze then...” *starts to doze off*

No! I’m not to go to sleep. I just have to face the blankness. Not sleep.

“I don’t understand – that’s not a productive use of time or energy”

Yes it is – that’s the whole point.

“Well either you engage with me or I switch off and go to sleep”

Isn’t there a middle ground, like a ‘neutral’ switch?

“Yes, that’s when I focus on breathing. Being in the ‘here and now’. But that’s mindfulness. What you are trying to do doesn’t look like mindfulness. Quite the opposite in fact. Not being aware of the present. Not visualising an alternative reality. Just blankness. Are you trying to get feelings to come up?”

Well...yes, I think so...

“No problem. I have a dozen here, just sitting in the wings awaiting your attention. I can call them now...?”

No, no. I’m not trying to analyse them. Just sit with them.

“Ok, like church”


“Sitting on a hard pew with a bunch of people waiting for something to happen?”

Errr....I don’t know. Could be. But I’m not trying to conceptualise it. Just keep it blank and think nothingness.

“Stop making me laugh... you either do stuff or you don’t. Trying to do nothingness.... what’s that all about?”

Well it’s supposed to take me to places I’ve not been before...

“Like Bognor?”

No, like nothingness, blankness...

“Ok, like Bognor then...”

No, you’re just playing to the imaginary audience now. Just think of nothing.

“But nothing must look like something, right? So if it looks like something then we immediately have to imagine what it looks like, right? Give us something to focus on...”

I’m ignoring you...

“Ok, I’m going to sleep”

No! Not sleep. I’m sitting with nothing right now.

“No you’re not. You’re here with me and I want something to do. I’ve got to have a purpose.”

Don’t you have an off switch?

“Yup, when I go to sleep. Deep sleep is when I switch off. I do get involved in the dreaming part, though.”

Are you my conscious mind?

“Yes and no. A mix of what’s going on in your left and right brain. The RH brain provides the image and feelings and the LH brain puts thoughts and words to it.”

So a mix of conscious and unconscious thoughts?

“Oh yes, you are pretty tapped into this side of things these days. You’ve spent 20 years linking them through internal exploration, lucid dreaming, dream interpretation etc. It’s difficult to see the join sometimes.”

Is there no purpose in trying to sit with nothing?

“Useful if you want to consider vastness – but that involves me too. Remember when you were a kid walking home from school and you used to do the ‘pull out and push in’ thing? Expanding out further and further, looking down at yourself and expanding further and further back until you were out in the universe? So you could experience infinity?”

Yes, I remember that. 1975, that would have been about. Are you thinking ‘been there, done that’?

“A bit. I’m not saying there’s no merit in it, but everyone has different needs, stages, approaches and what goes on inside.”

So is this right for me or not? Is there a benefit for me or not?

“Not sure what the benefit is. You are way in tune with what is going on inside. You have lots of tools to do processing. What do you want to sit with nothingness for?”

Ali suggested that it might help me.

“In what way?”

I’m still not sure. It helped her expand her understanding.

“You are not Ali, and you have your own ways of dealing with stuff”

Are you just trying to put me off because you don’t want to do it?

“Ha! You want to analyse my resistance?”

You are deflecting.

“Ok, I don’t really want to be bored. I can be bored. I can do bored, but I don’t see the purpose. I’ve done bored for years and that is why I developed all these various ways of being comfortable inside myself when the external is being rubbish.”

Wasn’t that when I was less enlightened and maybe didn’t want to sit with feelings?

“Shuna, love, you’ve been going to various therapists for 20 years, who have all helped you to go inside and identify and deal with your feelings. What you are doing here is nothing new in that respect. You’ve known from years of going to your various life coaches, when something is arising and needs dealing with. Your self-sabotage programmes etc. All you are doing here is using tools to do it for yourself.”

And self love...

“Ok, that’s the new bit. Self love is not the bit you’ve done a lot of before. How do you think that sitting on your bum trying to think of nothingness for an hour is going to help you with the self love thing?”

I’m not sure – that is what I’m trying to explore, but you seem to be giving me such resistance.

“I don’t see the POINT!!!”

And it seems there is a touch of exasperation and anger there...?

“Yes, some mild irritation and anger.”

Do you know why you are angry?

“Because you want to shut me out, switch me off, push me away like you don’t want me. I’m your best friend and I’m always there for you and now because some young whippersnapper says it’s a good idea, you try to push me away.”

Isn’t that a tiny touch irrational?

“We aren’t doing rational, we are doing feelings...and angry...and not happy...miffed.”

I don’t see that a one-hour meditation has gotten you so riled. What’s that all about? You know that I rely on you all the time. This is just something new.... hang on a minute, are you part of my limbic brain? A part that is trying to keep me safe?

“Might be....*sniff”

Well I love you, love that you are trying to keep me safe by not letting me try something that you think feels scary. I do know that in 1975 when I tried that infinity expansion, it freaked me out a bit.

The vastness, the feeling of insignificance.

But I was so much younger then, and didn’t have all the knowledge and understanding I have now. Now I’d know that I’m a part of the universe, an integral part of it, and that it’s not scary. It would be quite good to experience that again but from a different perspective.

Could we just try it, just this once? And see how it goes?

“If it doesn’t work then you’ll not try it again?”

Well, let’s see how it goes the first time and then make a decision, ok?

“Well, ok....you want me to tune out and observe. Just keep quiet but not sleep?”

Yes please, just for an hour. Is that ok?

“Ok. We will see how it goes.”

Thank you. I love you.

“I love you too” *switches off, peace falls

26 minutes later....

“Ha! Ok, you can’t do it without me, can you? You tried to focus on feelings – but that’s ‘experiential’, not ‘nothingness’. Tried to focus on the expansion of the universe – but that involves visualisation. Me again.”

Yes, and when I tried to focus on nothingness you were like “here, watch some of this film you watched yesterday”... *took me off on a wander*

So, (this is me talking in my journal)....analysing my conversation, it seems that if I have nothing specific to focus on – no feelings, breath, vision, sounds or some other sense, then I have no idea what to do.

As far as I can see, trying to just ‘be’ requires some, or all, of my other senses. They have to be involved in focussing on existing in the ‘here and now’ – and if so then that is mindfulness.

If they are not involved then it is some kind of imagination or visualisation, like the vastness of the universe, in which case I’m focussing not on being with myself but being outside of myself.

Or doing the ‘going inwards’ and focussing on going smaller and smaller and smaller inside until you are the space between the atoms.

I don’t understand and that makes me frustrated. (Yes, I’m loving the one who is frustrated ;-)

Journal entry ends 

Back to today I hope you had a laugh and perhaps you maybe even recognised yourself in that?

If you did, don’t despair. As you can see, it didn’t come easily to me either.

I know, back then, that I thought everyone else could ‘do’ meditation, and it was only me that couldn’t do it. I really was feeling the experience of ‘lack' in that department.

However, in the intervening years, I have come to value meditation greatly, as part of a daily practice of connecting with my inner self.

There are dozens of ways one can ‘do’ meditation – using mantras, visualisations, guided meditations, focussing on a candle or the breath, music or gamma frequencies, to name a few.

I’ve come across many people who have had a very clear view about what is the ‘best’ way and even deriding other ways that they didn’t like, saying that these methods weren't ‘real’ meditation; only *their* way was the *right* way.

However, my experience is that meditation is a very personal thing and each method has its rightful place.

There is never a ‘one size fits all’ in terms of anything, and that includes meditation styles. You have to go with what works best for you and that might vary depending on the circumstances.

If you are at the stage of trying to develop a meditation practice, just keep going and you’ll eventually figure out what works for you.

Be patient with yourself. Never give away your power to others over what is best for you.

Only you and your own soul know what is best for you. 


PS In case you don’t know, Bognor is a small seaside town in West Sussex, UK, that has a reputation for being boring. I’m sure it’s lovely, really. <3

PPS May I end by asking you: Who was I actually talking to? Which one was ‘me’?

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