Not getting any peace from your meditation? Here’s what you need to know.

Published on Jul 28, 2021

This teaching is extracted from a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Achalo, the abbott of Anandagiri Forest Monastery in Thailand. The talk was hosted by Buddhist Fellowship Singapore. View the full talk here.

The following is a transcript of the above video with some edits.


Inner peace definitely comes from consistent meditation. But not every time, and not straight away. One of the big challenges that modern people have is our addiction to instant gratification. Suppose you like music, you can listen to your favourite songs. Suppose you like movies, you can watch your favourite movie instantly. And you can watch new music and new movies. You can kind of keep getting born into pleasures, quickly, instantly. So, a lot of people don’t have much patience when they come to meditate and there is a lot of thinking and the thoughts might not be pleasant, and they are not thoughts that they want. But we have to be willing to sit with some unpleasantness.

Ajahn Chah talks about this as being the suffering that leads to the end of suffering. So, whatever suffering you experience in your process of cultivating mindfulness and deepening your meditation, this is suffering which has some benefits.  Even if there are unwholesome thoughts coming up a lot or a lot of restlessness, a lot of worries, you learn a lot about your mind states.

Mindfulness is sometimes translated as truth-discerning awareness.

It just starts to see things more clearly. And, you might have been in denial before. You might not know the actual quality or content of your thoughts and when you come to meditate, you come to realise “oh! These are really greedy thoughts! There’s some really nasty thoughts!”. The mind can actually recognise what is wholesome and unwholesome. That is actually growth; A growth in mindfulness and clear comprehension. But we don’t like it. We don’t like seeing the unwholesomeness of the mind. But we have to. Because, seeing things clearly as they are it’s like this process of beginning to filter the mind – filter out the wholesome, and the unwholesome.

The Lord Buddha said that mental training is like refining gold. You have to take the black bits out too. If you want pure gold, you kind of have to smelt it, and you’d have to refine, you’d have to take the silt and the other things that aren’t gold. But in the end, what you get is gold.

For people who come to meditate and notice all these sorts of thinking and feel that they are not getting anywhere, I think it’s really important to challenge this. I really want people to have faith in the fact that sitting and knowing that you are thinking, and recognising the quality and the content of the thoughts is much much better than thinking and not knowing what you are thinking and not recognising the quality of your thoughts. And this is how we train the mind – by recognising what is wholesome, what is unwholesome, what is neutral. And normally, if you have patience to sit with the mind with a lot of thinking, that patience is something you bring into your life, and you should find that you get less reactive. Inside, the reaction might still be there but in the past, you would speak quickly, or you would complain more, or you would want to take revenge but if you have more mindfulness, more patience, you’re thinking it, but you can stop yourself saying it. Or you are saying it, and you can stop yourself after one sentence instead of a couple of pages.

Well, we do have to practise some patient endurance, and we do have to have firm resolve. If we just want happiness and peace, there’s another phrase, isn’t there? Spiritual materialism – where we are doing (the) practice because we want something. Yes, that’s what gets us to our cushion, and we have to have wholesome aspirations, wholesome desires, but when you come and practise to get deeper peace, you’ll learn more and more that it’s about letting go. And then, peaceful periods (would) open up. So, you’ll start to get what’s called Khanika Samādhi – moments of peacefulness, after five minutes of coolness, stillness, fullness. If a person is consistent with their meditation over a period of years, those periods (would) become frequent and longer.

In general, the trajectory is things will get better. There will be more moments of peacefulness, better quality of mindfulness, less quick to anger, quicker to stop ourselves if we’re having some angry reactivity, more ability to forgive people, less desire, or able to keep our desires and greed within healthier parameters.

If we are consistent with our daily level of our practice, there will be days when it is peaceful. That is what we have to notice, and we have to take that as the encouragement. Then, we get more determined to keep sowing the causes.

I really recommend that we do our meditation in the morning before going to work, because you’re wanting to develop the mindfulness to take into your day. So, you can be mindful in all postures and be mindful of your thoughts. And, then, if possible, meditate even in the evening as well. If you meditate a couple of times per day, you’re going to increase your chances of experiencing deep peace.

Those who persevere in their meditation, ever steadfast in their endeavour,
they firmly realise Nibbāna, that incomparable (state of) perfect peace.

– Dhammapada Verse 23 

Wise Steps:

  1. Welcome both the pleasant and the unpleasant meditation experiences, and see them as opportunities to understand your mind, to let go of unwholesome mind states, and to grow.
  2. Frequently recollect the moments when you felt peace (no matter how short) to encourage yourself to stick to the practice.
  3. Be patient with the results of your meditation, while consistently planting the seeds for peace in your daily life.
Bringing you practical wisdom for a happier life.