I recently thought of a meditation prompt that is fitting in moments of excitement, and potentially in other situations too.

Sometimes when I feel really excited about good things going on in my life, it’s hard to meditate.1 I can spend my entire 20-minute session just thinking about all the good things happening, the things I’m looking forward to doing, or the people I enjoy interacting with.

While on some level it’s fine to spend 20 minutes thinking good thoughts, meditating like this is unhealthy because you’re distracted the entire time. But then again, it’s hard to stop distracting yourself, because the thoughts feel so good. So you keep marinating in your excited, hyperactive mind-state.

Something that helped recently, when I was trying to meditate in this state, was to ask myself: when the fun has stopped and the party’s over and you’re all alone and it’s late at night, what do you feel?2 Initially my answer to this question was something like: oh god, that sounds terrible, I would feel so sad. But after another second or two, I felt good—relieved, even.

I was able to see that as my mind was jumping frantically from one excited thought to the next, it was really just running away from something it wanted to avoid. Maybe from an underlying sense of emptiness or loneliness. And once I asked myself, when the party’s over what do you feel, I was able to directly confront this feeling and make peace with it.

Asking yourself the question, when the party’s over what do you feel? is a good reminder that, yes, the jubilation you’re currently feeling will at one point end, and what you’re left with at that point matters. The background state of your mind—the stuff underneath all this surface-level excitement—is something you should tend to, even while the surface-level stuff is going well.

Importantly, this isn’t about suppressing excitement when life is good. It’s good to feel excited! You just want to acknowledge that at one point it will be over. And if you’re attentive, you’ll find that the excitement actually feels better once you accept that it’s impermanent. You can feel the excitement without grasping so tightly, trying (in vain) to keep it around forever.

  1. The mental state I’m referring to is specifically excitement rather than contentment. While it’s quite easy to meditate in a contented mind-state, it’s a lot harder to do so in an excited state. Some examples of things that get me into the excited state: hosting a really fun party with a lot of friends; posting something online that gets a lot of traction; someone I admire giving me authentic and meaningful praise. Basically any kind of ego-affirming experience. ↩︎

  2. Note that there doesn’t have to be an actual party for this question to be meaningful. “The party” is a metaphor. I also like framing it this way because when the party’s over is a song by Billie Eilish that I really like. ↩︎