A lot of energy is wasted in considering whether our meditations are “good meditations” or “bad meditations,” especially for relative beginners.
For most people, a good meditation is one that is easy. Things go according to plan, or better! The mind isn’t hard to work with. There aren’t too many distractions. We don’t feel any strongly unpleasant mental states such as anxiety or resentment. We may positively enjoy the meditation. A “bad meditation” is the opposite.
And we can end up feeling a bit demoralized when we experience these “bad meditations.” We create stories about how we’re not good at meditating, or the meditation practice isn’t the right one for us, or we need a better place to meditate in, etc.
With a bit more experience (assuming we don’t give up in the face of all those judgments!) we may start to think that it’s the effort we put in that defines what a “good meditation” or “bad meditation” is. The conditions we’re working with change, and sometimes they’re easier to work with and sometimes they’re harder. Imagine you were training in running. Some days you’re running on flat ground with the wind at your back. Sometimes you’re running uphill against a stiff breeze. The first of these runs is going to feel more pleasant (it’s a “good run”). But which of these runs is going to help you develop more fitness and stamina? The second one, right? So maybe it’s the meditations we struggle in that are really the “good meditations.”
But these days? I think any meditation you turn up for is a “good meditation.” Sure, there are some days it’s easier than others and there are some days you put in more effort. But for beginners I’d suggest that you regard the meditation you do as being infinitely better than the meditation you don’t do. So every meditation is a good meditation — as long as you do it. Remind yourself of that before, during, and after a sit, just to drive home the message that meditating is a valuable thing to do.