Meditation: 6 Common Myths Busted.
Whether you are new to meditation or have been practicing for years, here’s some truths that will help you.
- Meditation is HARD, to meditate I need to stop thinking…
Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts; it’s actually quite the opposite. One reason that people feel as though mediation is hard is because they believe they should be trying to stop their thoughts, or actively attempting to empty the mind. Meditation is about letting things be as they are and establishing awareness about what is happening. You are human, you have a mind that produces thoughts – that’s it job. However, you are not your thoughts. There is no fight, no repressing, and no forcefulness about meditation. Fighting with thoughts, will simply strengthen them, and lead you to an agitated state. The only thing we do in meditation is to consciously withdraw our attention from engaging with thoughts, by focusing it on something else. With this, the mind slowly calms. Meditation is simply the process of continuously regulating attention. The emptying of the mind may happen as a result of that, but we should not be holding on to that expectation. We are not actively trying to “empty the mind”, but simply focusing our attention on a single point, moment after moment. As a result, our consciousness gets stabilised and we arrive at a state beyond the mind.
Just like the sports and games we play, or any other learned skill, meditation can take many different forms and varying levels of difficulty. So you can start as simple as you like. A nice way to think about it is this; when you are meditating, you sit quietly, and as thoughts come into your mind, you allow them, but don’t get stuck in them. For example, you might start thinking ‘what is for dinner?’ or ‘I need to call Dad’. Instead of getting ‘stuck’ in the rabbit warren of the thoughts like ‘hmmm, I could make vegetable stir-fry, but do I have the veggies I need? maybe I will need to go to the shops…’ you can just acknowledge that you have started to think about dinner and let it go. You can think of this similarly to watching cars drive by a road, you see them coming, and watch them drive by, and let the thought go. Another will probably take it’s place, and you just do the same again. Eventually the ‘stuff’ of life will stop being a topic of meditation as you start to better understand your own patterns, behaviours and thoughts. And some people even find that meditation is a time for creativity, and to hear their own voice, instead of their thoughts. A great app for people who are just starting out is Headspace, it gives simple steps to get you started and is free!
- Meditation takes too long/ I don’t have enough time to meditate.
Meditation can take as little as two minutes if that’s all you have.People often have false beliefs around meditation and they think that it has taken years of practice for monks to master how to do it and that they need to sit in a silent room forever before it has any benefit. But the truth is you can start now, we all have time. Really, I promise, you could find 5 minutes in your day to sit/lay/stand and focus on connecting with you. You know like right now, you were scrolling through your feed, found this link and thought you would read more – awesome that you have got this far. But really any time we are waiting in line, or just get that urge to pick up our phones (we all do it, meaningless scrolling), once you become conscious of it, you have the power to instead take that moment to pause and meditate. Practicing regular meditation for just 5 minutes a day for 8 weeks has huge benefits (we will cover them below). Meditation is like building any muscle, it takes practice. At first getting through 2 minutes might not be easy, but with practice you can slowly extend this time. Practicing for at least 10 minutes has the most benefits, and anything over that is just a bonus. There are some people who go on retreats like this silent meditation retreat, for weeks just to meditate, but that doesn’t have to be you. Just start small, and ease into it. And watch your life shift, your relationships flow, and as you open up to life, it will start to offer you more.
- Meditating is pointless and boring.
What’s the point of meditation? Training of attention. It is our ability to be comfortable in stillness that brings us to life. In a world filled with distraction and attention grabbing media, we rarely switch off from them and experience the lulling of our own thoughts. Our ability to keep focused on breath and stillness for just a few moments actually increases our attention and reduces boredom. The point of meditation is to gain control over your most precious tool: your mind. The state of your mind is the most determining factor in your success and your happiness. A person could have everything and yet feel miserable, hungry, anxious, inadequate. Conversely, you could have very little, and yet feel at peace and content in your mind. In athletic performance, business, career, relationships, we see this again and again; no amount of skill or resources will help you if your mindset and internal environment is not right.
More than that, meditation has many other benefits. Scientists gathering data on meditation have found that consistent practice not only boosts the mind, but also bolsters the body. Studies show that meditation can help reverse heart disease, reduce pain, and support the immune system, better enabling it to fight disease. The mind-body connection between stress and disease is abundantly apparent as science is finding that meditation can lower production of the stress hormone cortisol. This means people who meditate are better able to adapt to stress in their lives and its common physiological responses, which can include:
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Digestive problems
- Memory impairment
- Skin conditions
Paradoxically, while meditation helps us tune in and turn inward to our true essence, it also helps us detach from our own egos to connect with others in more meaningful ways. Couples counselors have found when they assign their clients meditation, the couples become less angry, more self-reflective, and more loving. When we become aware of – and honour – our interconnection with other beings, we are able to recast our perspectives, see our worries in a different light, and embrace gratitude, which is the heart’s memory.
In a world rife with never-ending fast fixes, crash diets, and get-rich-quick schemes, it’s nice to know there is a proven practice that really can change your life (or at least bring about dramatic effects) in just a little time each day, just a few minutes of deep breathing – relaxes the brain, reduces anxiety, and decreases depression. When we feel as though we can’t afford the time to meditate, the truth is we can’t afford not to.
Anxiety currently affects about one in fourteen people worldwide. That’s 7.3% of the total world population. A systematic review found that 69% of the studies analyzed showed meditation practice alleviated symptoms of anxiety, and a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials for insomnia found that eight weeks of in-person meditation training significantly improved total waking time and sleep quality in patients with insomnia. Meditating for just 4 days is enough to improve even a person new to meditation’s working memory, ability to process visual information and execute brain functions. Another paper reviewing the neural effects of meditation found that meditation leads to activation in brain regions involved in self-regulation, problem-solving, and adaptive behaviour.
- You have to be religious or spiritual to meditate, and don’t people experience weird metaphysical colours and sensations? Meditation is something that people from different countries have been doing for centuries. Traditionally, people have been practicing it in search of peace, happiness, transformation, or simply to have more control of their lives. And whilst some religions practice meditation it is not a prerequisite, or necessary. Anyone, from any background, from any religion can meditate. Meditation does not discriminate.
Some people experience a range of sensations when they meditate. Some people see colours, or have outrageous visions, experience cold/hot sensations. All of these are just other forms of thoughts in which we become aware of. Some of these experiences can ignite within us something that we always wanted to fulfill. And sometimes they might be a little off-putting. But all of them are just the mind creating more of our experience. Being aware that it is our mind and we all experience this earth and this life differently, is key in sitting with ourselves.
- I need to go to some special place to meditate and sit in lotus pose and say ‘om’ a lot – won’t my back hurt from all that sitting?
You know that image of a room filled with monks sitting cross legged on the floor, in a harmonious ‘OM!’. While mediation can be done that way and some people prefer to meditate in certain positions with mantras, meditation can actually be done sitting, standing, lying, on the bus, on your lunch break, before a meeting, in bed – anywhere, in any position. You can even meditate while walking. You don’t need to follow any rituals, or wear special clothing, to meditate. Some people choose to do so because they find it helps them prepare the mind for meditation – but they are not essential to the practice. You could meditate on the toilet if you really wanted to. All you need to do, is close your eyes and breathe. (and sometimes the eye closing is optional). There’s simple methods where you slowly count your breath on each inhale and leaving space for the exhale before you count the next breath. Some people find guided meditations useful like headspace or Deepak Chopra , who guides you through meditation with specific purpose and uses mantras to keep you on track and your thoughts more focused – he also runs a 21 day free meditation experience, which I highly recommend. There’s plenty of ‘calming’ sounds you can play whilst meditating too, if that works for you – maybe try ocean sounds.
While sitting is considered the best posture to meditate in, it is really up to the person. It is about being comfortable – and remember it is only for a few moments. You can sit against a wall, use props to get more comfortable, lay down. Whatever works for you. Meditation is about the flexibility in life, and due to that has flexibility in the way you wish to practice.
- Other people think it’s weird. This one is interesting, because it actually does not matter what others think. And meditation is one of the best ways to help you connect with yourself and to realise that when you follow your own heart and desires, the thoughts and words of others no longer rattle you. The opinions that others have are often a reflection of your own. These statements used to terrify me a few years ago, before I had really started listening to myself and what I wanted. I thought that if I started to listen I would realise how unhappy I was – but in fact the opposite happened, I started to actually become more myself, just by learning about what exactly I wanted from life and for myself. When you start to do these things for yourself, you are listening to the real ‘you’ and that’s the only one that will make you happy – relying on others and what others think, removes responsibility from you and places an expectation on others to make you happy, to do the things you want them to do. We are great at expecting a lot from others and little love from ourselves. As a part of this journey, I started regular meditation. And now I practice at the gym after my workout. I hesitated the first time I went to do this, wondering what the gym full of people would think of me – and then I realised it didn’t matter, it was my practice not theirs. The strangest thing resulted from my regular practice; people started engaging with me about it, asking questions, and wanting to know more. I realised there are so many people out there curious about what meditation involves, and what it can do for them, some of them don’t know where to start, or think that I am going into some untouchable state completely unaware of the world around me. The more we see other’s participating in mindful practices the more it unconsciously allows others to do the same. So do you really even know what others are actually thinking?
Founder of The Change In You
NLP Practitioner & CoachIf you are interested in learning more about how to master your mind, begin meditating, mindfulness or clearing negative thoughts, get in touch here. You can also sign up to receive even more inspiration, information and stay connected to the blog.