6 Misconceptions About Meditation
For years, I knew that meditation was a powerful tool for improving physical and mental health, but for loads of my own reasons, I never really made use of it. There are plenty of myths about what meditation is and how to practice it. From thinking that meditation requires an empty mind to believing that you have to sit a certain way for hours.
First, Wikipedia tells me that meditation is a practice in which an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.
Ok, sounds simple enough. And yet, many people still have preconceived ideas about what meditation is (and isn’t) and how to practice it. As I mentioned before, I tried and failed due to my own misunderstandings.
Let’s get to busting the six most common myths about meditation and start realizing the many benefits that we can gain.
Myth #1: Meditation is religious
Truth: Probably the most common misconception that prevents more people practicing meditation is that it is considered religious. Yes, meditation is practiced in numerous religious traditions but is it not necessarily spiritual or religious.
The earliest records show that meditation played an important role in Buddhism and Hinduism. However, since the 1800s, the purpose of meditation has broadened and it’s practice has become more accepted in other cultures, particularly the Western world. Especially when used for non-religious applications such as mindfulness and stress reduction.
Anyone can meditate using any type of meditation. Meditation goes well beyond religion and spirituality. It doesn’t care if you are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, etc. This is a powerful tool for anyone looking for more peace and serenity.
#2: Meditation takes too much time
Truth: You don’t need a lot of time for a meditation practice. Everyone is a little different so you’ll need to find what works best for you. Just as when you meditate is a personal preference, the same is true for how long. The important thing to realize is that five minutes a day may be best for you vs an hour or more. Even a minute is better than not at all!
Many people think that it is important to use meditation as part of a routine. I have to agree that I feel that this is the key to truly benefiting. If you are beginning to explore, I’d recommend you meditate for the time that feels good to you. Just one minute can reduce stress! When that becomes comfortable, move up to 2 minutes. You can gradually increase your time as you get more comfortable.
The most important thing is to start and be consistent.
Myth #3: Meditation is only effective if you do it every day
Truth: As I’ve said above, it is important to find a meditative practice that works for you. If that means once a day or once a week, do what works for you. Most people find that the benefits of the practice become more apparent with a daily ritual. I still say, you do you and find your sweet spot.
And remember that you don’t have to meditate just once daily. You can enjoy it throughout your day, depending on what works for you.
- Start with a morning meditation
- Enjoy a walking meditation at lunch
- A short gratitude meditation mid-afternoon
- And finally, a sleep meditation to slow your mind
The best way to reap the benefits of meditation is to set up and follow a healthy practice that you can sustain regularly.
Myth #4: You must clear your mind completely
Truth: Your mind WILL wander. It’s just the nature of our minds to wander. Bringing your attention back to your breathe or body every time you notice it wandering is simply part of the process. You may get frustrated but I encourage you not to give up before you start to realize the benefits.
This is probably the one myth that kept me thinking I was an utter failure at being able to embrace meditation. Once I was introduced to the idea that my mind WOULD wander, and that I just needed to guide it back on topic, I breathed a giant sigh of relief.
Remember that meditation is NOT about suppressing thoughts or emotions; it is about being an observer and letting go of the concept that you are your thoughts. You’re not eliminating negative thoughts and emotions, you just stop allowing them to define your life. Identifying less with your thoughts, positive or negative, gives you an experience of more peace and inner serenity. This is the magical moment when you experience connecting with deeper inner wisdom and calm.
Myth #5: You must sit a certain way to meditate
Truth: Truly ANY position that you are comfortable in can be used for a meditation session. Think about it: if your goal is to reach a state of mind that enhances focus, awareness and compassion, you need your body to support your effort.
The generally accepted four primary positions to practice meditation are sitting, standing, lying down and walking (I absolutely love a walking meditation). A meditation teacher may suggest that sitting is the most common meditation position since it allows equal amounts of focus and relaxation. When seated, we are both alert and at ease which gives us the ability to observe mindful awareness.
And honestly, this is probably the silliest reason I had for not meditating. I thought I needed to sit in a lotus position for hours on end (my legs would be protesting which wouldn’t really allow me to be relaxed or able to focus on being mindful).
Myth #6: Meditation requires quiet space
Truth: You can meditate anywhere at any time with no special requirements. Creating a specific nook with the perfect environment that’s filled with grasscloth wallpaper and an eclectic mix of floor cushions, dream catchers, incense isn’t something most of us can do (unless your Frankie).
Don’t get me wrong, if you can dedicate space to meditation, fabulous. Most of the time we are just getting about the business of life. And I would say that if you are worried about doing it in the right time and place, you’re taking away from your experience.
It really doesn’t really matter where you meditate.
I would say that it also depends on your needs in that moment. I’ve been known to find a corner in a busy airport, convention center or office when I needed meditation breaks. Some breath work in combination with a mindfulness meditation can calm any sensations and emotions I may be feeling.
Meditation is an intention to strengthen our mind while improving health and well-being. It is secular exercise that people of all backgrounds and religious beliefs can benefit from at any time and place.