Does the thought of meditation scare you because you simply can’t stop the endless stream of thoughts? Do you think to yourself, “Well mediation works for you, but it won’t work for me because I’m too stressed and too busy to find the time.” Or have you tried to meditate and noticed that your body seems to reject the idea of sitting in stillness leaving you unable to relax?
Well if you have, fear not, because you are not alone. In fact, these are some of the most common misconceptions that I hear about meditation. If you have spent some time on the cushion maybe you have heard these illegitimate fears as well. It seems to me everyone wants to start making time to observe the mind, but for every good intention to start there are just as many excuses not to.
My goal here is not to make you feel bad. Instead, I want to encourage you in your endeavor to start a meditation practice. I want to show you what meditation is, and what it isn’t. After reading this, my hope is that we will have broken down any barriers that are holding you and your meditation practice back.
So, without further ado, I present to you the three most common myths I hear about meditation:
Myth #1: I can’t meditate because I can’t stop my mind
This is by far the most common misconception I hear when people tell me why meditation is not for them. But, I have good news for you: mediation is not about stopping your mind. It’s about observing it! It’s about seeing what comes up as you sit and looking at it for what it is—just a thought. It is impossible to stop your mind for an extended period of time and furthermore, why would you want to?? Wouldn’t that mean you are dead?
The truth is, as you may have read in an earlier post, you are not your thoughts. In fact you can’t stop thoughts from happening. Try it. Try not to think about a pink elephant and see what happens?? Are you still thinking? Do you see a magnificent pink elephant in your mind? Chances are that you do.
The goal of mediation is to notice where your attention goes. When you notice your mind is wrapped up in a thought you simply bring your attention back to your anchor. An anchor is simply a present moment sensation that you return to when you notice you mind has wondered. Some people focus on their breath while others focus on body sensations or the sounds they hear.
When you see clearly the thoughts you have running through your mind you create space. And the space between you, the observer of the mind, and a thought is where all the magic happens. When you know what kind of thoughts pervade your consciousness you can choose better thoughts. If you choose better thoughts you choose better actions. If you choose better actions you will inevitably create a kinder conception of yourself and boom; meditation is like working on yourself like an expert pianist works on writing a new symphony.
Myth #2: I can’t relax when I meditate:
Mediation is not a method of relaxation. Yes, sometimes a meditation session can give you a transcendental experience but this is not necessarily the norm. Sometimes when you sit the session will be challenging. Other times it will be peaceful. The end game, however, is not to relax or “zen out” so to speak. Rather, the practice of bringing your attention back to your anchor over and over again will create space. And as we said before, that space allows you to act instead of react.
Furthermore, meditation means sitting with “what is” during your session. Whether it’s a feeling of anxiety or you are super fidgety, the point of meditation is to not judge what arises. It’s to notice what comes up and choose how you want to respond. You can either allow yourself to get frustrated by your ongoing thoughts, which can happen, or you can bring your attention back to your breath. The beautiful thing is, you get to decide!
Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself! See what happens when you are in control of your awareness. If you are like me, you will see the benefits of mediation away from your formal practice. The space you create will allow external forces to flow through you instead of getting trapped in your soul.
Myth #3: I don’t have the time to start meditating.
The amount of time is not so important as the quality of time and your intention to sit with whatever comes up. I remember my first meditation session like it was yesterday. I woke up early in the morning to find some quite time by myself and I sat for a whole whopping 6 minutes! That’s it!! That’s all it took to get the ball rolling!!
I didn’t see benefits after day one but I kept true to my commitment to sit for six minutes until finally one day I witnessed a shift in myself as I talked to a coworker. Instead of getting frustrated by something they did, I took accountability of my own thoughts and emotions because I could see them for what they were. Before I was blinded but now I can see.
The point is this: just start! Whether it’s 5 minutes or 20 minutes, once you get some momentum the duration will naturally increase because you will see the benefits of sitting with yourself. You will see what meditation can do for you. It might not happen after the first day or the first week, but stick with it and you will see how you change.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. My sincere hope is that this has helped answer some of the questions that are holding you back from starting a mediation practice. For those of you who do have a mediation practice, we would love to hear some other common misconceptions that you might have heard. And finally, those who want to mediate but haven’t yet, make sure to tell us what’s holding you back. Maybe we can help you alleviate some of those fears and guide you on your journey!
Thanks as always!
Many many blessings :)