What if I told you that one simple practice (if done regularly) could improve your relationships; reduce stress, anxiety and worry; increase your productivity and give you a nice break from the constant white noise of mental chatter in your mind?
Meditation can and does help with all of these things, but despite its recent spike in popularity in both mainstream culture and scientific literature, common misconceptions prevent people from trying it out.
Misconception #1 I tried it once and it didn’t work
Imagine if we applied this logic to other skills that we now take for granted:
“I tried to ride a bike once but I fell off”.
“I tried baking a cake once but I burnt it”.
“I tried to diet one day but I didn’t lose any weight”
I’m sure you get the point, meditation is called a spiritual ‘practice’ for a reason – it takes practice and needs to be done on a regular basis. There are very few worthwhile things in life that bring benefits instantaneously, and meditation is no different, so it is best to try regular meditation for at least a few months before you decide if it’s ‘working’ or not.
Misconception #2 I just can’t stop my thoughts
There is a very common misconception out there that meditation means you can just press some kind of ‘off button’ in your mind that will turn off your thinking and give you some peace and quiet. As a result, many newbies get into an internal struggle as they wrestle with their thoughts to no avail, which can create more stress than relaxation! Understanding that meditation is simply a technique to focus your consciousness and tap into the vast, peaceful awareness beyond the restless, thinking mind is crucial.
The nature of the mind is to think, that is completely normal. The whole practice of meditation is becoming aware of when we are lost in thought and being able to bring our awareness to whatever we are focusing upon in the practice. (This could be our breath, the sensations in our body, the space between our thoughts or even a mantra for example). So simply becoming aware of the thoughts, and then coming back to our focal point again and again is the practice of meditation. Over time, the blissful moments of mental stillness become easier to tap into, however it is not a linear process – even very experienced meditators sometimes have days where the mind is especially agitated, but they stick to the practice all the same and show up for whatever is there that day.
Misconception #3 I don’t have time to meditate
If you happened to believe that you must meditate for 3 hours a day to get anything out of it, then sure, I can see how that could be difficult to squeeze into your schedule. However, the key really is consistency not the length of the practice, so if you can dedicate even 5 to 20 minutes each day on a regular basis, you will experience the benefits of meditation. And if you feel you don’t even have 5 to 20 minutes a day to meditate – all I can say is you probably need meditation more than anything!
Misconception #4 I don’t have the space to meditate
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sit in a serene, zen-inspired yoga shala on a tropical beach to do our daily meditation? Or in a mountain-top monastery, or even just to have a whole room set aside in our home for such a purpose? (I personally would love to have my own meditation tepee set up in the backyard). Yes, all of these things would be nice, but they are not necessary. All you really need is somewhere relatively quiet where you can sit up straight and close your eyes – you could do this sitting on your bed, on the floor or in a chair; in a quiet office; on a bus or a plane – even a bathroom if that’s the only place where you can get some peace and quiet! Meditation helps us to carry peace with us wherever we go, we don’t need to find the right place to access that inner peace.
Misconception #5 Isn’t meditation for Buddhists?
While Buddhism places a strong emphasis on various meditation techniques, meditation does not belong to any particular religion. Given that we all have restless minds prone to stress, meditation is a non-denominational practice that can benefit anyone, no matter if you are religious or not. Having said that however, there are many wonderful Buddhist meditation classes and retreats offered for free or for a nominal donation all over the world that are open to people from all faiths and walks of life.
Hopefully this article has busted some myths that may be have been standing between you and the highly beneficial practice of meditation – give it a go for a decent amount of time and watch it slowly transform your life in beautiful and unexpected ways.