Meditation is a practice where 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.Meditation may significantly reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain and enhance peace, perception, self-conception and well-being.
As some have practiced meditation for years and have read a lot about meditation- both the “old school stuff” from Buddhist and Vedic traditions, as well as the modern mindfulness and new age movement- I still see a lot of misconceptions and myths people have about meditation.
Some of these myths are obvious stuff that nowadays is not so commonly believed anymore, like “meditation is only for religious people” and “meditation is fighting with the mind”. Others are more subtle and commonly believed to be true, such as: “meditation is effortless”, “meditation is all about calming the mind” and “meditation is supposed to make you feel good”.
Following are some of the Myths about Meditation:
Meditation is a spiritual/religious practice
Meditation is a very old practice, and it was indeed discovered within religious contexts, with the purpose of achieving spiritual goals. However, for most techniques there is nothing essentially religious about them. In other words: you can practice meditation without needing to believe in anything and without any conflict with your own faith. Practicing meditation will not make you religious, just as doing stretches will not make you a yogi.
Many people practice meditation exclusively for health and mental well-being benefits.
People have a misconception that they need to follow certain rituals, wear certain clothes, burn incense, etc. This is just a myth. Those who practice it within a religious context may add these extra elements to it- they might find it helpful- but they are not essential for meditation, and can be distractions. These elements can help you create a different atmosphere for the mind, and improve focus. Yet, you don’t really need any special elements to meditate. You can meditate by sitting on a cushion wearing pyjamas too.
People have a misconception, to meditate you need to go to a temple or a special place. This is just a myth. To sit and meditate all you need is a place where you will not be interrupted. Once you start meditating the noises around will not bother you, in-fact you will start to enjoy the inner silence because it gets contrasted to the outside noise.
Meditation takes years to get any benefit
Researchers show that meditation brings great physical and mental health benefits after even as little as 8 weeks of practice.
Of course, a Buddhist monk with 30 thousand hours of meditation will have reaped more benefits than a person who started doing 10 minutes of daily practice a month ago. Meditation has many levels of of benefits. If you want to attain enlightenment, or be in a fearless state beyond all suffering, then yes, it will take a while. But if all you want is better health, a bit more peace and balance in your life, you can start having that in a few weeks.
The practice itself is a benefit. You will usually feel better after all your meditation sessions- more relaxed, more focused, more rested. And it’s free; all it costs is your attention.
Meditation will make you want to abandon your life and become a monk
Having such a myth in mind is like going to gym will make you want to become a professional weightlifter. In the world there are probably more people who meditate and lead a “normal life” than those who meditate and live in a monastery or aashram.
Meditation is escapism/ running away from problems
Anyone that has done meditation for a decent length of time knows that it’s the other way around. Meditation makes all the stuff that you are trying to run away from- in your life and in yourself- painfully clear.
For escapism you need something that gives you either distraction (like TV, social media, games) or unconsciousness (like alcohol and drugs). Meditation removes all distractions and gives you heightened awareness, so it’s not really an escape plan. Everything that you plan to escape from is right there, in your mind, waiting for you. It’s actually harder to escape from our own shadow once we are in meditation. That is the reason some people find meditation so hard, especially in the beginning; all the not so pretty stuff we are trying to hide or ignore surfaces up.
Meditation is just relaxation
Relaxation is one of the basic effects of meditation; also to a certain degree it is one of its conditions. Relaxation is realising the tensions on the body and calming the breath. Meditation uses relaxation coupled with regulation of attention(one-pointedness) and introspection(looking inside rather than outside) to drive you to a deeper state of consciousness.
Meditation is effortless
Most people want fast results, shortcuts and easy paths. So they are attached to an approach thats ays that meditation is easy and effortless. It’s the “new age” approach to meditation. It works as well, can be a great start- especially for people that are very stressed- but in the long-term the results are shallow.
Meditation is one thing; daily life is another
Meditation practice may feel like taking a break from your routine, like time off for the mind. But meditation will also empower your daily life and must continue after you rise from your cushion/chair. How you carry yourself in daily life can also be either helpful or unhelpful for deepening your practice.
Both seated meditation and daily practice are needed. By time, the freedom, peace and joy you find in meditation start to permeate your whole life.
Meditation is hard
If you are attached to a romantic view about meditation, or you have a strong expectation, meditation will be hard for you. Meditation is not a thing; it’s a process. This process brings several benefits.
Learn to enjoy the process. Let go off self-criticism, comparison and expectations, as soon as they arise. Like this meditation won’t be hard- nor easy- but simply an enjoyable and wholesome process.
Is your goal to enjoy better health, more focus, and less stress? Meditation won’t be hard. Is it to discover your true self and bring about deep transformation? Then let motivation take root, develop perseverance, and widen your time-frame.
In order to meditate you need a quite mind
People have a misconception, that, to meditate they need a quite mind. This is like saying that being fit is a requirement for going to the gym.
Having a “calm mind” is definitely not a requirement to do meditation. Anybody can meditate. Therefore, don’t think that you cannot meditate because your mind is very restless. If your mind is agitated, there is even more reason for you yo meditate.
Besides when you meditate for a while, you may see that, generally speaking, nobody has a “calm mind”. Everybody needs some meditation.
Meditation is about feeling good
This is another dangerous misconception. While it’s true that generally meditation will make you feel great, sometimes it may actually make you see painful things that you were previously ignoring. As your mind gets more quite, and your looking more clear, you may see parts of yourself that are not pretty and that need to be attended. This will empower you to change what needs to be changed; or to just allow stale energies inside your being to evaporate.
As meditation enters the mainstream, it’s unavoidable that many misconceptions will arise. Some of them will prevent people from starting meditation, while others will prevent them from going deeper into it.