“I can’t meditate… I can’t seem to stop thinking!”
“There is no way I am sitting on the floor in that position for 5 mins let alone an hour.”
Any of these comments above sound familiar?
Some people have a fear about meditation purely because they feel they will fail at it…
they won’t be any good…
or have no idea why they are doing it in the first place.
Some people also feel like meditation is something they need to fight against, like stopping their thoughts or trying not to get emotional or enduring sitting for hours at a time without moving.
Maybe the person has tried to meditate once or twice and felt that if they couldn’t sit still or their thoughts were racing and thought what they were doing was incorrect.
So today I want to put some of those fears and myths to bed – let’s bust some of them and clarify a few things shall we? Because after all… meditation is an amazing practice which may assist you in lots of areas of your life including your health!! e.g. improving your blood pressure, heart rate, mental processes and stress management – to name a just few.
Myth 1. – Doing nothing
Some people have expressed to me that meditation is an act of doing nothing. And to take time out of your day to commit yourself to a meditation practice is stopping everything you are doing to take time out …to do nothing…. and who has time to do nothing, right?
Busted – Meditation is not an act of doing nothing, when you practice meditation you are fully engaged consciously to you and your being. May I be so bold to say that when you meditate you are probably more engaged in the present and in your processes then you have been for the entire day.
Myth 2. – You have to stop thinking and turn off your brain.
I have heard so many times over that the aim of meditation is to try to stop your mental processes or your thoughts. This is not true…at all! If I was to say to you now…’Stop thinking about pineapples’ the first thing you will be doing is thinking about pineapples. It is the same for meditation, if you go into the practice believing ‘I must not think, I must not think’ all you will be doing is thinking. It doesn’t matter how much you try… you will never stop your mental processes.
Busted – One of the aims of meditation is to observe your processes this includes your thoughts. You observe your thoughts in order to release them and any emotional attachment you may have to them, when we do this you are more likely to start to balance your mental and emotional self.
Myth 3. – Meditation is only for the elite few who have the ability and who repeatedly tell others of how much they meditate.
You don’t have to spend months in an ashram in India, you don’t have to have your own personal guru or have an amazing cultural and intellectual lifestyle and is a world renown theologist called Ruth (sorry to all the Ruth’s out there – just sounds like a great name for a theologist).
Busted – Everyone has the ability to meditate, from young children to the elderly! And guess what? Even if you think you have never meditated before, my guess is that you have but you have never recognised it as meditation! If you have tried to meditate and believed that you can’t, you either haven’t had the right teacher, right environment or the correct knowledge of what meditation really is before you started… that is ok! Why? Because you can try it again! Everyone can meditate and if you haven’t enjoyed it then maybe you just haven’t found the one practice which you like or love. There are so many different styles and methods of meditation, I am sure there will be one that you enjoy doing – you are therefore more likely to practice it!
Myth 4. – Meditation is chanting Om
Yes it is… though this is only one style of practice!
Busted – Meditation can also be walking, knitting, dancing , focusing on your breath, laying down and focusing your attention on your different body parts, it can be surfing, darts, eating, sweeping the floor and playing sport. It all depends on your intention and your method.
Myth 5. – A religious practice
Many people believe that meditation is a religion or is attached to a religous group or belief system, but it isn’t… meditation is a practice. A lot of religions may have their form of practice for their own purposes e.g. for reflection, though it is not directly linked to their religion.
Busted – Meditation is a practice in focusing the mind, sometimes controlling the breath, and other times body movements and thoughts at the same time. You can use meditation for any area of your life. You may wish to incorporate and tailor your practice to your religious or spiritual beliefs. Or you may wish to use it to manage your stress, lower your blood pressure or manage pain. There are so many reasons why people meditate and you will have your own reasons and intentions for your personal practice.
Myth 6. – You have to sit on the floor cross-legged for hours
Well I am not going to lie, some people do this and this is their personal meditation practice, and that is cool if they can do it. But ….it doesn’t have to be this way! As I have said before there are so so many different ways to meditate and sitting crossed-legged is only one way.
Busted – It is true that it is ideal to sit up right in most meditations… and sitting on a straight-backed chair is perfect for this. 80% of of the time in my classes we sit on chairs, it is the most comfortable and accessible ways to meditate. At times we will lie on the floor though that is only for certain types of meditations and not recommended for all – mainly because people fall asleep.
You also don’t have to meditate for hours to receive the benefits. There are recent studies results showing how short bursts of meditation can have enormous health benefits especially with changing the way the brain functions. Specifically, with seeming to shift activity in the frontal regions of the brain towards a pattern indicative of greater positive, approach-oriented emotional states (Beilock 2011).
Myth 7. – Meditation is woo woo
What is this woo woo thing anyway… I am hearing it way too often and I have to say Oprah has a lot to answer for (even though I love her guts). Anyway… meditation is not woo woo… there are loads and loads of scientific research to prove the health and wellbeing benefits of meditation and if you get an amazing connection to something bigger than yourself and feel like you have touched the sky then that is a bonus! If you have this kind of experience then you can call it whatever you want.
Busted – I will only go on to say that one of the benefits for meditation is that it helps trigger your parasympathetic nervous response… huh? What does that mean I hear you ask? To narrow it down, it helps calm the fight or flight response to stress. It calms your adrenals, cortisol and mental processes, boosts your lymphatic system which helps increase your immune response, oxygenates your cells and lots more… So meditation is not only a self-awareness practice but has a huge beneficial physiological effects.
I hope I have busted some of the myths or misconceptions you may have heard about meditation and let us know if you have heard of any more… or better still …ask questions if you have any queries of your own by leaving a comment below.
P.S. If you found this article insightful and interesting please share the magic with your friends and family by emailing it, sharing it on facebook or twitter!