In the last 20 years, meditation, and the benefits it has, have been highly talked about it the media, medical journals, and wellness community. So, by this point in your life, I am sure you have heard from someone, or somewhere, how beneficial meditation is. And maybe you have even thought to yourself “I’ll give that a try, why not?!” And then you actually tried it, maybe for a week? A month? But, eventually, you stopped. Possibly because you thought you didn’t have the time, or you were doing it ‘wrong’. Believe me, you are not alone!
Below you will find some of the common meditation myths I have come across through my own practice, education, and student questions.
“I can’t get my mind to stop wandering during my meditation practice. So I can’t meditate. I’m probably bad and doing it wrong.”
This is the #1 reason I hear from people that have stopped a daily meditation practice. They tried it, but as soon as they sat down to meditate, instead of feeling calm and relaxed, they became more stressed out because all they could focus on was what needed to be done for work or their to-do list for the day, or any and all problems going on in their lives.
Truth: First, there is no ‘bad’ way to meditate. No need to put that negativity in your head. Second, The mind is wired to wander! It’s ok. Don’t be hard on yourself if the first time, second time, or even 100th time, you sit down to meditate you aren’t able to completely void your mind of all thought and focus solely on the present momen. Through a routine practice you begin to become aware of the mind wandering off and can successfully bring it back to the present with non-judgement.
It’s baby steps, guys! Just like any other new sport or hobby you decide to learn. Think of beginning a meditation practice the same way as you would a newborn baby, that baby doesn’t know how to walk, or talk. But over time, with practice, patience, and determination, the same baby eventually starts to talk, and after that they start to walk! So don’t get discouraged if your mind wanders. Notice it, without judgement. Baby steps. (Anyone get the What About Bob reference ?! great movie)
“Meditation will put me at ease from day 1.”
Unfortunately, mediation is not magic. I hate to be the barer of bad news but, you will not feel the benefits after just 1 day of meditating. Yes, you may have a sense of calmness or feel more relaxed, however, to experience the long term benefits of meditation you should start to adopt a routine meditation practice. All the best things take time (sourdough bread, growing your own fruits and veggies, starting a career etc..), and meditation is no different!
” I have to meditate for at least 10 minutes for it to be beneficial.”
You want to come up with a length of time that is realistic for YOU. 5-10 minutes to start is usually recommended, but not required. How much time can you find to dedicate to practice? Everyone has a busy schedule and sometimes finding 10-30 minutes to sit and meditate isn’t always available to us. That’s totally Ok! 1-2 minutes works just fine too, when in a pinch! Over time you will still start to feel major benefits in your mood, stress levels, body and so much more.
Studies have show that a routine mindfulness meditation practice, over time, increases the grey matter (or processing neurons) in the brain. Which, in turn, can impact serotonin and norepinephrine levels!
Since meditation puts you in a deep state of relaxation, your mind becomes more at ease and thoughts become less jumbled. This assists with all that stress you may have been feeling!
*this is just scratching the surface of all the health benefits meditation has*
“You must sit cross-legged on the ground in order to meditate properly.”
If sitting this way causes you any pain or discomfort, don’t worry, there are other options! Option 1: lay on your back with legs extended straight out and arms by your side, being mindful not to fall asleep (this can be pretty difficult which is why many facilitators might not recommend this position). Option 2: You may use a chair, sit with your feet planted firmly on the ground (so not to lose your connection with the earth) and a straight, but not rigid, spine. Option 3: There are various types of meditations, such as walking meditations or standing meditations, that you could also explore further.
“I have to close my eyes to meditate.”
If closing your eyes is not available to you, maybe due to past trauma or some other reason, it is perfectly OK to keep them slightly open. Focus your dristi, gaze, on the floor about 3 feet infront of you (if seated) and keep your main focus on the breath or mantra.
“I have to have a dedicated quiet space for my meditation practice to be effective.”
If you have this, that’s great! But it’s not always available all the time. Technically, you can meditate anywhere (that’s part of the beauty of it)! The practice of blocking out outside noise takes time and practice, but eventually you won’t hear it, as your focus is inwards. Sometimes it’s nice to mix up from day to day where you decide to do your meditation practice. If it’s a nice sunny day, maybe you would like to take your meditation practice outside to soak up some delicious Vitamin D at the same time!
“If I don’t have the time for my meditation practice in the morning, I can’t do it at all.”
Anytime you have a break in your day can be used for meditation. First thing in the morning, is always the best since your mind is fresh, distraction level is typically low and it sets the tone for the rest of your day. However, if the only time you have is late at night, or on your lunch break, that is totally fine too! The goal is to make the time for meditation practice a priority. Try to take 1-2 minutes in the morning for some type of self reflection or gratitude just to start your day off on a positive note!
“If I have a meditation practice and skip 1 day, I have ruined everything and mind as well just stop altogether.”
Be kind to yourself. Listen to your body. If you decided to skip a day (or even a week), that’s completely fine! Practice non-judgement and find your practice once again. If you are too ridged or forceful of the practice on yourself you may eventually grow to dislike it and form negative feelings towards it. Which is the opposite of what we want! We want you to look forward to your meditation practice and to how it makes you feel.
Think of your meditation practice as a baby to nurture. That baby isn’t born knowing how to walk (just like you don’t automatically have the perfect meditation practice when you first start off), it takes time, patience, and practice to get to that point. Meditation is the same way. The ability to harness your thoughts and sit for 30 minutes or more in silence, won’t happen overnight. Nor will the reduction in stress, clearness in your mind, or the benefits to your body.
These things happen over time with a routine meditation practice. But they WILL happen, just as a baby WILL walk. And the world and life it opens up for those who take the time to pursue it, is well worth it. So don’t give up! Even if it is just for a minute or 2 each morning (or anytime you find) where you sit in grounded silence, becoming aware of your wandering mind and bringing it back into that present moment with non-judgement.