As a meditation teacher, I often find that people have preconceived ideas about this practice. Since there are many helpful articles about what meditation is, I thought I'd write one on what meditation isn’t. Hopefully this will dispel some of the myths I've heard!
1. Meditation is just for relaxation.
It’s true that relaxation is a byproduct of a regular meditation practice, but it's not (necessarily) the end goal. Through meditation, you free yourself of the limiting negative mental chatter that can sometimes feel relentless and experience the wonder of the present. We do this through reconnecting with the still, silent space inside of us, rather than seeking temporary periods of happiness through external measures.
2. Meditation is a religious practice.
You don’t need to shave your head, join a monastery, or give away all your money. You're just making a commitment to love and honor the real you by reconnecting with the peace and love that resides inside.
3. It's too hard.
It’s an alien concept to many to just sit and be. No distractions, no entertainment, no planning the future. Meditation is not hard but it is helpful to have someone guide you when you start practicing.
4. It makes you an emotionless robot.
Meditation does not remove emotions, but it makes you more attuned to emotional changes. I used to worry all the time, believing the commentator in my head to be true, which caused me lots of energy and stress. Meditation has increased my clarity, allowing me to think more logically rather than emotionally. Living in the present helped me to disengage from my unhealthy emotional states but I still feel things very deeply.
5. It takes years to work.
It is called meditation practice for a reason. It takes time to cultivate the habit of directing our attention inward. It’s not an instant fix but changes will be gentle and consistent. Gradually, you will break free from the cycle of thinking too much and you will reconnect to your natural state of peace and love. The longer you put off starting your practice the longer you will remain in disharmony.
6. Meditation takes too much time.
Spare time is a luxury that many of us do not have in excess of with the demands of modern day living, but everyone can create a few minutes in their day (I have periods where I switch my smartphone off so I can’t keep checking it to free up time). People who say they don’t have the time to meditate are usually the ones that really need to. Try just 10 minutes a day for 6 weeks, it’s enough to see a difference.
7. You need to stop having thoughts in order to meditate.
I have been meditating for years, and my mentors even longer, and I honestly don’t know of anyone who doesn’t have any thoughts. We are human beings with human nervous systems and will probably remain having thoughts for the rest of our lives. Meditation offers you the freedom to chose which thoughts you engage with.
8. Meditation is an escape from reality.
My reality pre-meditation was full of fear and panic and generally full of angst. I am now free from remorsefully thinking about the past or anxiously trying to foresee the future. You can’t get much more real than the present.
9. Meditation doesn’t work for everyone.
There are many types of meditation all with the ultimate aim of enabling you to be present. There is something for everyone. I believe the majority of people give up as they feel they are ‘bad’ at it due to the amount of thoughts they have when they try. Never judge a meditation on the time you spend meditating, but rather on the after effects: do you sleep better, have improved clarity, or worry less?
10. Meditation is selfish.
I struggled initially with taking time out of my day to meditate that could have been spent with my children or a million other things. It felt extremely self indulgent and uncomfortable. However, my practice has made me calmer, happier and generally a lot nicer to be around. Those surrounding you will reap the benefits almost as much as you do.
11. Meditation is the answer to all.
Life is subject to flux and we will all have times where our circumstances become more difficult. Unfortunately meditation does not guarantee you a problem-free existence. What it does do, though, is give you the tools you need to navigate your way through with a calmness and clarity that this too shall pass.