In beginning a meditation practice, common (almost universal) challenges arise. Some of these have to do with myths of meditation. Others relate to negative habits and patterns, or mind traps.
If we're not aware of these challenges, we may become easily discouraged and feel like quitting. Once we normalize these tendencies, realizing they affect nearly everyone, we can learn how to work with them and even use them as support in our practice.
Here are the top five myths of meditation and how to move through them to deepen your practice:
1. “In Meditation, My Mind Should Be Calm And Quiet.”
One of the most common myths of meditation is that it’s about “getting rid of thoughts” and experiencing a calm, quiet mind.
Meditation is actually about noticing how our mind works, observing the rapid-fire thoughts neutrally and not getting caught up in them.
Meditation is a training of the mind. We train our mind to notice when we get caught up and come back to the present moment. We can still be meditating while we are in the presence of thought.
2. “I Don’t Have Enough Time To Meditate.”
Remember, mindfulness is a kind of meditation — simply being aware of what we are doing in any moment (walking the dog, doing the dishes, talking on the phone). It is building awareness in the present moment by simply being aware of the sensations, thoughts and emotions that arise. We can do this anytime, anywhere. While the most effective way to build momentum is to sit for a regularly designated sitting meditation, however, even 5 minutes a day or pausing for 10 deep breaths is extremely helpful.
3. “It Feels Like My Mind Is More ‘Crazy’ During Meditation.”
Once we pause and start paying attention to our mind, we begin to see how erratic and addictive it is and how little control we actually have over it. It can be disturbing to realize how unruly our mind is. But, remember, meditation is a practice of paying attention. So, making this observation is a sign of progress, not failure.
4. “Meditation Should Be Blissful, But It Feels Like Such Hard Work.”
The mind is a mirror. When we begin to meditate, we are faced with thoughts and emotions that may be painful or difficult to experience.
Meditation can be difficult, tiring and even frightening. It is not easy to sit still with unpleasant patterns arising. We usually see pictures and images of people meditating while sitting in a serene, blissful state. Over time, by bringing our thought and emotional patterns into awareness, we begin to learn how to work with them and release them. Meditation will become easier and more blissful.
5. “I Don’t Think Meditation Is Working For Me...I’m Not Seeing Any Results Yet.”
Like life, our meditation practices will unfold in its own time and at its own pace.
Meditation can help heal emotions, change thought patterns and create more responsive, less impulsive behavior but, it doesn’t happen overnight. Studies show that positive neurological changes and neural integration can occur even within the first few meditation sessions. Consistent, even small, effort is more effective than sporadic, longer, enduring sitting meditation. When we don’t notice life-changing, blissful experiences we may get discouraged or even feel like quitting. Instead of focusing on how blissful you feel during meditation or how long you can sit, focus on any small changes in your daily life:
Are you sleeping better? Are you feeling a bit more positive, motivated and upbeat about life? Are you more able to let go of stressful thoughts or impulsive reactions? These are signs that your meditation practice is working.