I remember the first time I tried to meditate and thought, “This is so not what I thought it would be!”
I had a very clear image in my mind of what meditating was supposed to be — and also of what it wasn’t. And what I discovered instead is that my preconceived notions actually kept me from experiencing the true benefits of meditation.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering why meditating isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, perhaps you have some of the same misconceptions that I initially had.
To make sure we are reaping the true benefits of meditation, we first need to understand some of the most common mistakes people make when starting a meditation practice. Here are six of them.
1. You're trying to stop your thoughts.
I was under the impression that when people meditate they have no thoughts. When I tried to do this, I failed miserably.
When we attempt to stop our thoughts during meditation, we are making meditation way more difficult than it needs to be. Meditating is not about not thinking. It is about observing our thoughts without getting carried away by them.
The more often we can practice observing our thoughts as though we are watching cars pass by, the more we strengthen our ability to do so throughout our day-to-day.
2. You only sit cross-legged on a cushion.
I had this picture in my mind that the only way to properly meditate was to sit on a fancy cushion with incense burning nearby. Given I have neither of those things (and wasn’t planning to buy them anytime soon), meditation seemed to be an undoable act.
Then, I tried something crazy. I sat on my couch in the middle of my studio and meditated.
The benefits of meditation are not found on a cushion. They can be found anywhere we choose to close our eyes, bring our awareness to our breath, and watch our thoughts pass us by.
3. You only meditate in a quiet place.
While assuming I had to sit on a cushion to meditate, I also believed that it could only be done in a quiet place. If I wasn’t able to make time for meditation while at home, I didn’t get my meditation in for the day. So I started meditating in other places.
When we quiet our mind, we don't need to be in a quiet place to meditate. We can use the sounds around us to bring us deeper into our awareness.
4. You meditate for a minimum of 30 minutes every day.
When I started meditating, I thought the only way I’d see benefits was if I did it for at least 30 minutes a day. Not that there is anything wrong with meditating for more than 30 minutes in one sitting — this can actually be very beneficial.
But the problem can arise when we assume that anything less isn’t worthwhile, and we miss an opportunity to use the 5 minutes we do have to center ourselves and cultivate our regular meditation practice.
5. You are expecting a certain outcome.
My first experience after meditation left me saying, “That’s it?” As if something incredible was supposed to happen once I opened my eyes.
When we meditate, it’s not about reaching any particular outcome — like feeling rejuvenated or shifting our entire perspective on something. While these things may occur, going into meditation with an expectation of a particular outcome will simply defeat the purpose.
Meditation isn’t about “doing” or “achieving” — it’s about “being” and “observing.”
6. You only meditate in total silence.
For someone like me whose mind tends to go a mile a minute, sitting in silence was probably one of the most painful things I ever tried to do. But once I discovered the ease of using a guided meditation app on my phone, I turned a whole new corner with meditation.
Guided meditations can be just what we need to observe our thoughts and experience some stillness.
When we let go of some of these expectations and allow meditation to be exactly what it is intended to be — a chance to bring awareness to our breath and observe our thoughts — we create space to experience a little more inner peace in any given moment.
What is your favorite mediation tip or trick?
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