5 Meditation Myths To Dispel From Your Practice
Encouraging ourselves to meditate is challenging enough. It becomes even more challenging when our mind is riddled with false impressions of when, how, and where we should practice. Meditation doesn’t have any strict guidelines or regulations by which we should abide. Quite the contrary, actually. Meditation is about finding a place of individual comfort and appeasing our bodies with the serenity they desperately need.
There are a number of misconceptions about how to meditate that have been drilled into our heads by pop culture, and they could be hindering your practice.
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#1) Your mind should be empty of all thoughts.
We’re human, which means remaining thoughtless is practically impossible. Our minds are always whirring, whether we notice it or not. The key is to slow and redirect that thought-whirring to a more productive place. Meditation is about distancing yourself emotionally from negative thoughts and observing them for what they are. It’s not about ignoring that pain in your lower back, nor is it about dwelling on how excruciating it is. Meditation teaches you to identify the pain, and think to yourself, “Hmm, I feel a sharpness in my back. Let me soften it.” So, next time you find yourself lost in thought during meditation, don’t struggle to focus your brain on complete blackness. Otherwise, you’ll end up stressing yourself out more over the inability to shut your thoughts out. Rather, train yourself to tune in a second voice that identifies that thinking.
When you catch yourself aboard a train of thought, simply say to yourself: “Thinking.” Then, try to recenter on the breath. Or count your breathing to avoid letting your mind wander away.
#2) You should always sit straight-backed and cross-legged.
While this is the typical position we see yogis sitting in, not all of us are in the necessary physical health needed to remain in this position for minutes at a time. Meditation knows no seating requirements. It’s about finding a position in which your body can seek out homeostasis. This could be sitting on a chair, with your feet planted on the floor, and your spine along the back of your chair. You can even lie down if this is most comfortable. If you do lie down, simply clasp your hands and place them atop your abdomen so you can monitor the depth of your breaths. This will ease any tension or pressure in your spine and allow you to focus on achieving complete inner peace.
Remember that, in meditation, your mind comes first. Your body simply follows and benefits from the mental enlightenment. Presence takes precedent over positioning.
#3) The more time spent meditating, the better.
If meditation teaches us anything, it’s how many of the things that dictate our lives are pure social constructs. Time is one of these constructs. We give immense importance to the precise seconds, minutes, and hours that make up our lives. Time holds complete power over us in our day-to-day, and lack of it can often be a source of stress. So, why would we base our meditation practice off it? We hear stories about yogis in the Far East or monks in the mountains of Tibet that meditate for hours, days, even weeks. What we fail to recognize is that meditation is their calling and their livelihood – and we shouldn’t hold ourselves to the same standards.
In fact, feeling forced to meditate for 20-30 minutes a day can lead to even more stress. Suddenly, meditation becomes another fixture in our busy schedules. It’s not important how long you meditate for, just that you make it a routine practice. Whether you meditate for two or twenty minutes a day, doing it on a daily (or almost daily) basis is the key to its effectiveness.
#4) It will bring you immediate and everlasting peace.
Setting expectations for our meditation session is setting us up for failure. In a world with so many high standards as it is, why would we bring them into our practice? You will likely not feel the effects of meditation on the first day or even the first week, but practicing regularly is sure to show you the fruits of your labor. Just like a vitamin or supplement, it needs to build up in the body over time in order for it to take effect. Even then, it is up to us what we take from our meditation. This means that some days, we may not take anything away from it. Or, it may make us feel frustrated. That’s all okay.
It allows us to put our practice to work and to recognize that emotions are often easier to control than circumstances. And that, when emotions are not easy to control, we usually have the power to refine our circumstances to stabilize them. We can do this by taking a short stroll, a hot bath, or even just a few deep breaths.
#5) Meditation is only for certain kinds of people.
You hear this all the time. “I can’t meditate, I’m just not one of those people.” Meditation is not geared toward one kind of mindset or demographic, it’s for everyone. The studies proving meditation’s efficacy for reducing stress, anxiety, pain, and trauma have not been conducted on specific groups of people. The effects are all-encompassing. And, if you’re worried that meditation is a spiritual or religious practice that contradicts your values or beliefs, don’t let that hinder you.
While meditation is a staple of some religious beliefs, it’s ultimately a clinically proven method for improving productivity and mental well-being. It’s just about self-awareness and self-care.
So, whether you’re a Type A or Type B personality, religious or non-religious, meditation is never “meant” for you. It’s a practice everyone must work toward perfecting, and that anyone can accomplish with the right level of commitment. Ridding ourselves of the many false truths surrounding meditation will help us to better deepen and benefit from our practice. While rules may dictate most areas in our lives, meditation is the one place where they do not apply. With that knowledge in mind, we can detach ourselves from self-scrutiny and focus our energy on self-improvement.
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