Have you ever sat down to give meditation an earnest try only to leave the experience discouraged and frustrated? Do you feel like it’s impossible for your mind to be still and the idea of sitting in silence makes your skin crawl? Do you feel like meditation isn’t for you because you’re too broken and your mind is too fucked up?
Well if you do, fear not, because you are not alone. These are some of the most common fears that I hear about meditation. If you’ve spent some time on the cushion maybe you have heard these illegitimate fears as well. It’s all too common for us to know we should meditate, but for every good intention to start there are just as many excuses not to.
The point of this article is to show you what meditation is, and what it isn’t. After reading this, my hope is that we will have broken down any barriers that are holding you back from starting and sticking with your own practice.
So, without further ado, I present to you the three most common myths I hear about meditation:
Myth #1: I can’t meditate because I can’t stop my mind
This is by far the most common misconception I hear when people tell me why they don’t meditate. But guess what, I have good news for you! Mediation is NOT about stopping your mind. Meditation is about OBSERVING your mind… It’s about seeing what comes up as you sit and looking at it for what it is—just a thought. It is impossible to stop your mind for an extended period of time and furthermore, why would you want to?? Wouldn’t that make you dead?
The truth is, you are not your thoughts. In fact you can’t stop thoughts from happening. Try it. Try not to think about a pink elephant and see what happens… Are you still thinking? Do you see a magnificent pink elephant in your mind? I bet you do 🙂
The goal of mediation is to see where your attention goes and realize that you are the thinker not the thought. When you notice your mind is wrapped up in a stream of thought, you simply bring your attention back to your focal point—a.k.a. anchor
An anchor is simply a present moment sensation that you return to when you notice your mind has wondered. Some people focus on their breath while others focus on body sensations or the sounds they hear.
When you can see the crazy thoughts running through your mind with objective clarity, you create space. And the space between you, the observer of the mind, and a thought is where all the magic happens. When you know what kind of thoughts pervade your consciousness you can choose better thoughts.
If you choose better thoughts you choose better actions. If you choose better actions you will inevitably create a kinder conception of yourself and boom; meditation is like working on yourself like an expert pianist works on writing a new symphony.
Myth #2: I can’t relax when I meditate:
Mediation is not a method of relaxation. Yes, sometimes a meditation session can give you a transcendental experience but this is not necessarily the norm. Often times when you sit the session will be challenging. Other times it will be peaceful. The end game, however, is not to relax or “zen out” so to speak. Rather, the practice of bringing your attention back to your anchor over and over again will create space. And as we said before, that space allows you to act instead of react.
Furthermore, meditation means sitting with “what is” during your session. Whether it’s a feeling of anxiety or frustration, the point of meditation is to not judge what arises. It’s to notice what comes up and choose how you want to respond.
Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself! See what happens when you are in control of your awareness. If you are like me, you will see the benefits of mediation away from your formal practice. The space you create will allow external forces to flow through you instead of getting trapped in you.
Myth #3: I don’t have the time to start meditating.
The amount of time you meditate is not nearly as important as the quality of time and your intention to sit with whatever comes up. I remember my first meditation session like it was yesterday. I woke up early in the morning to find some quite time by myself and I sat for a whole whopping 6 minutes! That’s it!!
I didn’t see benefits after day one but I kept true to my commitment to sit for six minutes until finally one day I witnessed a shift in myself as I talked to a coworker. Instead of getting frustrated by something they did, I took accountability of my own thoughts and emotions because I could see them for what they were.
Before I was blinded but now I can see.
The point is this: just start!
Whether its 5 minutes or 20 minutes, once you get some momentum the duration will naturally increase because you will see the benefits of sitting with yourself. You will see what meditation can do for you. It might not happen after the first day or the first week, but stick with it and you will see how you change.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. My sincere hope is that this has helped answer some of the questions that are holding you back from starting a mediation practice. For those of you who do have a mediation practice, we would love to hear some other common misconceptions that you might have heard.
And finally, those who want to mediate but haven’t yet, make sure to tell us what’s holding you back. Maybe we can help you alleviate some of those fears and guide you on your journey!
Thanks as always!
Many many blessings 🙂