5 Myths about Meditation
“Why isn’t this working?! What’s wrong with me?”
There I was, sat cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by candles. I had done everything right, just how I had seen others do it. I was sat correctly, I had my candles, I even had the accompanying soundtrack courtesy of Enya.
So why was it not working?
I didn’t feel calm or peaceful. I felt like I was about to fly into an all-out rage
Then I heard it.
“You’re doing it wrong"
“You’re doing it wrong"
How could I possibly be doing it wrong? I had followed all the instructions perfectly. Everything was set up, I was there ready to become, well... enlightened.
That was my first experience with meditation. I decided to try it on the advice of a coach I was working with to help me manage stress and improve my self-esteem - as can probably tell it didn’t go all that well.
I had bounced out of my coaching session, headed home and got to work straight away - spurred on by the promises that meditation would change my life. I read blog posts and devoured Youtube videos. It all looked so simple….
- Light some candles
- Put on some soothing music
- Sit comfortably
- Stop thinking
- Become enlighted, at peace and calm
- Repeat everyday for at least 20 minutes
Except it wasn’t.
That first experience left me in an emotional heap on the floor, wondering what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I stop thinking? Why was it so bloody hard?
It was nearly 4 years before I tried meditation again.
This might sound dramatic, but it’s true - Meditation, it would turn out, would in fact change my life.
So what happened? How did I get from sobbing on the floor to becoming a certified mindfulness teacher?
Truthfully, I learned that meditation isn’t about sitting in silence for an hour everyday or even about emptying my head of thoughts. It’s about learning to accept, be grateful for and embrace where I am right now. I learnt that it’s about finding what works for me.
For years after my first experience with meditation I resisted it. The universe delivered little signposts for me, in the form of blog posts I would stumble across, out-of-the-blue invites to meditation groups, suggestions in books I was reading and on the news - even celebrities were doing. Hell, there were rumours that even President Obama was meditating. Yet still, I would not give in and try it again for myself.
I would convince myself it wasn’t for me with all manner of excuses - I don’t have time, it’s too hard, I’ll never be able to quiet my mind. These are thoughts I often hear echoed by other people - there seems to be so many myths around meditation. Today, I want to break them down.
5 myths about meditation
1. It’s time-consuming
We are all busy. Never-ending to-do lists, endless responsibilities and things we need to take care of.
But, let me ask you this - can you find 5 minutes in your day?
I’m going to make a guess here, and say the answer to that is probably a big fat yes. 5 minutes is all you need to start meditating. You don’t need to sit for 20 minutes. Just start with 5. Or even 3.
There are busy, super-productive CEO’s who haven’t missed a days meditation practice in 25 years. Why? Because when we are living crazy, fast-paced lives, that’s when we need meditation the most. For those few minutes we can jump off the merry-go-round and into a space where time doesn’t exist. We can slow our breathing and lower our heart rate. Regular practice helps us to actually achieve more whilst doing less, as we become more ‘in the flow’.
2. It’s too hard.
I told myself this for years. I thought of Buddhist monks sitting in a meditative state for hours. I thought I needed to create a whole big ritual to be able to meditate, or have a meditation room especially for the occasion.
Meditation can be as simple as taking a few big breaths. Really, it can. Some days that’s all I can manage and let me tell you, some days that is all that is needed.
When I think back to that first experience of meditation, I think of that voice in my head telling me “you’re doing it wrong”. I’ve come to know that voice as my inner guide (or intuition) and she’s always right. I was doing it wrong. It wasn’t about the right music or the candles or trying so hard to concentrate. Meditation is simply about just letting ourselves be. Another reason meditation can become difficult is because we become to attached to the end result, expecting too much or putting too much emphasis on how it should make us feel.
3. I can’t stop my thoughts.
Oh man, this has to be the biggest myth about meditation and the thing that puts most people off trying.
Meditation is not about not thinking.
Trying to clear the mind of thoughts leads to stress and frustration (cue sobbing on the floor). We can’t stop our thoughts but we can choose how much attention we give them. Think about it (ha, sorry!), in between each thought we have there is a space. This space is sometimes referred to as the pure state - pure peace, pure silence. Meditation allows us to access that space more frequently. Thoughts will appear when we meditate, but by choosing to just accept them and bring our awareness back to our meditation, we are choosing to relax the mind and access the space in between thoughts.
I get that this might sound a little woo-woo, but science has proven that the more we spend time in this space, the more relaxed and at peace we become. At first, you might only have a few brief moments in this space, but with regular meditation we spend more time in a state of awareness and expanded silence.
Even if it feels like throughout a meditation all you have done is think, that still signals a breakthrough. Being aware that we are separate to our thoughts leads to healing and transformation. So often we view that constant chatter in our head as ourself. In reality our thoughts are a part of us, but we are not our thoughts. Meditation can help us to understand and accept that and once we learn to separate our thoughts, we are more open and receptive to what our heart wants.
4. Meditation is a religious practice, and I’m not religious.
It’s true that meditation is used as a practice in many religions. You might think of Buddhist monks sitting in silence for hours on end, or Hindu’s chanting. Whilst meditation can be used as a tool in religion, it is not affiliated to any particular religious group.
Meditation is simply a practice that takes us into a place of stillness and silence. As much as it can be used as a form of religious worship, it can also be used to simply experience inner calm or improve health. I have seen meditation practices begin for a range of reasons - people who were looking to relieve stress, lower their blood pressure, even to give up smoking (it’s a great tool for beating addiction!).
5. I don’t have space for a meditation room
Here’s a shocking revelation for you - you can meditate anywhere, at any time.
You don't need a room or meditation space. You don’t need a fancy cushion or candles. You can meditate at your desk, in your car (although, please don’t close your eyes whilst driving!) or in the shower. You can mediate in bed when you first wake up or before sleep.
Start by closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths whilst you wait for your shower to warm up on a morning. Sit at the edge of your bed with your feet on the floor and repeat a mantra a few times (I am safe/I am grounded/I am loved) before jumping out of bed to go about your day.
Sure, as your practice evolves and grows you might want to adopt rituals to help you focus, or create a space in your home for meditation but if you are just starting out, start right where you are.
Want to give it a go? Download my heart-led living toolkit below and get your free daily guided meditation.