I know, I know… meditation can feel like a snooze fest for some of you and an absolute miracle to others. There’s a lot of misconception surrounding meditation, because most of us imagine meditation as sitting in one place for hours at a time while chanting “om”. While that is certainly one form of meditation, the truth is you can do meditation anytime, any style, and anywhere. Today we are debunking all the myths that blocks your practice!
MYTH #1 – You have to sit in an uncomfortable cross-legged position or chant mantras
The image above might be what you associate meditation with when the thought pops in your head. It was certainly my first impression at least. I thought meditation was reserved only for monks up on the Himalayan mountains before I began my practice. Fortunately, that is absolutely not the case! In fact, you can meditate while sitting in traffic, walking, eating, standing, sitting, and laying down – the possibilities are endless! While you can certainly do it cross-legged, that is not a requirement! Neither are mantras. I’ve been practicing for 3 years, and don’t remember a time I’ve chanted a mantra while meditating.
MYTH #2 – I can’t sit still for that long! It’s too boring/I don’t have time/It’s weird.
I still catch myself thinking that I don’t have time for meditation, even when I inherently know it’s not true. Funny how time likes to play tricks on our brain! Truth is; you do have time! A simple everyday meditation practice can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. If Oprah, Kobe Bryant, Arianna Huffington, Katy Perry, and a plethora of other remarkably busy people can do it, so can you!
MYTH #3 – You have to quite your mind & stop thinking while you’re meditating
This is one we definitely hear about a lot. Many people believe their mind must be blank while meditating or else it’s not working. Unfortunately, this myth often causes beginners to forfeit their practice out of frustration. Meditation isn’t about stopping or quieting our thoughts- it’s about cultivating a sense of stillness and peace. Often times, we can cultivate stillness by setting an object of attention to focus on (for example our breath, an image, or paying attention to surrounding sounds). Thoughts will inevitably arise, and our goal is to notice our thoughts and watch them as if we were watching a movie. We pay attention to the thought without judgement or desire to push them away. We acknowledge the events happening in our mind, and we can choose to either continue observing the thought or return our attention to the object of attention (breath, image, or sound).
MYTH #4 – It takes a long time to achieve the benefits of meditation
It might seem like we have to go up to the mountains and find a secluded place to isolate ourselves for a year to achieve the ultimate benefits of meditation, but luckily that is false. Meditation benefits can be immediate. For instance, there was a period in my life when I was super stressed out and had difficulty falling asleep because of all the constant thoughts and worries in my head. Luckily, it was about the same time that I discovered meditation and began using the practice to induce me to sleep. For me personally, I’ve found that body scan meditations are the most helpful form of meditation in putting me to sleep. The results are immediate, and I fall asleep within 10 minutes, every time! Other immediate benefits include lowering your blood pressure, promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and boosting energy if you’re not in a sleep deprived state. Additionally, you can start achieving more long-term benefits in as little as 8 weeks! A landmark study conducted by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital found that participants engaging in consistent meditation practice for 8 weeks experienced decreased anxiety, greater feelings of calm, and produced growth in areas of the brain linked to memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress regulation. All that goodness in less than 2 months! What a steal. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you deeply.
MYTH #5 – Meditation is a spiritual or religious practice.
Meditation does not require a spiritual or religious belief, and its practiced by people of all different religions and beliefs. Many meditators are atheist or agnostic, and practice daily for the evident mental/physical/health benefits.
The real benefits of meditation are actually experienced outside of our practice. It’s in the moments of everyday life when we begin to notice that situations once pulling for our attention no longer bother us quite as much. Personally, It’s when I’m stuck in the gruesome LA traffic after a long day of work, and feel perfectly at peace in my car. It’s when a rude customer service agent makes me feel compassion rather than anger. I find that the times I’m more easily annoyed is directly linked to my consistency in practice. When we meditate consistently, we subconsciously carry some of the stillness and peace from our practice into our daily lives. That is where the magic happens.