Meditation is often seen as an esoteric practice for monks, sitting for hours in lotus position. This alone is enough to leave people thinking, “Meditation is a nice idea, but it’s just not practical for my life”.
Let’s bust these myths so that you can start reaping the practical benefits of meditation in just minutes a day.
1. You have to sit in a cross-legged position on the floor like a Buddha
Here is the truth: meditation is simply exercise for your mind. The way we exercise our minds is through deliberately taking a time out to practice awareness. Whether we sit in a chair, lie in our bed, or immerse ourselves in the ocean, the practice has little to do with what physical position we are in: the important thing is what our mind is doing. All we need to do is intentionally say: “I am now engaging in being present, and observing the moment as it is.”
Additionally, it is important to not judge the experience, but to simply recognize that you benefit from meditation simply through intentionally engaging in the practice. Just like when you set out for a run, you benefit whether you have a superb run or a mediocre run—the same is true for meditation. Some days may feel more peaceful than others, but nonetheless, you benefit no matter what.
2. You have to know about Buddhism to meditate
There are certainly Buddhist flavors of meditation, but it is not the only type of meditation on the planet! The ability to meditate has nothing to do with any religion. Meditation is just a big fancy word for practicing awareness, presence, and observing what is happening in this moment. By being fully engaged in the moment, you are in fact meditating. When we let go of the big label, and simply immerse in the practice, we relinquish the obstacle of “meditation is only for calm zen monks.” Anyone and everyone on the planet can intentionally say ” I am now going to practice being in he moment, and observe my thoughts and come back to this moment of now.” This is what meditation is all about.
3. You can’t have thoughts to meditate properly
The beauty of meditation is that it’s an opportunity to be fully aware of the thoughts that are coming up. This way, we can observe what is bothering us so that we can willfully choose to let it go. Moreover, our mind likes to be busy, and thoughts are natural by-products of the mind. This is why the exercise of meditation is to be present and aware of the thoughts that arise, so that we can see them, and choose to let them go. The thoughts will show up, but the magic is instead of the thoughts overpowering us and draining our emotional energy, we can observe them, and recognize that we do not need to believe every thought that arises. The moment you can notice the thought is the moment that you can release it. Awareness alone is the powerful tool that transforms the moment, and empowers you to let go of the anxiety around the thought. A helpful tool to do this is to bring your attention to your natural breath anytime you catch yourself thinking. The idea is that if your attention is fully focused on your breath, it will be pretty impossible to be focused on anything else. This is why the breath is such a powerful technique for quieting the mind. Every time you observe yourself thinking, simply come back to your breath to help you let the thought go. This is how we create mental clarity, and this is the home of greater inspiration, efficiency, and an ability to make better decisions in everyday life.
4. You will feel enlightened after meditation
Look, I won’t take away from you the possibility that you might feel really connected and awesome after a meditation session, but I hate to break it to you: sometimes your meditation session will be full of frustration, anxiety, and constant thoughts. So what’s the benefit of that? The only way to purge the anxiety, frustration, and incessant habitual thinking is by daring to take the time to let these emotions arise. The only way to liberate yourself from these emotions is to let them rise to the surface so that they can release. When you feel these emotions in a meditation practice, the important thing is to recognize that they are normal, and are often part of the fluctuations of the practice. The same way that if you are a runner, you may have days that feel superb and powerful, and other days where you feel weak and can’t stand the experience. This is all part of the fluctuations of the body, and the same is true for the mind. There will be a range of experiences, but the benefit of meditation is just like exercise—the benefits extend far beyond the time in which you engage in the exercise itself. When you go for a run, the benefits to your health are multi-fold and last longer than the mere 30 minutes you spent running. Just like meditation, the benefits of clarity of mind, and less reactiveness extend far beyond the confines of your meditation session.
5. You have to meditate for hours a day
Here is the truth: if you commit to a daily 5-minute meditation practice, you will begin to feel the benefits of clarity of mind, a deeper sense of calm, and more efficiency in your work. You are better off to create a consistent meditation practice that you can sustain on a daily basis, than go on a meditation binge trying to meditate for hours a day. Long meditations are simply not sustainable for most of us. I have seen within myself and my clients that the commitment to a sustained practice of even a few minutes a day has profound benefits. It also helps to strengthen you meditation muscles so that when you do choose to meditate for a longer period, such as 20 minutes, you will have that capacity to sustain a longer meditation. The idea of meditation is to clear our mind so that we can act more efficiently, clearly and lovingly out in the world.
Are you inspired to start meditating? Inspiration needs action to be of true value. Either use this moment to set your alarm for a 5 minute meditation, simply by sitting in a comfortable seat, and practicing awareness. You can focus your attention to your breath as an anchor to keep you in the present moment. This way anytime you catch yourself thinking, you can come back to your breath to help you let the thought go. If this moment is not the right time to meditate, schedule a 5 minute slot into your calendar now.
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You can get a benefit from just closing your eyes for 30 seconds if you make use of that time correctly: 5 Meditation Myths You Should Know aboutFeatured photo credit: Woman Doing Yoga at the Sea and Mountains via Shutterstock