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5 Meditation Myths You Should Know about

5 Meditation Myths You Should Know about

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Report your insights in the comments below.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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