Are meditation myths keeping you from sitting and breathing?
You’ve heard hundreds of times that meditation is beneficial not only for your mental health & peace of mind but also for your professional success. But the little voice in your head doesn’t buy it. Are these meditation myths keeping you from quieting that little voice in your head? (The little voice likes itself and likes being there!)
I found this great article about meditation myths on Forbes. I like everything that Louise Jensen had to say. I found her 11 myths to be a great outline for a conversation to which all meditation enthusiast can contribute . Using the same myths she discussed, here are my comments.
1. Meditation is just for relaxation.
In my view, meditation isn’t for relaxation at all. Napping is for relaxation. Meditation is a practice. You have to be involved, active. If you just want to close your eyes and zone out, that’s a nap. Mindfulness meditation is purposeful. It might be “relax-ING” but it isn’t for relaxation.
2. Meditation is a religious practice.
Meditation is a tool. Many, if not all, religions use meditation as it is a very practical and yet easy to utilize tool. But in itself it is not religious. If it were, meditation could not be used across the board, in many religions. Meditation is about awareness of your place and of the moment. What is “religious” about that?
3. It’s too hard.
Um… you sit and you focus on the feeling of the air at the tip of your nose. You don’t need a calculator, a slide rule, a shovel, an Excel spreadsheet. You need a place to sit and the ability to breathe. You do this exact thing all the time. All meditation asks is to NOT do other things as well. Technically, it’s easier!
4. It makes you an emotionless robot.
I have to admit, this meditation myth cracked me up. In conversations with my mom about how I maintain such an even keel no matter what is going on around me I have literally said “I am an emotionless robot.” I was kidding, of course. Meditation does not remove emotions from you. The inner calm and self awareness that meditation helps develop within you will help you to experience things at a bit of a distance, you could say. The emotions are still there, but instead of them having control of you, you have the mental clarity and the emotional space to look at an emotion as it arises and choose your reaction. It gives you pause. The emotions are still there but your reaction to them is measured and purposeful. I still laugh alot. I still feel passion alot. I love many things. There are things I’m not quite so fond of. But how I deal with the situations, especially in an immediate way, is different thanks to years of meditation. I recognize the emotions then choose how to express them or respond to them. And sometimes that does mean ignoring them.
5. It takes years to work.
I love cycling. I mostly commute cycle but occasionally go on 20 to 40 mile rides. Just this past Monday, on my way home from work, I made it home in record time and averaged over 16 mph on a 5+ mile ride for the first time. Then Tuesday I topped that time by 30 seconds and averaged above 17 mph. I didn’t learn how to bike last week, or last month, or last year. But my skills have improved through continuous use of them. Meditation is the same way. It starts benefiting you immediately and those benefits improve and increase the more you PRACTICE. But just like your first year of any sort of exercise, you’ll realize improvements very quickly.
6. Meditation takes too much time.
I’ll give my standard answer for this objection: What is your favorite television show?
If you have an answer at all, you’ve got time to meditate.
How long do you think it would take you to take 21 inhales & exhales? Not that long, right? Well, that’s how long it takes for the most basic mindfulness meditation. 21 exhales. Got more time? Do 21 more. It really is that simple.
7. You need to stop having thoughts in order to meditate.
I am a student of one of the Tibetan schools of Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism specifically speaks to this meditation myth. There is a concept “the Long Lived Gods”. These are being who believe liberation and enlightenment come about through the cessation of thought. They sit in a meditative state for immense amounts of time on end, the age of a universe and even the age of multiple universes. But they aren’t free, they haven’t experienced liberation or enlightenment and at some point, when their meditative equipoise ends, they are reborn in one of the lower realms. This was taught by Buddha Shakyamuni. So if the Buddha admonished against the idea that meditation is the cessation of thought, that should be the cessation of this myth.
8. Meditation is an escape from reality.
I can’t imagine who would think this. Meditation gives you clarity into your own reality by calming your mind. You are able to see your reality more clearly because you’ve gained perspective and control over the endless stream of thoughts and ideas that come in and out of your mind. One of the main purposes of meditation is to have a better grasp of reality, not to escape it.
9. Meditation doesn’t work for everyone.
I’d actually put this on a list of excuses, not myths. Not only are there different meditation techniques, even for beginners, but “doesn’t work” implies there is a single “goal” that not everyone can achieve. There are a range of goals, from simply calming your mind to reduce your stress all the way to the full enlightenment of a Buddha. That’s a pretty big range. There is a reason meditation is used in cultures throughout the world and has been used for thousands of years.
10. Meditation is selfish.
This one is ironic. One of the benefits of meditation is you become less self-ish because the narrator in your head can actually become more quiet. You will actually stop thinking about how you benefit from every situation and look at each situation from a more “distanced” perspective. “What’s in it for me” starts to quietly fade into the background. And surprisingly, this can actually be good for you even in a material way. You’re less likely to leap without looking, less likely to have an excessive reaction to incidents. People will find you less self-ish, not more.
11. Meditation is the answer to all.
You could meditate all day, all night, all week. But unless you take ACTION, nothing will ever happen, nothing in your life will ever improve. Meditation can help you have a more balanced approach to the difficulties and the successes in your life, but you still need to act. Again, meditation is a tool on a road to a destination. It isn’t a destination.
Do you have some meditation ideas that might just be myths?
Ask your question below and let’s get you started!