On hearing the word ‘meditation’, several preconceived notions and thoughts jump to all our minds. These very few are often found to be accurate, and most are found to be myths or misconceptions.
These myths have come to be because of years of spreading them and falsifying the idea of meditation into something else entirely. In this article, we aim to bust a few of these common myths to understand meditation better and let you in on the true purpose and technique it.
MYTH #1: Meditation is done to clear your mind or to control it.
Fact: Meditation is a technique to observe the thoughts that come and go in the mind. It is done to be in the present by focusing on the now, which creates a feeling of awareness and acceptance.
This feeling of awareness and acceptance is what is called mindfulness and is the goal in pursuit. Mindfulness creates conscious awareness about thought patterns and detours that our mind takes. This helps in accepting the state of our mind and bringing it back to the present from deterrent thought patterns using techniques like body scanning, conscious breathing, visualization, etc.
It is not about clearing or controlling the mind but about merely accepting the true nature of the mind and making peace with it, and trying to realign its energy when it is on a path that might be unhelpful to our progress. The true art of meditation is catching our untamed mind in the act of its erratic thoughts and bringing in the sense of peaceful relaxation and concentration.
MYTH #2: Meditation does not work if your mind wanders.
Fact: If you noticed that you had thoughts while meditating, that is proof that you were doing it right. The practice is about realizing all that goes on internally and becoming aware of it – just aware, without changing it.
The internal experience involves thoughts, feelings, physical sensations in the body, and more. The present awareness helps us detach from the inner dialogue and not get caught up in our thoughts and feelings.
Eventually, this ability to let our internal dialogue exist without judgment gives us a sense of control and clarity. This is what we wish to achieve from the process, and the first step of this process is noticing wandering minds and thoughts to take us further along.
If anybody were to claim that their mind didn’t wander, it would just mean that they failed to notice the thoughts because it is entirely natural and even necessary to the meditation process that you notice your tangential thoughts and wandering mind.
MYTH #3: Meditation is difficult.
Fact: Meditation is just being in the present; that is the simplest definition of the process. That being said, we meditate multiple times a day. Focusing for that one hour on your favourite sitcom on Netflix is meditating, getting lost in that book you love so much is meditating, being engrossed in that work report that you had to proof-read is meditating.
All these moments and more are instances where we are focused on the present moment. When you are watching that show, you feel connected with the characters; you can feel their emotions with every second, you are aware of everything in that world; that is meditation.
It is second nature to us because humans are designed to focus and concentrate. When we think of sitting in once place and taking time out specifically to meditate, it seems a little challenging. However, we meditate all the time in our daily activities, making starting this new habit easier than you think.
MYTH #4: Meditation is relaxing.
Fact: Yes, this might seem a little odd and quite the opposite of what is portrayed about meditation. It is often seen that some deep-seated thoughts and feelings arise for people who start practising meditation for the first time.
This is part of the process as these tend to be emotions and thoughts that have never been dealt with before. It accepts and acknowledges the existence of these thoughts that starts us off on the journey to mindfulness. Hence, meditation may not be a relaxing experience, but the result of it is undoubtedly relaxing.
On learning how to practice mindfulness, disturbing thoughts and emotions can just be allowed to exist and pass on their own without letting them affect us. We will choose how we respond to them instead of reacting impulsively, and that choice in itself is rewarding and calming.
MYTH #5: Meditation must be done while sitting.
Fact: We mentioned above how meditation is just about being in the present. This applies to any situation and hence, can be practised in any form. Of course, there has to be a method to this and some guidelines, but there are no restrictions on where you are or in what posture you meditate.
There are various forms of meditation that different demand poses. Some require that you lie down and completely rest your body, while others require that you walk. There exist techniques like walking meditations, and hiking meditations, where you observe the natural environment around you and narrate it.
These moving meditations offer all the benefits of stationary meditation, like achieving peace, organizing your thoughts, and so on. Not only this, but moving meditation even acts as a physical exercise and hence, boosts your immunity, blood circulation, and offers all the benefits that exercise do.
MYTH #6: Meditation is something you can be “good” at.
Fact: Meditation is not like a sport, where you can be good or bad at it. It is a practice, a practice that is done to gain a skill. Of course, the more time you invest in it, the more your skill level advances and the techniques that you can practice expand.
However, just because somebody has meditated for years does not mean that their mind does not wander or are immune to anxiety or stress. They will be better at handling stressful situations using this skill, but meditation is not a quantifiable item that can be measured in terms of how “good” or “bad” we are at it.
The purpose of meditation is not to get your thoughts to stop or to feel zen-like and peaceful. It’s an opportunity to practice a new way of responding to thoughts, emotions, sensations or distractions, and rewire your brain for new habits and patterns,” said Joree Rose, meditation teacher, marriage and family therapist.
MYTH #7: Meditation takes hours.
Fact: Some people think that meditation needs to be practised for hours a day, and one must lock themselves up in their room or a cave for hours together to meditate.
The truth is that this belief is purely out of a fictional portrayal of meditation and is nothing like real meditation. In today’s fast world, where everything is a rat race, time is precious, and nobody has the time to spend hours meditating in a single day.
So, modern meditation practices are adapted to this need and can be done on the go. If you have had a long day but it still won’t end, and you need a minute to recharge, close your eyes, draw in a few breaths while focusing on their sensation, and when you open your eyes again you will feel like a new person.
So, meditation can be done on the go, anywhere, and anytime. It does not matter if you do it for 2 minutes or 30 seconds; the important thing is to keep doing it and return to it every day.
MYTH #8: Meditation is like hypnosis.
Fact: Meditation is the exact opposite of hypnosis. In hypnosis, we are not aware of anything, not our breath, nor where we are sitting, not what we are saying, and not what we are doing.
However, meditation is all about awareness; awareness of every breath, awareness of every sensation, awareness of our surroundings, and most of all, understanding of our feelings.
Meditation is a voluntary, controlled action, that is done out of the free will to gain a calm and peaceful mind. Noting the differences in their definitions, we can clearly say that meditation is nothing like hypnosis.
These are just a few of the myths surrounding the word ‘meditation’, and there are plenty more where these came from. The point is not to fall prey to these myths but to understand reality.
If you are new to meditation and have no idea what it entitles, do the research, find out all you can about it, read our articles, find other research papers, use guided meditation, but try to avoid running into all the myths and rumours.
In the end, no matter what you read or listen to, you can only know the truth about meditation by experiencing it, and once you do experience its magic, there is no looking back from there.