Despite meditation being so simple, and having such big rewards, there are some myths about meditation that can stop people getting started or make them quit before they get to reap the benefits possible from meditating regularly.
Meditation serves many purposes, from stress relief to self-awakening. Personally, I started meditating because I was fed up with my mind working overtime. I wanted peace and through meditating regularly I have become less focused on the movement of my mind and much more aware of my peace-filled conscious awareness that is always present.
Myth #1 - Meditation Is Difficult
Practiced correctly, meditation can be the easiest and most enjoyable thing you ever do. For something to be difficult, it requires effort, struggle, stress and stamina. However, the truth is meditation requires the exact opposite. There is no effort because you are learning how to do nothing. There is no struggle because you are not forcing anything. There is no stress because you are not resisting anything and there is no need for stamina because the main purpose of meditation is to relax!
Myth #2 - I Must Still My Mind
‘I can’t meditate because I can’t stop my thoughts’ is one of the most common reasons I hear from people who’ve tried meditation but quit. However, what’s important to understand is that thoughts are a natural part of meditation.
When you meditate your body gets rest. When the body rests it heals. Healing is an active process – stress is released and healing is being undertaken. Due to the mind-body connection, activity in your body is reflected by activity in your mind – in the form of thoughts.
Having thoughts when meditating are therefore a sign that healing is taking place in your body. It is not useful to resist having thoughts when meditating. To resist thoughts is to resist healing! Instead, let the healing process happen, as it naturally wants to, by not resisting the existence of thoughts. Let them come and go by being at peace with whatever thoughts happen when meditating.
Myth #3 - If Thoughts Are OK, Then It’s Good To Think
Although having thoughts is OK, I am NOT recommending you intentionally think your way through every meditation. There is a big difference between having thoughts and thinking.
Thinking occurs when you stop seeing your thoughts and you start being your thoughts. When you are thinking you are in the thought stream. You are in the dream. Engaged in the story of your mind, you are having an imaginary conversation with your friend, planning what you’re going to have for dinner, or whatever.
When you are thinking, you are essentially lost in your mind. You are no longer present, nor consciously aware. Thinking is a habit you learn to do less of through meditation. So be easy on yourself. When you become aware that you’ve been thinking, simply come back to being alert, present and seeing your mind, instead of being your mind.
Myth #4 - Meditation Stops When I Open My Eyes
Most of your day will be spent with your eyes open so thankfully the little flaps of skin that we call eye lids do not need to impact upon our peace, or our ability to engage life from a more meditative state. You feel what you focus on and experience what you engage with.
Meditation helps you to re-train your focus - from being scattered (on whatever catches your attention) to being more one-pointed. In doing so, meditation helps us cultivate the skill of intentionally directing our attention inward upon the still silent presence of our being, anytime we want. With practice, we can engage life with an inward gaze and experience our consistently calm being rather than only the movement of thoughts, emotions and external life. Eyes open or closed – it need not matter.
Myth #5 - Meditation Is Boring
Boredom requires thinking and time whereas meditation is about thinking less and being present more. Whether something is boring or not is a matter of opinion, and your opinions exist in your mind. Meditation helps your happiness and contentment to no longer be determined by the conditioned opinions of your mind. By ignoring thoughts and emotions associated with boredom you can more quickly enjoy mind mastery - whereby you use your mind as an amazing and powerful tool, instead of being used by your mind.
Boredom also requires 'time', which also exists in the mind. Whereas with meditation we are aiming to learn how to be more present. When present, all of your attention in resting upon now, rather than engaging thoughts about the past or future. Meditation is never boring when you are consciously aware of the present moment so if you ever feel bored when meditating, simply see it as a sign that you've started thinking and be willing to let go of your boredom thoughts to return to the brand new magnificent moment.
Myth #6 - I need a quiet space to meditate
When I first learnt to meditate I loved it so much that I was excited to get home to have my first solo meditation; which I believed would be my first of many years of meditating. I dimmed the lights, sat on a cushion, closed my eyes and within around 15 seconds someone started drilling the road outside my bedroom window! God's honest truth! I recall struggling through around 30 seconds more, not really meditating, but instead having an argument in my head with the drill operator! Then I thought to myself 'I think I will just stop for now and do it later when it's quiet'. But here's the thing, despite pausing my meditation full of the intention to do it when it was quieter, life continued to be noisy and I accidentally quit! Yes, that's right. I quit the meditation technique I was going to do for the rest of my life within one minute.
I had a great technique, but wasn't using it so life didn't improve, quite the opposite. It wasn't until life was much harder that I sat down to try meditating once again. Since then I've discovered that you don't need a quiet space to meditate. Meditation is more about discovering the silence that exists within. All sound happens within the context of ever-present silence. In fact, if you are willing to explore inside, environmental noise can make inner silence even louder! Take a moment to notice the silence immediately inside your ears that enables you to hear the sounds that are currently occurring. You don't need a quiet space to meditate, so do yourself a favour by not using noise as an excuse not to close your eyes. When you rediscover the silence within, you rediscover your true nature and you get to enjoy an on-going peace and quiet, irrespective of how busy or loud your life happens to be.
I hope you found this exploration of the common meditation myths helpful.