There are still myths and misconceptions about meditation and how to do it as an everyday practice.
This can hold people back from trying it or making the most of their meditation practice day in and day out. Where do you stand on these?
Here are 12 of the main myths, and the actual facts for meditating. How many of these myths have you used in explaining meditation to someone?
VIDEO: What Do We Have All Wrong About Meditation?
Dan Harris, an ABC anchor, reveals the top 3 misconceptions and explains why anyone–even you!–can benefit from it.
Myth 1 – Meditation is just relaxation
Fact: Meditation involves mental effort. It can be relaxing and relieve stress, but relaxation is not the point of the practice. The point of meditation is to develop a calm and peaceful mind which we can then use for deeper meditation and personal empowerment.
Myth 2 – Meditation is really just self-hypnosis
Fact: Hypnotherapy involves a patient being guided by a qualified therapist into changing their behavior, such as stopping smoking or not overeating. Occasionally, it may access forgotten memories. Self-hypnosis has the same goal, only, in this case, it is the subject themselves who follows along with an mp3 or video instruction, or a pre-prepared script or visualization.
An example of a script might include “Picture what you would do with all your money if you stopped smoking,” or “Whenever you see a piece of cake, imagine yourself in a bikini on a beach.”
Myth 3 – Meditation is hard – So, is meditation good for you anyway?
Fact: Meditation isn’t hard. Calming your mind is hard because of the mind’s ingrained habit of jumping from one subject to the next. It is full of ‘chatter’, and become distracted by some things and fixated by others. Learning how to focus your thoughts will mean a calmer mind better able to function in a range of ways.
Zen meditation helps you become more present and aware. Tibetan meditation harnesses the calm, aware mind to actively think about a particular subject. Some of the topics may be difficult, such as the nature of our precious human life, or the importance of compassion for all living beings, but remember the origin of the word meditation, to think. If you can think, you can meditate.
Myth 4 – All meditation is transcendental
Fact: Transcendental meditation (TM) is just one form, and done by a very small percentage of practitioners. TM meditation is done in a certain way and with its own particular goals. It is a very modern form of meditation compared with Zen and Tibetan meditations. It is also not free, but only taught by licensed instructors, which can end up costing a small fortune.
Zen and Tibetan Buddhist meditation is much more common and easily accessible to anyone prepared to learn more and apply what they learn through regular meditation sessions.
Mindfulness meditation is the most common form of meditation in the West and is easy enough to do anywhere once you follow a few simple rules, which you will learn later in this course.
Myth 5 – You have to be flexible and do yoga to meditate/you have to sit in the Lotus position
Fact: These myths and misconceptions are linked, but both are false. Meditation is a component of certain forms of yoga, such as Hatha, Kundalini, and Ashtanga, but you don’t have to do yoga to learn meditation.
You also don’t have to sit in Lotus position with your legs crossed and your feet up high on the opposite thighs. Any seated posture, such as in a chair, cross-legged (easy pose), or even standing, will work fine as long as you are comfortable and can sustain the pose.
There are even moving meditations, such as ones done walking. If you’ve ever rocked a baby to sleep or put them in a stroller or the car to get a child to settle down, you will know how movement can also alter one’s state of mind and make it calm.
Why is meditation associated with the lotus flower? Because it is so beautiful and pure and emerges from the mud. In the same way, a calm, peaceful, positive mind can emerge from our mire of thoughts. Are you still wondering, is meditation good for you? You got to love the concept of the Lotus Flower!
Myth 6 – Meditation is all about chanting Om
Fact: This myth is linked to #5. People do sit in Lotus Pose and chant Om, a mantra, or part of a mantra, which is designed to focus the mind. But you don’t need to chant at all, and there are many more mantras than Om. It is just a question of what kind of meditation you are doing and what your goals are.
Om, roughly translated, means, “I bow to the wisdom within you,” with you referring both to yourself, and to the cosmos. It is used to focus the mind for meditation.
Myth 7 – Meditation is for religious types
Fact: Meditation is for everyone. Some of the meditation’s words and phrases may seem religious, but both meditation and yoga pre-date even Hinduism, the world’s oldest religion. If you still have concerns about notions of “God” or saying things like OM that might be contrary to a particular religion, a helpful definition is that meditation helps you study the science of the mind.
Myth 8 – Meditation is only for Easterners
Fact: Meditation is for every person, of every age. Those in the East, such as India and China, have more experience with meditation because it has been fully integrated into their culture over the centuries since it was developed.
It has lasted more than 5,000 years (that date is based on the oldest written text about yoga that specifically outlines meditation practices) because it really works. Some people have given up their meditation and yoga due to modernization, but many people are coming back to it due to rising stress levels and the feeling that something is missing in their lives.
Is meditation good for you when it comes to stress and anxiety? Oh yeah, you better believe it. It is the best medication, and it doesn’t cost you anything.
Again, you don’t have to do yoga, burn incense, chant, or do anything other than sitting still for a few minutes each yoga session. “Remain natural, while changing your aspirations,” is a good way to look at what meditation can do in your life. If you aspire to achieve your better self, meditation is one path on the journey to that destination.
Myth 9 – Meditation is a selfish waste of time
Fact: Meditation is one of the best things you can do for others as well as yourself. Meditation allows you to observe your thoughts and emotions, not get all wrapped up in them and allow the idea of how is meditation good for you, to take control. If you’ve ever said or done anything you later regretted while in the grip of a strong emotion such as anger, meditation can help you cut the link between mood and (unskillful) action. In this way, you can create more harmonious relationships.
Many accomplished meditators also report feelings of being more connected with themselves, and with the cosmos. This sense of connection with others brings empathy and compassion, both great tools for developing closer relationships and removing feelings of loneliness and isolation which can develop as a person gets older.
Myth 10 – Meditation is escapist nonsense
Fact: Meditation allows you to engage more fully with the world, not escape from it. It improves focus, which in turn improves understanding. Meditation is not about running away from your problems, but facing them head on and searching for solutions from within.
Myth 11 – There’s an app for that
Fact: While technology can help you keep track of your meditation practice and encourage you with reminders, tips and more, it will won’t do all the work for you. Music and chanting can help relax you to get in the mood for meditation, but it is no substitute for focusing on the breath and bringing in one’s awareness to harness it. There’s no easy button to tell you how is meditation good for you, that offers a shortcut to self-improvement, just a daily meditation practice for a few minutes each day that offers a calm, peaceful mind which you can then use to work on the goals you wish to achieve.
Myth 12 – Meditation is about letting your mind go completely blank, or empty.
Fact: Meditation is about reducing the endless chattering of the mind that distracts us from focusing on what we wish to accomplish. Your mind will never be truly blank, but you can choose what you wish to ignore and what you wish to pay attention to.
In understanding in what way is meditation good for you, you become an observer, watching your thoughts and emotions appear and disappear like clouds passing across the sky. There’s no need to get attached to any one particular cloud and start to obsess over it.
We don’t become empty of mind, we become mind-full, aware of everything meaningful once we push away the endless gibbering of monkey mind. Monkey mind swings from thought to thought without any coherence and can often cause mischief because it causes us to think and sometimes act in ways that are not wise and helpful.
Here are some great meditation quotes that can give you a good perspective on meditation
Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end. – Jiddu Krishnamurti
Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day. – Deepak Chopra
Meditation is acceptance. It is the acceptance of life within us, without us and all around us. Acceptance of life is the beginning of human satisfaction. Transformation of life is the culmination of divine satisfaction. – Sri Chinmoy
Meditation is listening to the Divine within. – Edgar Cayce
Meditation is all about the pursuit of nothingness. It’s like the ultimate rest. It’s better than the best sleep you’ve ever had. It’s a quieting of the mind. It sharpens everything, especially your appreciation of your surroundings. It keeps life fresh. – Hugh Jackman
Why do we meditate? We meditate precisely because this world of ours has disappointed us and because failure looms large in our day-to-day life. We want fulfillment. We want joy, peace, bliss and perfection within and without. Meditation is the answer, the only answer. – Sri Chinmoy
Within each of us is a light, awake, encoded in the fibers of our existence. Divine ecstasy is the totality of this marvelous creation experienced in the hearts of humanity. – Tony Samara
Every soul innately yearns for stillness, for a space, a garden where we can till, sow, reap, and rest, and by doing so come to a deeper sense of self and our place in the universe. Silence is not an absence but a presence. Not an emptiness but repletion A filling up. – Anne Leclaire
When we raise ourselves through meditation to what unites us with the spirit, we quicken something within us that is eternal and unlimited by birth and death. Once we have experienced this eternal part in us, we can no longer doubt its existence. Meditation is thus the way to knowing and beholding the eternal, indestructible, essential centre of our being. – Rudolf Steiner
Some people think that meditation takes time away from physical accomplishment. Taken to extremes, of course, that’s true. Most people, however, find that meditation creates more time than it takes. – Peter McWilliams
Millions of people miss meditation because meditation has taken on a wrong connotation. It looks very serious, looks gloomy, has something of the church in it, looks as if it is only for people who are dead, or almost dead, who are gloomy, serious, have long faces, who have lost festivity, fun, playfulness, celebration…. A really meditative person is playful: life is fun for them…. They enjoy life tremendously. They are not serious. They are relaxed. – Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
The purpose of meditation practice is not enlightenment; it is to pay attention even at extraordinary times, to be of the present, nothing-but-in-the-present, to bear this mindfulness of now into each event of ordinary life. – Peter Matthiessen
Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there—buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day. – Deepak Chopra
At the beginning of every winter people are careful to install storm windows. These extra panes of glass protect their houses against the bitter winds. We do something very similar to protect our minds through the practice of meditation. – Eknath Easwaran
Meditation is a valuable exercise, but eventually you have to open up your eyes and look around. – Dan Millman
There are qualities which grow as meditation deepens. For example, you start feeling loving for no reason at all. Not the love that you know, in which you have to fall—not falling in love. But just a quality of lovingness, not only to human beings. As your meditation deepens, your lovingness will start spreading beyond humanity to animals, to trees, even to the rocks, to the mountains. – Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
There are different things one can do to establish and hasten the peace process. Meditation is one way. – Mike Love
Before embarking on important undertakings, sit quietly, calm your senses and thoughts, and meditate deeply. You will then be guided by the great creative power of Spirit. – Paramahansa Yogananda
Meditation allows us to directly participate in our lives instead of living life as an afterthought. – Stephen Levine
The confusion also arises as a result of a central concept within Buddhism, that of emptiness. Emptiness is a special mental awareness that should not be overlooked or confused. Let’s take a brief look at this profound topic in the next Lesson.