As stress begins to mount at work, you decide to try meditation because you hear it helps to calm people down. You download a guided mediation app, shut your bedroom door, sit on a fancy meditation cushion you ordered online, open the app, and prepare to close your mind to all thoughts for 30 minutes. As the music plays and the person speaks you find yourself thinking about the laundry that needs to get done and run through a list of items to pick up at the store. Oh wait, you are supposed to be meditating. Okay no more thoughts. Did you attach that document to the email you sent your boss at 5pm right before you logged off? Mind be quiet! This cannot really be this hard and how long has it been anyway? You open one eye and see the clock, 2 minutes?! And you give up on Meditation.
This scenario plays out all too often when a person attempts to meditate. Misconceptions about meditation cause us to become frustrated because we have some preconceived idea of what meditation is supposed to be that simply isn’t true. If you have found yourself giving up on meditation, here are some myths that often come up for beginners.
Myth #1-I can’t silence my thoughts
Somehow meditation has become equal to a silent mind not thinking any thoughts at all. I’m not sure where this came from, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. It is impossible to shut off the mind completely. In meditation the object is not to have a silent mind, but to calm the mind while learning to be present in the moment. A mind that is always racing with thoughts has been referred to as the “monkey mind.” Sitting in meditation helps to focus our mind so our thoughts are not jumping everywhere. Give the mind a task to focus on such as one’s breath so when the mind does wander it can be brought back to the task at hand.
Myth #2-Meditation must be done the right way
Many people think they are “not good” at meditation if they can’t close off their mind. People believe that meditation must be done in a certain way, at a certain time, and be completely silent. You don’t need a special cushion, nor do you have to meditate first thing in the morning or right before bed. You can choose the time that works best for you. Also remember, the goal of meditation is not to quiet all thoughts but to have more awareness of the thoughts that do come up without letting them control you.
Myth #3-Meditation takes too much time
People tend to think it takes them a long time to shut down, but if the goal is not about shutting off the mind then a time limit doesn’t matter. Meditation doesn’t have to take long periods of time unless you want it to. You don’t need to schedule an hour out of your day to sit and meditate. You can begin your practice in increments with 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Practice focusing on your breath as you breathe in and out. When you feel your mind, wander bring your attention back to your breath. If you can only do this a couple times, it still counts as you are trying.
Myth #4-You must be sitting to meditate
There are many ways you can cultivate mindfulness and be present in the situation that doesn’t require sitting. Many people have found walking in nature as a form of meditation. The quiet and concentration they feel allows them to be present with their surroundings. Washing the dishes and taking a shower can also be forms of meditation when you are focused on the task at hand. It is when the mind wanders that brings us out of the meditation.
Myth #5-Meditation is not that beneficial
While meditation doesn’t have the same benefits as exercise, there are still plenty of reasons to give it a try. Learning how to cultivate awareness on your breath has been shown to be helpful with reducing anxiety. Taking a couple deep long breaths can calm a racing heart and allow us to focus more on what caused that panic. This helps us build skills to manage our stress, something I’m sure we would all like to be better at.
I know meditation isn’t a cure all but it’s worth sticking with as I have seen improvements in my own anxiety and focus over the years I’ve been practicing. Give yourself 5 minutes today, focus on your inhale and exhale and notice how it goes. You might be surprised when you let go of expectations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As a writer, speaker, educator and coach my goal is to help guide people on their own journey to making a wellness lifestyle work for them.
My holistic approach teaches that it’s not just about the nutrition we put into our bodies or our fitness routine, we also need to take care of our own well-being as well.In order to truly live a healthier life we need to realize this is a shift and change in our whole lifestyle and we must cultivate this lifestyle every day.
I’m a certified health coach with a Master’s degree in Health Promotion with a concentration in Community Education.
This degree prepared me to become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). All of this knowledge is helping me create health education programs for children and adults alike.
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