A regular meditation practice has been shown to calm the body and mind, increase mental clarity and focus, increase vitality, assist in becoming more attuned to your own inner wisdom, and allow you to tap into universal energy – all very desirable outcomes!
And as if all that isn’t enough, studies have also shown that regular meditation can lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, improve the body’s response to stress, and even improve sleep patterns. Yet misinformation and misconceptions abound preventing many people from pursuing the practice in earnest.
To “clear things up” – both intellectually and spiritually, here are 5 myths of meditation, along with practical tips and advice for getting into a regular meditation habit.
Myth #1: The lotus position is the only way to go.
While sitting cross-legged on the floor works for some, it is neither comfortable nor practical for many of us, including myself. I sit in a straight-backed chair, feet flat on the floor, my open hands resting on my thighs, palms up in a gesture of “receiving.” There is also standing, walking, and lying-down meditation.
Myth #2: If I don’t clear my mind of all thoughts, I’m not meditating.
The goal of meditation is not to have a blank mind but rather to focus your mind and slow down the multiple random thoughts that cause stress, confusion and overload. There are different practices you can try to keep your mind focused on the present moment as opposed to thinking ahead or reliving the past. Examples include counting while you inhale and exhale or using a mantra – a repetitive sound, word or phrase.
Myth #3: I don’t have time to meditate.
We always find the time for things that are important in our lives. We already have daily rituals and routines that we follow such as brushing our teeth, walking the dog, reading the newspaper, or going online. Meditation can become part of your daily ritual – morning, evening or anytime. Start with 5-10 minutes and work your way up to 15-20 minutes a day minimum.
Myth #4: Meditation is just another word for relaxation.
While relaxation and stress relief can be a byproduct, meditation itself is something different. It is a focused awareness of the body, of inner silence, of your existence in this moment. It creates a heightened consciousness which can help you to have more clear and deliberate thoughts and actions, and be more “present” in daily life.
Myth #5: Meditation is boring
If your mind is usually racing with all the things you need to do and if you’re used to constant motion, noise and stimulation in your environment, meditation can, on the outside, seem like unproductive time. But when you learn to transition your awareness from the external to the internal, you can experience a state of well being, calm and clarity that is tough to pull yourself away from. For those of us who meditate regularly, we feel something missing in our day when we don’t get to it.
All that being said, many people still find it difficult to get started and to maintain a regular meditation practice. To find some help, do an Internet search for meditation classes and groups in your community. Look for a meditation coach or consider attending a meditation retreat. Use meditation CDs and read instructional books.
Give it a try. Study the practice, find some support, and make a commitment to living a better quality life.