What is Meditation? Breaking the myths

Following on from my what is mindfulness article, I wanted to take a moment to clarify what meditation really is. My aim, as always, is to provide an easy to follow guidance for anyone wanting to understand and implement Mindfulness into their daily lives.

Meditation is an ancient practice that has been around for longer than any of us can imagine. It involves sitting down comfortably for either five, ten, fifteen, twenty or even thirty minutes and simply focusing on your breath and observing your thoughts during that time. Meditating provides individuals with the opportunity to pause during a busy day, and actually focus on how we are truly feeling – something which would often go unnoticed in the busy-ness of our everyday lives, yet is so very important.

Over time, meditation itself has adaped to many different forms. You can meditate while walking, showeing, sitting at a desk (more on this topic in a future post). As always, with any kind of self development tool, there are always unfortunate myths that surround it, and I aim to break some of these myths with this article.

Myth #1 Meditating regularly, means you don’t “have your life together/there is something not right with you”.

I find this to be the most common myth and one that often stops people from progressing further with meditation, and of course, is not true at all. Naturally, it is not always comfortable to sit and focus on your breathing, so it is very easy to associate those that can do it, with a negative connotation such as they must need the extra help, or I am perfectly fine, what will meditating help me achieve? Meditation is an exercise of cleansing and calming the mind and no one should be made to feel ashamed for doing that. Our minds ‘control’ us on a daily basis, and the more we learn to befriend them, the healthier we will be.

Myth #2 Meditation requires you to push all of your thoughts aside.

This is a very common misconception which again is not true. A regular practice of meditation allows us to become obeservers of our thoughts, which helps us to watch them come and go, and not get too fixated with the negative ones. Visualisation meditations are often a good way to implement this, as the mindfulness teacher will often give us the example of watching our thoughts as clouds in the sky. If the sky becomes cloudy, it means we have too many thoughts running around (something that is completely normal) and when the sky is blue and calm, it means that we have a few thoughts only. It is an impossible task for anyone to try and control their mind and make it thought free, during meditation as our minds are not trained to do this.

Myth #3 Meditating is a waste of time.

Now this was a myth that even I used to think, before I actually took the time out to understand the practice. After meditating, I began noticing how much calmer I felt and how certain things that used to immediately stress me out before, would no longer phase me. I then noticed on the days that I hadn’t meditated, I would go back to feeling stressed about the little things. Some people notice immediate benefits, and for others it takes a little bit longer. Never give up and certainly do not think that you are wasting your time.

 

Myth #4 You can only meditate during a certain time of the day.

Not true. As every one of us is different, you will initially need to trial your mediation practice during a few different times of the day, depending on your schedule, to see what works best for you. I used to be an avid morning meditator, but more recently I have started to meditate before bed as I find it helps me fall asleep better.

Myth #5 Meditating is scary.

Everything seems scary at first! I totally understand how some people can be scared to simply sit and breathe because they do not know what is going to come up for them, and let’s be honest, we all have a fear of the unexpected. In order to break this fear, I would recommend beginning with some gentle guided meditations, so that you have a soothing voice guiding you through the practice. It will help you feel less alone.

I hope you find something useful from this article, and I hope I have been able to break some myths surrounding meditation. I highly recommend the Calm app for beginners as they have daily ten minute guided meditations which really help start your day on the right note.

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