The Top 15 Meditation Myths
Despite meditation being 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 since meditating regularly I have discovered that peace is easier to experience than I had originally thought. Here are fifteen myths that mess with millions of people’s meditation practice:
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 the most common reasons I hear from people who’ve tried meditation but quit. However, 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 is a sign that healing is taking place in your body. It is not useful to resist having thoughts. To resist thoughts is to resist healing! Instead, let the healing happen by letting them come and go.
Although having thoughts is OK, I am NOT recommending you intentionally think your way through every meditation. There is a big difference between thoughts and thinking. Thinking occurs when you stop observing 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 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 #3 - I have to feel peaceful
Countless people feel like they are failing at meditation because they don’t feel how they think they should. If there are ever any ‘negative’ emotions, then they conclude the meditation is not working. However this is not true. Having emotions when you meditate is usually just stress being release, or a sign that you’ve been caught up in your mind for a while, without realising, and started ‘feeling your thinking’.
But there’s the more important reason why you don’t want to care how you feel when meditation. All emotions are also temporary. They come and they go. Whatever you are feeling right now, I guarantee there’s been a time in your life when you were not feeling it. So if you are aiming to feel a particular way, then because emotions are temporary, your peace will end up fleeting too.
Meditation is about rediscovering and resting into the aspect of your Self that exists beyond transiting emotions. Who you really are is a permanently peaceful presence of being that is untouched by all emotions. When you know and experience this, naturally your relationship with emotions heals. Through meditation, we discover that we don’t need to feel peaceful in order to be at peace.
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. Whether something is boring or not is a matter of opinion, and your opinions exist in your mind. Meditation helps your contentment to no longer be determined by the mental opinions. By learning to ignore thoughts and emotions associated with boredom you more quickly enjoy mind mastery - whereby you use your mind as a 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 fully 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 now’ so if you ever feel bored when meditating, see it as a sign that you've started thinking and let go of your boredom thoughts to return to the brand new 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.
Myth #7 - I have to sit in a specific physical position
Some meditation techniques require you to sit fully upright, often with no back support, while holding fixed postures like ‘lotus position’. Although people can look very spiritual when sitting with their legs folded for long periods, it is not helpful for you to ever be physically uncomfortable. I believe positions and postures stem from the belief that we need to ‘do’ something in order to ‘become’ something. It is born out of the belief system that we need to fix, change or improve something in order to be deserving of peace or enlightenment.
Sitting with your legs folded doesn’t bring you closer to ‘the divine within’ or make you more spiritual. Meditation is about being your Self. ‘Being’ requires no effort or trying or doing. Being is already being; it is your natural state. You don’t need to ‘do’ anything in order to ‘be’. You actually need to learn how to stop doing anything. Choose a meditation technique that helps you to transcend the ‘doing dogma’ so you can engage life fully by resting inwardly into the beautiful being within.
Can you relate to any of these main myths? Scroll down for a few more myths…
Myth #8 - I need a meditation cushion and incense
Although it can be nice to create a nice space to do your meditation, you don’t want to every get to the point where you need any external props to explore the inner non-physical world. You want to be able to meditate anytime, anywhere. So you don’t want to become reliant on a particular meditation cushion, incense scent, candle or any similar props.
Myth #9 - Meditation conflicts with religion
All religions have a collection of beliefs at the heart of them, where as meditation is about going beyond belief systems to gain the direct living experience of peace, love, and oneness with divinity. If a person is too firmly attached to their religious concepts, then, meditation can most certainly challenge their beliefs. However, religion does not need to conflict with religion - as long as a person is open to the living experience of peace, love and compassion.
Myth #10 - I don’t have enough time to meditate
We all find time for what’s important to us. When I hear people telling me they don’t have enough time to meditate, then it is usually a sign that meditation isn’t really that important to them; compared to all of the other things they do every day. We all find time - every day - to eat, to clean, to go to the toilet, to sleep, to scroll on our phones… Most people I meet have more time than they think, but they aren’t making meditation important enough to use the time they do have throughout their day to close there eyes.
I used to postpone meditating until I had ‘enough time’. If I didn’t have my desired 30 or 60 minutes free, I would plan to do it later. When I saw this habit of postponing, I decided to do it anytime I had a spare minute. If you only have 5 minutes now, then do 5 minute of meditation now - instead of 5 minutes of scrolling on your social media feed, for example. You’ll be amazed by how much time a few minutes here and there adds up to by the end of the day.
One thing I also did to make sure I didn’t miss my daily meditations was to plan my day around meditation, instead of trying to fit meditation into my day. I found that if I tried to fit it in, then there was always other things to do. So I highly recommended scheduling your meditation times - for example, before breakfast, before dinner and before bed. Having fixed times every day when you aim to meditate means you know when you’re ever missing it and helps you to stay committed to a regular practice.
People who meditate are usually more focused, efficient and get more done in less time. So if you ever feel you don’t have time to meditate, then these are the days you really need to sit down, close your eyes and just ‘be’ for a while, before getting on with your things to do list. So much time is wasted thinking about things, rather than immediately doing things. Thinking wastes so much time. If you were to close your eyes and meditate - every time you were thinking about how you don’t have the time to meditate - then you may be surprise by how much meditation you can actually get done every day.
Myth #11 - Meditation is selfish
If you are more peaceful and happy and energised then you can truly help others. Meditation helps you to be in the best mental, emotional and physical state for being nice to be around and for making a positive difference to the lives of others.
Myth #12 - It takes years to benefit from meditation
You start benefiting from meditation from the first time you do it. Yes, the benefits increase over time, but it certainly doesn’t take years to see improvements. And here’s the thing, if you start today you are going to be much more peaceful, happy and fulfilled a year from now, compared to if you never start at all.
Myth #13 - Guided visualisations are meditation
Meditation helps you to go beyond the mind and imagination, to experience your ‘real Self’ and the reality of now. Visualisations may be pleasant and provide temporary relief, but they still use the mind. Visualisations basically move you from one part of your mind to a ‘prettier’ part of your mind. True freedom and self-realisation is attained by going beyond the limitations of your mind to experience the fullness and potential of a live lived with presence and peace.
Myth #14 - Meditation is escaping from real life
When meditating, you are not tuning out or denying reality but instead, you are tuning into now and fully welcoming reality. Nothing about meditation is about escaping or denying reality. When you over-think about things, you are leaving the reality of now and going into an imaginary world. So the truth is when you meditate you are learning to experience real life even more.
Myth #15 - Meditation is a serious thing to do
You may be wondering why I used a green parrot for the image of this article. I did so because so many people buy into the myth that meditation needs to be serious. One of the biggest benefits I’ve gained from meditating is learning to take life less seriously, which in turn has brought about more fun and joy. I hope this article helps you to enjoy your meditation practice much more and inspires you to keep going, even when your mind tells you it isn’t working. Meditation works, and often, in a multitude of unexpected ways.
Article by Sandy C. Newbigging
Sandy is the founder of the Calm Academy and creator of Mind Calm, Body Calm, Calm Cure and Mind Detox techniques - collectively known as Calmology. He’s a meditation teacher, monk and multi-bestselling author.