Meditation is an essential practice for those looking to become more conscious in life. However, there are quite a few myths I often see which can result in some people avoiding it all together simply because they either can’t understand certain practices or they don’t seem to get the desired results. Let’s examine a few of these meditation myths.
Myth #1: It is Spiritual
Meditation is often married to the spiritual life and not without reason. The practice can seemingly lead to developing qualities considered desirable for a spiritual life: consciousness, awareness, peacefulness, openness, compassion, insightfulness, creativity, etc. However, many non-religious and non-spiritual people regularly practice meditation. Author, scientist and self-avowed atheist, Sam Harris, has taught a method of mindful meditation for several years. The benefit of having a non-spiritual capacity is that meditation can be incorporated into almost any lifestyle, whether spiritual or non. You do not have to change your beliefs to start meditating. Almost every religion has histories and traditions incorporating meditation. Even atheists and agnostics meditate.
Myth #2: It Involves Going Into A Trance
This may be the most widely believed myth and one that has inspired the most distrust by some religious people. Movies and TV shows often show people in a trance-like state while supposedly practicing meditation. This is due completely to a lack of understanding and poor research into the subject of meditation. Question anyone who says they go into a mind trance during meditation and suggest they actually learn how to meditate which they can then add to their developed, self-trancing skills if they wish.
Myth #3: It Involves Blanking Out Your Mind
Similar to Myth #2, this myth is believed by many non-meditators, but by a surprising number of practitioners as well. In fact, if you are not progressing at all in your meditation practice, it could be that your belief in this myth is the number one obstacle. The reality is, no one can “blank out” their mind. Meditation often leads to a more focused mind and less mental noise, but even experienced meditators know our minds do whatever our minds want to do. Beginning and intermediate meditators can sometimes harbor shame, based around their inability to control their mind. But successful meditation does not rely on the ability to control one’s mind. We meditate regardless of whether our mind is active or not. It makes little difference to us what the mind chooses to do. Inner stillness can be experienced in spite of an active mind. Let go of the impulse to control the mind and just observe it. That is true meditation practice.
Myth #4: Posture and Hand Positions Are Important
This myth kept me struggling for years. I could have very fulfilling meditations while walking or moving but when I sat cross-legged on the floor, I got nothing but cramps and knee pain. The truth is, there is no secret or “holy” position for meditation. The important thing is to be comfortable so you don’t have to think about your physical position. Laying down, sitting in a chair, driving a car and standing are all acceptable meditation positions. Walking, swaying and dancing are wonderful meditation positions as well. Experiment. There is no right or wrong answer. Do what works for you.
In photos of people meditating, I often see people holding their hands in a mudra. It’s another visual stereotype of meditation that I suspect is done without any knowledge of the meaning. In television shows, movies and photos, meditators can be shown sitting down with their hands in some stylized position: thumb and fourth fingers touching, palms pressed together or facing up to the sky, fingers in an “OK” position. These types of hand gestures, called mudra, generally have little to do with meditation and are symbolic, religious gestures with specific meanings in certain Buddhist and Hindu sects. In short, they aren’t necessary. If you need it, do it but most of us will not need it. Put your hands down in a comfortable position and you’ll do well.
Myth #5: It is Difficult
The most difficult aspect of meditation is overcoming the misleading myths and beliefs about it! Once you do that, however, you discover that meditation is one of the most natural life expressions. It is so natural, you may discover that you are not so much performing an activity of meditation, you are actually just taking the time to become consciously aware of the fact that you are always meditating!
Meditation is so natural and essential to our lives, we will unconsciously meditate even if we do not consciously do so. It could be argued that we are performing a type of meditation in our sleep. We will slip into meditative states throughout the day and receive ideas and inspiration we have no clue to as the origin. Those of us who wish to experience deeper results may choose to spend certain moments, consciously meditating. I challenge you to explore conscious mediation and see if you notice a difference in your own life experience.