Meditation Myths

meditation myths
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.

Meditation Is Doing Nothing

meditation

In meditation, I am not attempting to “do” anything. There is no striving or desiring to make anything happen, nor is there an expectation of anything happening. Meditation is only an alignment of myself to what is. It is becoming aware of the truth of “nowness.” When pausing for meditation, I am allowing the illusionary veil of unawareness to dissolve so I can be aware of what really is. That “is-ness” is reality whether I am conscious of it or not, so there is no need to change anything, add to anything or make anything happen. The reality is, I couldn’t do any of those things anyway. I have no idea how. So aligning my awareness to what is in life is the only thing I can possibly “do.” And that is true meditation.

Mind vs. Silent Presence

In meditation, there will frequently appear to be a battle between the chattering mind and silent presence. It often seems the distractions of the mind soon have you chasing a thought down a rabbit hole until you are hopelessly lost in thinking. Eventually, presence brings you back to silence and you sit there with a feeling of failing at meditation.

The problem is, you still identify yourself as the mind. You see the noisy mind as who you are and the silent presence as something you need to achieve in meditation. A breakthrough comes when there is a shift in your experience and you realize it is the silent presence which you are and it is the mind which is merely a fly buzzing around your experience. The mind can never take you away from silent presence because you are always that. You never have to achieve anything. When thoughts come, you choose not to identify with or resist them. You abide in the presence you are and allow the mind to do its dance. Like a fireworks display, you watch the thoughts arise, explode, and diminish into nothingness. You are the witness to the beginning and the end of all thoughts. This is true meditation.

Flash Meditation

Flash Meditation

Image by Shahariar Lenin from Pixabay

 

In the midst of the whirlwind of daily life, it is easy to forget that the essence of who you are is peace. That may seem laughable at times, but it is in those times especially, we should pause to discover and contact our true self, the calm beacon of light that silently never blinks in the middle of life’s storms.

Even when we are not aware of it, peace is present in the background of all of our experiences. It never goes away because it is who we are. All we need to do to experience it is to turn within in silence and be aware of our being. This is the true purpose of meditation. Meditation is not simply a technique for relaxation, but rather a connection to the presence you are. In meditation, you feel relaxed because you have connected with your peaceful nature, a nature that is beyond thoughts, beyond words, beyond the mind.

Our lives have become conditioned to being controlled by our minds. Most of us live with continual mental noise, a non-stop loop of mind stuff that distracts us from our true nature like clouds distract us from the clear blue sky. To live this way is really a form of madness. Fortunately, we have the power to slow this mental controlling down, if not bring a complete end to it.

Make it a regular practice in your life to pause at several moments during the day just to feel the presence and peace of your being. Don’t make it a mental practice. Pause, and actually feel this vibrating presence. These pauses do not have to last longer than one or two seconds. You can end it quickly before the mind even has a chance to get involved. To pause for ten seconds is wonderful! You can quickly make these flash meditations a habit. One second of peace before an important call. A brief moment of connection before you pick up the kids. A couple of seconds experiencing present peace before dinner. You will soon discover you are finding more and more opportunities to connect with the peace you are and these moments will become an increasingly sacred and transforming practice in your daily life.

Why Spirituality? An Introduction

Lighting a Candle

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

 

What makes a person choose to live a spiritual life?

Our world seems to have everything we could ever possibly want to experience. There are places to go, things to do, movies and TV shows to watch, hobbies to attend to, wars to fight, friends and families to spend time with, sex to have, partners to love, drugs to take, wines to savor, pets to cuddle, jobs to go to and tasty foods to eat. We literally have a universe of things to do. So why would anyone want to focus on spirituality, an activity which often removes us from all of these exciting experiences of our world?

Many of us have had moments when we have realized the experiences available to us in this life are not very fulfilling unless they are also giving us a sense of peace and happiness. If we are not experiencing inner peace and happiness from our jobs, we soon begin pondering different employment. We’ll leave relationships when they no longer give us the peace and happiness we crave. Even with a seemingly infinite amount of things to see, do, and participate in in our world, we recognize most of those things aren’t worth doing unless they make us happy or fulfilled.

One of the main selling points of religion is that it will give you loads of inner fulfillment. Since the beginning of time, prophets and dynamic personalities have promised peace, happiness, and a blissful life if you would just worship their gods, pray their prayers, and live their particular way of life. And it seems to work for some people. Their faithful attend places of worship on a regular basis, remove certain experiences from their lives, wear particular clothes or symbols, and read recommended holy books. Whether they truly find inner peace and happiness can only be testified to by the individuals, but there seems to be no shortage of believers, disciples, and devotees to the numerous religions.

Most of us, however, would rather not remove ourselves from the activities of the world. We have no interest in becoming monks or ascetics or hermits. We want to experience all the excitement and fun life has to offer while also gaining the peace and happiness we feel on an intuitive level is our birthright. So we examine religion a bit to see if there is something we can take away and incorporate into our daily lives. We try meditation but can’t relax due to our noisy, crazy mind. Friends may suggest yoga, but we can’t experience inner peace when we are trying our best not to topple over. So we give up. We’d like to find something that works but it’s just way too much trouble.

My own life has been a long, focused pursuit of the spiritual. I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t trying to find god or at least the most effective path of reaching him/her/it. I went to church, read books, prayed, meditated, fasted, listened to teachers, gurus, and preachers. At times I felt like I was close, other times I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing. Still, the quest for a spiritual life was always my main motivation. I didn’t know how to separate that seeking from who I was as a person. Then one day that happened on its own.

When I was forty-something years old and still living a life as a spiritual seeker, I had an experience in meditation that clearly “told” me there is no god. As you might imagine, that was a startling and unexpected message to come to one who had spent his entire life in the pursuit of god. Yet, oddly enough, at that very moment existence became clearer than it had ever been for me. Everything finally made perfect sense. At the time, I felt it was the closest thing I had ever felt to the experience Jesus described as being “born again.” It was a complete change of consciousness. From that moment, I ceased everything “spiritual” I had been working on, thinking about or studying and for ten years I lived life with no god. It wasn’t at all the life my Southern Baptist upbringing told me atheists experienced. There was no anger, despair, sense of loss, or hopelessness. On the contrary, I was filled with more joy, fulfillment, and inner peace than any moment I ever experienced as a spiritual believer.

Ten years after my “conversion” to atheism, I felt an inner pull to start meditating again. It wasn’t something I felt would be the start of a new spiritual practice. In fact, I assumed it would be nonspiritual meditation for the sole purpose of more focus, clarity, and creativity. It turned out, however, to be a doorway into a new experience of spirituality, an opening of inner perception and enlightenment. It was that “place” I sought to be my entire spiritual life. And it came without effort, expectation, or desire. Imagine that.

One of the continual frustrations on my life-long spiritual journey has been the seemingly complicated and complex instruction given by teachers which often seem to lead nowhere other than a new state of inner confusion. When I finally reached that space of  “enlightenment” it could only be described as the most simple awareness. Natural. Uncomplicated. Why was it necessary for me as a spiritual student to spend so much time trying to decipher spiritual puzzles, koans, and parables in order to reach this natural state of simplicity? Was there not a teacher somewhere who could have helped me wake up without pushing me further into darkness?

If anything, that is the main purpose and goal of this web site. To help provide a clear and simple path to those interested in “waking up.” Waking up to the nature of who you really are. Not to dish out a little bit of peace and happiness for your life journey but to help you realize that your own very nature is peace and happiness. That very nature is the background on which your entire life experience appears! I have no intention of assembling a new teaching. The world doesn’t need a new religion. My intention is to simply provide pointers in the way of thoughts, ideas, and examples that may prove helpful to your own spiritual life. These pointers may help shake your conditioned mental foundations and open new insights leading to your own awakening. It is my intention and hope that you too experience the beauty, simplicity, and infinite wonder of the reality which you are.