Meditation, for those who really know it well, is a fairly difficult practice that brings life changing benefits if practiced properly and regularly.
But for many who don’t know it, including the beginners who desire to get started with it, there is still the fog and mist of myths and misconceptions about the practice that gets them confused and makes them wonder if it is really worth doing it not to mention if it comes with benefits, if any.
Here, we look to debunk the most common myths about meditation that have been circulating for years.
Myths Based on What Meditation is
* Meditation is a religious and spiritual practice that doesn’t favor some religions like Christianity – As defined in our meditation beginner’s guide, meditation is the continuous silencing of the thought process to get to the source of thought, which is the source of the self and the universe. This means that it is designed for all human beings. While there are many types of meditation, they are all aimed at bringing us to our true nature that is peaceful, happy and healthy. And you can only understand it better when you do it and experience it yourself. That’s the only way to experience the truth of meditation.
Just as the Buddha said, “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken or rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe anything merely on the authority of your teachers or elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept and live up to it.“
* Meditation is a way to run from existing problems – Meditation does not give you an out as far as your problems are concerned. And if you approach it with that mentality, you will be disappointed sooner than you can imagine. What meditation does for you is to make clear what is happening to you.
It helps you see the problems clearly as well as allow you to have the focus, concentration and skills to solve the problems. But you are able to get there with lots of practice, time and patience. Meditation is not a quick fix or a way of escapism. It amplifies what you already are and then you choose which way you want to go, either to solve the problems or remain with them and let them overwhelm you. It’s up to you.
* Meditation is evil – There are some people who say meditation is based on evil and cannot help you if you are trying to live a righteous and peaceful life. These myths are promoted by people who don’t know meditation well enough. Anyone who knows the practice understands very well that its aim is to improve the quality of life, to reduce suffering in your life and allow you to live in happiness, health and serenity.
* Meditation is completely different from our normal life – On the contrary, meditation serves as the foundation for growing admirable value and characteristic qualities that make your daily life better. For instance, mindfulness meditation trains you to increase your level of mindfulness which you can the spill over to your daily life and work towards being mindful from when you wake up to when you sleep, something that comes with numerous benefits.
* Meditation is a solution to all my problems – Meditation may provide solutions to some of your problems but definitely not all. It will help you reduce stress, anxiety and a few other aspects that may be holding you back, but it won’t take away all the issues that you are struggling with. In certain cases, it will reveal your problems to you in a clearer way and then you will have to make the decision and take the initiative to change things yourself.
* Meditation is only for grown-ups, mostly old people – The areas that meditation helps with include stress, depression, lack of focus and concentration and lack of good sleep, which people of other age groups fight with as well. There are discussions in progress on how meditation should be added to the curriculum for children to work with it as well. The few schools that started using it have reported huge improvements in the way children feel and behave.
* Meditation is for the rich – Meditation is an exercise for everyone and all that is required to make it work is the initiative, willingness and your mind. The time required to do it is something everyone can manage and the benefits come to everyone who does it seriously and often.
* There is only one meditation – Meditation comes in various styles which are used for different purposes. To name a few, there is Vipassana meditation, chakra meditation, Christian meditation, Buddhist meditation, loving kindness meditation, standing meditation and walking meditation, among others. And there are more styles being developed as years go by.
* Some types of meditation are better than others – All types of meditation are valuable and beneficial. There is no better type than the others. Each is useful at its proper place and when used by the right person in the right way. When you start to compare you lose the whole idea of the practice. Meditation is about training your mind for your own self development. And this takes many routes. What works for you personally is what really matters, and it may be different from another person. So don’t believe what others say about a particular type over another.
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, also said, “Words do not express thought very well; every thing immediately becomes a little different, a little distorted, a little foolish. And yet it also pleases me and seems right that what is of value and wisdom of one man seems nonsense to another.“
* Meditation is very hard and it takes years to benefit – Meditation is not as hard as many people make it appear. It is fairly difficult as you begin but this is common with every new thing we start. But with time, we are able to learn the ropes and things get easier and more interesting.
* Meditation is boring – The idea of sitting in silence without doing anything physical seems to be boring on the outside but when you understand what really happens on the inside, you will truly appreciate the art. When you get into a meditation session and begin meditating, a whole new world opens up for you.
Myths Based on How Meditation Works
* When meditating I must wear specific clothes, do some rituals and burn incense among other activities – As earlier said, meditation is not a religious or spiritual practice. However, there are those who practice it from that angle and may have to do these things as they find them to increase their focus and involvement in the practice. But it is important to note that it is not a requirement for everyone who does meditation to do them. It is entirely on you and the style you choose to use to meditate.
* Meditation is all about relaxation – Meditation does work with relaxation but everything is not about it. When you get to meditate, you get into a state called the meditative state that gets you relaxed but alert as well. In this state, you are able to venture into your inner self. Relaxation, therefore, can be seen as an ingredient as well as effect of successful meditation.
* I can only meditate in a temple or a carefully chosen place – Meditation can be done just about anywhere. Ideally, you need to find a quiet place with few to no distractions and where you will not be disturbed for the next few minutes that you will be meditating. This place can be your living room, bedroom, outside the house, in your compound or even in the office. You are not limited to one specific place as far as meditation goes.
* Meditation is pretty much self hypnosis – While there are similarities between meditation, especially guided meditation and self hypnosis, there are fundamental differences between them. We encourage you to check out our in-depth explanation on the difference between meditation and hypnosis.
* I must work with a meditation expert whenever I meditate – You don’t necessarily need to have this great meditation expert or guru when you meditate. Meditation is just like taking up a new course, you don’t know much about and you also don’t know how to execute it well. For that reason, it is strongly recommended that you learn the type of meditation you want to delve into from a qualified and experienced teacher. This way you will have a good foundation of the practice laid down for you and you will know how to do the practice the right way so as to experience the benefits. After that, you can be meditating on your own. The essence of a teacher is to teach you how to do it right.
* Meditation is all about keeping the mind quiet – All that meditation is, does not revolve around silencing the mind, although it is an essential aspect. As said, there are many forms of meditation that go about the exercise differently. And being able to keep the mind quiet allows for more introspection as well as other activities in the mind that are required by the style you are working with.
* Meditation does not require any effort – Meditation is more of a training from the state you are in to the state that allows you to access the kind of benefits you are looking for. This being the case, you have to put effort into training your mind and body towards that state.
* Meditation is done with eyes closed – Not true. You can meditate with your eyes open, but while maintaining a low gaze so that your main focus is on the practice and not your surroundings.
* Meditation is just like mindfulness – Like we said with relaxation, mindfulness is another aspect of meditation. When you are mindful, you are aware of your breath, thoughts, feelings and sensations. And having a high level of mindfulness helps you to go deeper within your self and have a productive meditation session. You can check out our guide on mindfulness meditation that puts this point into perspective.
* When meditating, chanting mantras is all that is done – Some people say that meditation is about sitting down and repeating the mantra “OM” throughout the session, which is totally wrong. Some styles of meditation such as transcendental meditation use mantras to help the mind to calm down and focus more, but this is not what you will be doing the whole time.
* Meditation requires you to sit in a lotus position like the Buddha – Many movies have misrepresented meditation to mean the practice of sitting down with your feet crossed in front of you. However, people don’t have to sit in that position. There are those who do it and those that don’t. You can sit on a chair, a meditation cushion or a bench with your feet resting on the ground. You can also meditate when standing. It all boils down to the style you are doing. For those meditations where you sit in the lotus position, there are alternative sitting positions for those who can’t do it.
* Meditation is too demanding in terms of time – Meditation is not that demanding. You can start by meditating for 1 minute to 5 minutes a day. When you start meditating and see how it is slowly improving your life, you just naturally want to meditate more. And when you set your mind on it, you can be sure you have more than enough time to do it.
* Meditation is a constant fight with thoughts – There is more to meditation than just struggling with thoughts. Directing your focus on the practice rather than getting lost in thoughts is encouraged but it is not a fight, in the literal sense. For the most part, what you do is be aware of your thoughts and when your focus is lost and you notice it, you gently bring it back to the session.
* Meditation is about feeling good – Sure, meditation does bring some good feelings with it, but there are also days when it gets you disappointed with yourself. When you meditate on other days, you feel empowered and on top of the world, you also feel low and discouraged on other days. This is common and it keeps happening until you have achieved balance. Also, what you get to find out about yourself may not be that pleasant. But the good thing is, no matter what happens, it is all working in your favor.
* Meditation is not possible if you can’t sit still – You can definitely meditate even if you can’t sit still. Firstly, you only need to be aware of the uneasiness and it slowly reduces until you are still. Second, you can try other styles like walking or standing meditation.
* You cannot meditate when you have any thoughts – Meditation is about controlling your focus and attention. Thoughts are a part of us and we cannot stop them from the get go and then meditate. They have to pop up once in a while during the practice, and this is fine. What you do is to just simply observe them as you redirect your attention to the practice.
* Meditation works only for stressed people – Meditation does come in handy for people who are stressed as it helps to reduce the stress and tension. However, there are many benefits that come with meditation except for bringing down stress.
* Meditation takes years to learn it properly – Learning how to do meditation takes some time but not years. You can learn from a meditation teacher or meditation resources online in a matter of weeks. And if you do it regularly, you should know how to practice it in a short time.
Myths Based on What Meditation Does
* Meditation can be of benefit to anyone – As with all forms of medication and treatment, meditation is bound to work differently on people who make use of it. And the degree of how it works, also varies from one person to another. So you shouldn’t expect it to work as great as it has for a friend of yours. It may turn out to be much better or worse. We have different brain and body chemistry which makes us have different results with most of the things we work with.
As Osho, the famous meditation expert and founder of dynamic meditation and the Rajneesh movement said, “One thing: you have to walk, and create the way by your walking; you will not find a ready-made path. It is not so cheap, to reach the ultimate realization of truth. You will have to create the path by walking yourself; the path is not ready-made, lying there and waiting for you. It is just like the sky’ the birds fly, but they don’t leave any footprints. You cannot follow them; there are no footprints left behind.“
* Meditation makes the meditator dead to feelings and emotions – Meditation allows you to have a better grasp of your emotions and how you respond to them, it doesn’t make you dead to them. Through experience, you will get to have a better chance of reacting better to situations, even the most difficult ones. And when you get to experience positive feelings and emotions, you will feel them from deep within you. As for the negative ones, you will be more aware of them and feel that ability to control them.
* Meditation brings relaxation and ease right off the bat – Meditation is not a quick fix to relaxation and ease, it is a journey. You may experience some peace and harmony on the first few days but you can be sure it is not going to be like that all through. You are going to go through some turbulence before you can really get there and make the peace and inner harmony stay for long.
See, meditation is not what many people think it is. And it is only until you take time to find out the truth for yourself that you come to realize that most of the things said about it are not true.
Meditation experts recommend taking your time to do research on meditation as a whole and experience it yourself. It is also essential you get to know the type of meditation you wish to get started with better so that you do it knowing full well what you are getting yourself into, how to do it and what to expect from it.
A sage once said, “The cure for ignorance is to question” and you have done well to question all the myths about meditation because that questioning has helped you arrive at the truth.