Despite the growing popularity, there are several misconceptions around meditation, which can be disconcerting and prevent one from learning.
1- Meditation is difficult: Meditation is perceived as an esoteric or religious practise that originates from the East and is only for monks, holy men and saints. Whilst it originated from the East, it is a technique for the mind and since we all have a mind, we can say that meditation is a universal practise. When meditation is taught by a qualified and experienced teacher, it is enjoyable, easy to learn and you get to understand the real meaning of correct meditation. Once we understand this, we realise that meditation is a natural, effortless process and can be practised by silently listening to the breath or silently repeating a sound (mantra).
2- I can’t concentrate: Trying too hard to concentrate can actually bring strain and resistance, which is the opposite of what meditation is about. Whilst some practices take this approach, this actually prevents the mind from settling and long periods of concentration and focus is too difficult. This will keep the mind on the busy surface level, whereas, meditation is about allowing the natural tendency of the mind take its course, which is to go beyond thought. This deeper, restful experience is also known as transcending and does not involve any forcing.
3- I am not doing it right: As a beginner, it’s natural to question if you’re doing it correctly. With a teachers support, it’s easy to understand and shift this perception which will lead you to a smoother practise. There is no such thing as right or wrong meditation and the likelihood is you are practising correctly but have doubts which is common amongst beginners.
4- I am not getting any results: In the process, if we get too attached to results, we can miss out on what’s unfolding naturally and the likelihood is you will stop practising. With regular daily practice, benefits and results come naturally so the key is to accept, trust the process and allow nature to take its course!
5- I cannot still my mind, therefore, I cannot meditate: This is probably the number one misconception. It is the nature of the mind to think so trying to quieten, control or empty the mind, will only bring stress and strain but we can choose how much attention to give to thoughts. Although we can’t force to quieten the mind, we can find the quiet place that already exists. The mind has opposite polarities just like the ocean. The wavy, noisy surface and the still quiet level at the bottom. With the object of attention, like the mantra (sound), we can gently direct the mind towards that stillness. As this becomes a daily systematic practise, the mind will find it easier to settle and we may experience mili seconds of pure silence. Just feel assured that even if you have spent your whole meditation practise thinking, as long as you are aware of the process, it counts as a beneficial meditation.
6- I don’t have the time to meditate: If you prioritise your practise you will do it. Like brushing your teeth, it will become a part of your daily routine. There are very busy executives who have been meditating daily and regularly for over 20 years, so even if its a few minutes (10-20 minutes), make the space for it and practise twice a day. Its better than nothing! Paradoxically, when we receive deep rest as a result of meditating, we accomplish more and in some strange synchronised way everything falls into place. In meditation, we are in a state of “restful alertness” and the more we dip into this state, the more it stabilises in day to day activity. As a result, life becomes less of a struggle, we become more productive and achieve more by doing less.
7- It takes long years of practise to benefit from meditation: The benefits are both immediate and long-term. Within days or weeks of meditating, many people report on how they start to sleep better, feel calmer or feel more energetic. Many scientific studies provide evidence about the beneficial effects of meditation. That is both on the physiology of the mind and the body and this is just within days or weeks of daily practice. Due to different physiologies, experiencing noticeable benefits may differ from one person to another and for some it may seem like nothing is improving. The benefits are inevitable and automatic so its important to feel reassured that it’s working.
8- Meditation is escapism and can lead to isolation: The purpose of meditation is to connect with your true self and bring the silent restful qualities into your day to day life. The purpose is not to tune out and avoid life. True self means infinite potentiality and creativity, which lies in the silent levels of the mind. In meditation, you dive below the minds chatter and transcend thoughts which tend to be repetitive ones from past experiences or worries about the future. Without realising, we become identified with these thoughts and can find ourselves feeling overwhelmed or limited. When we transcend regularly, we begin to embrace life and improve our relationships. While some people use meditation as a form of escape to avoid unresolved emotional issues, this approach counter acts the wisdom of meditation and prevents you from making progress.
9-Meditation is a religious practise: Meditation is a practise that allows us to experience the subtler, quiet levels of the mind which gives us deep rest. It does not require a particular belief or specific religion. It has no conflict with one’s religious belief nor it is a belief system. It’s a technique that uses inner sound, to direct the mind to experience silence levels known as transcendence or unboundedness. Most people learn meditation as a stress management tool or to improve their physical health. There are many scientific studies backing up these benefits. Meditation has nothing to do with Hinduism or Atheism, it’s a practice for enriching lives and many people are waking up to this.
10- Meditation is for enlightenment so I am supposed to experience bliss and oneness: It is true that in ancient India people meditated for enlightenment. We can find different interpretations for the word “enlightenment” such as becoming insightful and open minded or seeing the world with great clarity or having no attachments to preconceived ideas about people, places and things. Meditation is about improving the quality of your life so getting caught up or setting this as a goal can become a stumbling block. Some people learn to meditate with the expectation of feeling bliss and oneness and feel disappointed when they don’t experience this. Although, we can have wonderful experiences such as seeing colours, shapes and experiencing a glimpse of bliss and oneness, these are not the purpose of meditation. The real benefits of meditation is the positive changes we experience in activity. When we come out of our meditation practise, we carry the silent and still qualities into our daily lives which makes us feel more relaxed, productive, creative, more loving and more compassionate. These qualities reflects on ourselves and to those around us.