Meditation and I have an interesting history. Growing up, I thought only of meditation as Zen monks sitting cross legged in mountain caves trying to achieve enlightenment. Great for them, but not really of any use or purpose to those of us forced to live in the real world, right?
Actually, meditation can be one of the best tools to help us navigate our hectic lives. Numerous studies have been done that prove there is a multitude of health benefits that result from regular meditation. The stress reduction that comes about from meditating significantly improves your overall physical, mental and spiritual health. The best part is – there are no negative side effects (as long as you don’t fall off your chair).
However, despite knowing how beneficial it can be for us – many people still hesitate. So today I’m going to talk about 5 of the most common misconceptions and concerns around meditation.
- 1. I can’t stop thinking!
Perhaps you have tried meditating once before, but the second after you sat down and adopted lotus pose, your brain fired up – so you gave up. Wanna know the good news? Thoughts are a normal part of meditation! Woohoo! That’s a relief. If you are able stop yourself from thinking straight away, you probably aren’t a human being! Telling your brain to stop thinking is like telling your ears to stop listening – it just aint going to happen. So instead of trying to force yourself to stop thinking, try this approach. When you notice yourself engaging with a thought and following its story – try to let it go – but do not be hard on yourself for getting caught up in it! You’ve had years of practice doing exactly that, it will take a while to unlearn the habit. A common analogy is to picture thoughts like clouds drifting by. You notice they are there but you just let them drift past without grabbing onto them and if you do – just let go again. Eventually you will come to realise that there is a space between the thoughts. A gap. That is your destination, but rest assured, the second you get there another thought will pop up. Even the most advanced still have thoughts popping up throughout meditation. A great way to start off is to repeat a silent mantra (a word of phrase) over and over in your head. This gives your busy mind something to do and to focus on. The idea is that by repeating the mantra you will quieten down the background noise of your thoughts.
- 2. I don’t have time!
Really? Or you don’t want to make time? This is where you work with what you’ve got. If you can only do 3 minutes in the morning – do it. It’s better than no minutes. If you have 2 hours every day – half your luck, go for it! The main goal here is to be consistent. Like anything, if you want to make it a habit then you need to do it on a regular basis. Of course the more the better, but if you are new to meditating, then the thought of sitting down for half an hour twice a day will be overwhelming – even I don’t do that and it’s unrealistic for many people. We can all find 5 or 10 minutes each day if we really try. Lock yourself in the bathroom, disappear during your lunch hour or skip the TV at night. It’s a matter of prioritising – and despite what you may think (I’m looking at you mum’s) – your health and wellbeing should be the number one priority in your life. Just try over the next week for a few minutes each day to sit, relax, breathe deeply and start enjoying the benefits.
- 3. But I’m not religious!
Meditation is in its nature a spiritual practice and often plays a role in many religions, but in itself has no religious agenda. If you are religious you can of course incorporate your beliefs into your mediation practice, however for those who are not religious, please don’t worry, there is no secret cult you are being drawn into. In fact meditation is becoming so popular; it’s practically mainstream. When you develop a regular meditation practice, what often naturally occurs is that over time you organically become more spiritual. By that, I don’t mean you go around blessing everyone, but you do get to know yourself a lot better. You are calmer and more aware of how connected we all are. You begin to see our similarities more than our differences, you become more accepting and loving. You find you are less reactive, more willing to understand and to listen. The little things don’t bother you as much and you don’t get upset as easily. You are more peaceful. And who doesn’t want those things?
- 4. I can’t sit in Lotus pose!
Well, the good news is you don’t have to. If you would rather sit in a comfy chair – then go for it. Whatever works for you is great. People often ask if they can lie down to meditate. You can if you want, however I recommend trying to sit up if possible. This is because if you lay down you might fall asleep, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however it does cut short your meditation time. Personally I like to sit in a comfy chair in an upright position with my feet flat on the floor. This way I am able to relax but still maintain my awareness and I like to be able to ground myself through my feet at the end of a meditation.
- 5. I don’t know how to meditate!
Perhaps the most important of all – how do I do it? Well, there are more types of meditation than I can list off the top of my head and really you need to find one that works for you. If you are new to the practice then I highly recommend downloading some guided meditations to listen to. This is a great way to keep your mind from taking off on its own. Other options include:
- Sit and observe your breath – you can do some controlled breathing exercises to begin with if you wish – click here for my previous post on breath work – then once you feel relaxed, return to your natural breathing and observe.
- You can use a mantra to repeat silently in your head. Popular choices are words such as Aum, Peace, Love, I am. Choose something that resonates with you.
- Count your breaths. This a combination of the above to options. You can either count 1 for the breath in and 2 for the breath out, or you can count up to 10 breaths and then start again at 1.
There are a lot of options for both free and guided meditations online. Some types of meditation you may like to do some research on are:
Mindfulness – Transcendental Meditation – Zen – Mantra – Moving Meditation – Yoga – Primordial Sound – Chakra Cleanse – Relaxation
I hope I have helped to clear some of the confusion around meditation for you and it seems slightly less intimidating now. Please ask if you have any questions, I would be more than happy to help you out.