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Common Misconceptions About Meditation — Busted

Meditation is only growing in popularity, being hailed as a way to boost mental health, help chronic pain, reduce stress, and build a new appreciation for the world around us. Even with all of the interest surrounding meditation, there are countless misconceptions about the ancient practice and what it can do for human health and well-being. Below we will discuss some of the most common misconceptions about meditation and demystify all of the misinformation shrouding the practice.

If you would like to cultivate a sense of spirituality with your mediation, then contact me, Dr. Shea Kamlet, and ask me about my mindfulness-based therapy services in Denver, an approach that helps you feel and strengthen the connection between the mind, body, and spirit. I would be honored to assist you in your journey!

There Is Only One Type of Meditation

There are several forms of meditation! The most common, the one that you are likely most familiar with, as it has been replicated throughout mainstream media, is the kind where you sit quietly with your legs crossed, otherwise known as Vipassana meditation.

Qi Gong and Tai Chi, for example, focus on meditative movement, which combines a relaxed but alert state of mind with slow movement and gentle breathing. Tibetan Buddhist meditation involves visualizations and/or mantras.

Many types of meditation all share similar insights, like bringing mindfulness into ordinary daily activities, like dishwashing, where you might pay attention to the sensations of the water and hand movements. If you are interested in exploring meditation, it may be worth it to explore various forms of meditation and find something that flows for you.

Meditation Must Be Quiet

Again, there is meditation that may be best practiced in silence, like Vipassana meditation, which involves being completely still with a subtle, natural breath — but the truth is you can enter the flow state and access a meditative calm when walking, running, humming, or singing.

You don’t need to be sitting rigidly in silence in order to transcend your usual ruminating thoughts, as a quiet body isn’t always accompanied by a quiet mind. I invite you to think about the activities you do or the times when you feel closest to yourself, and make them more meditative, whatever that means for you.

If you are unfamiliar with meditation and are looking for a place to start, you may choose something more along the lines of Vipassana meditation. Don’t trap yourself within that meditation, however. Rather, explore what feels good and allows you to get out of your head.

Meditation Creates a State of Bliss

While occasionally this is true for some folks, for a lot of other people, meditation can be quite challenging. When we stop and pay attention, we realize how busy our minds are, and when we take the time to focus on what’s going on with us, we may also encounter challenging emotions like grief, sadness, and loneliness. It definitely isn’t all rainbows and happy thoughts!

Meditation is about getting to know our inner state, which often starts with working through the pleasant and unpleasant parts of our thoughts. These thoughts all pass, however, and we get better at managing them.

If I’m Meditating the Right Way, I Should Be Able to Stop My Thoughts

The objective in meditation is not to stop your thoughts, as that would be impossible! It would be like telling yourself not to think of a purple elephant, but suddenly it’s the only thing you can think about. The same goes for meditation: telling yourself to stop thinking will likely result in an influx of thoughts. Rather, the goal of meditation is to build awareness of our inner landscape.

Pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, but separate yourself from them. Become the observer of the things floating in your head, and if you find yourself floating away in thought, then intentionally shift your focus back to your anchor, which will most typically be your breathing.

With good practice, you may eventually be able to have a few moments of absolute peace, where there are no ruminating thoughts. These moments can be fleeting, but consistent practice may help you experience these moments more often and for longer.

When I Meditate In a Group, I Can Tell Everyone Else Knows What They’re Doing, and I Don’t

Well, unless you can read minds, this may be true. Either way, take a deep breath. Our minds get so caught up in comparing ourselves to others, and when we do something vulnerable like meditate, let alone meditate in a group, those self-deprecating thoughts seem to skyrocket. This is a normal human tendency, and exactly why you may be meditating in the first place.

The truth is, you cannot tell if you’re the only one in the group thinking this, and chances are, you’re not. Compassion is an essential part of mindfulness, so if you feel this way during a mediation, take the opportunity to remind yourself you’re doing your best, and try to re-center your thoughts.

I Can't Meditate Because I Don’t Have Time

Does this sound familiar? Is this something you tell yourself, and is it really true? Are all of the moments in your day spent doing something productive? Perhaps there are many minutes in your day when you are web surfing or watching TV or doing something as equally as ‘“unproductive.” If you have time to watch TV at the end of your day, chances are good that you have time to meditate. If committing 20 minutes a day feels overwhelming, then start small, spending 10 or even five minutes to sit and be with yourself.

The key to meditation is prioritizing the time for it. Most people wake up and meditate in the morning as part of their morning routine, but whenever you have time is perfect. Make it a goal to meditate once a week, and eventually, it’ll become a habit, like brushing your teeth.

Meditation Has to Be Religious or Spiritual

There is a distinct difference between meditation and religion. While many meditation practices draw their roots from Buddhism and Hinduism, there are countless modern forms of meditation that have nothing to do with religion at all. Yes, there are many religious groups that practice meditation, but it is not necessary to believe in a god or be affiliated with a religion or spiritual group in order to practice or reap the benefits of meditation.

Meditation Takes Years to Learn

Many people practice meditation for years, and in the case of the Dalai Lama, most of their lives. Some people have mastered the practice more than others, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn within minutes. You cannot deny that like any other skill or exercise, the most you do it, the more you learn and better you become, but the very notion of perfection is counterproductive to meditation. You can start now, as there has truly never been a better time to immerse yourself in the practice. There are apps, retreats, and professionals who offer guided meditation.

Meditation is a deeply personal experience for everyone, so comparing yourself to someone who has been doing it for years does no good. Rather, focus on your own singular improvement, as that truly is the greatest reward.

Wasn’t I Supposed to Reach Enlightenment in My 20 Minutes Practice?

Some people may be disappointed when they don’t experience visions, see colors, speak with their spirit guides, feel the walls of the room melt around them, or reach enlightenment when they meditate. Meditation provides a wide variety of wonderful, yet personal experiences, which include feelings of bliss and oneness. While these can be soul-moving, meditation also provides countless benefits outside of the meditation, benefits that you carry with you throughout your day. You may carry some of the stillness and silence of your practice with you, allowing you to be more creative, compassionate, centered, and loving.

The bottom line is that when you start out meditating, a lot of things may feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Meditation is like training a muscle and it may take a few weeks or months until you feel comfortable doing it. More than anything, however, it is about the journey there. There is no end goal with meditation because it is one small piece in something larger — discovering yourself. Take it day by day and breath-by-breath.

If you would like some guidance on how to start or would like to amp up your open practice, then please reach out to me! I offer mindfulness-based therapy and meditation services in Denver to help people on their journey because I do feel that it is greatly beneficial! Contact me today to schedule an appointment.