Despite having such big rewards, there are myths about meditation that can stop people getting started or make them quit before they get to reap the benefits possible. Below we explore what some of these common misunderstandings are - so you can enjoy the inner peace, contentment and consciousness shifts that come from meditating regularly.
Meditation is difficult
Practiced correctly, meditation can be the easiest and most enjoyable thing you ever do. For something to be difficult, it requires effort, struggle, stress and stamina. However, meditation requires the exact opposite. There is no effort because you are learning how to do nothing. There is no struggle because you are not forcing anything. There is no stress because you are not resisting anything and there is no need for stamina because the main purpose of meditation is to relax!
I must still my mind
"I can't meditate because I can't stop my thoughts" is one of the most common reasons I hear from people who've tried meditation but quit. However, what's important to understand is that thoughts are a natural (and necessary) part of meditation. When you meditate your body gets rest. When the body rests it heals. Healing is an active process - stress is released and healing is being undertaken. Due to the mind-body connection, activity in your body is reflected by activity in your mind - in the form of thoughts. Thoughts are therefore a sign that healing is taking place in your body. Healing your nervous system is a fantastic beneficial by-product of meditation. It is not useful to resist having thoughts when meditating. To resist thoughts is to resist healing! Instead, let the healing process happen, as it naturally wants to, by not resisting the existence of thoughts.
If thoughts are OK, then it's OK to think
Although having thoughts is OK, I am NOT recommending you intentionally think your way through every meditation. There is a big difference between having thoughts and thinking. When you are meditating you want to let thoughts flow through your awareness without engaging in them through the act of thinking. Thinking occurs when you unintentionally stop being consciously aware - observing your thoughts - and instead, start being your thoughts. Engaged in the story of your mind, you are having an imaginary conversation with your friend, planning what you're going to have for dinner, or whatever. You are essentially lost in your mind and are no longer present or aware. Meditation aims to help you to think less.
Saying this, if you notice you've been thinking, be easy on yourself. It's just a habit! Gently come back to now by observing the thoughts flowing through your mind.
I have to feel peaceful
Be careful not to fall into the common trap of thinking a peaceful meditation is better than an emotional one. Similar to thoughts (in Myth #2), having emotions when meditating can be a sign of stress releasing from your body and healing taking place. When meditating, do your best to allow whatever emotions want to come and go because this will help you enjoy a healthier relationship with your emotions. With time and practice, you can even be at peace if feeling less than positive emotions - imagine that!
It's pointless trying because I fall asleep
Your body will do what it needs to do when you meditate - if it needs sleep then you will sleep. That is perfectly fine and if you continue to meditate regularly you will find that the need for sleep may reduce as you learn to be less stressed during daily life. If you find yourself falling asleep every time, then sit more upright (you can still be comfortable with the right support) or do some yoga postures before meditating to be more physiologically alert.
I have to breathe a certain way to meditate
Many forms of meditation encourage participants to focus on their breath. There are also many that don't. Focusing on the breath can help you relax and be less focused on the movement of your mind, but it is certainly not an absolute necessity when meditating. Personally, the form of meditation I use does not rely on the breath, but I do find breathing to be very useful indeed!
It takes a long time to enjoy any benefits
You start benefiting from meditation from the moment you begin. You might not experience immediate peace, but your body will get a chance to rest, release stored stress and heal. This myth reminds me of a story. A 70-year-old man wanted to learn to play piano. His son questioned what the point was because it takes so long to learn. However the piano-playing pensioner wasn't persuaded to quit. Instead he simply told his son that if he started now he'd be a much better piano player by age 75 than if he didn't start at all!
I love this story because it is the same for meditation. It may take a little time to experience highly noticeable changes. But if you start, and keep doing it regularly, you can be sure you will be experiencing much more peace, love and happiness over the coming months and years, compared to if you never start at all.
To find out more about the type of meditation Sandy C. Newbigging teaches visit: www.sandynewbigging.com
To read Sandy's new book PEACE FOR LIFE, including more information about meditation please visit: http://www.sandynewbigging.com/books_peace4life.php
Follow Sandy C. Newbigging on Twitter: www.twitter.com/minddetoxman