09/05/2014 06:13 BST | Updated 08/07/2014 06:59 BST

10 Myths About Meditation Dispelled

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10 Myths About Meditation Dispelled

Meditation is infiltrating almost all aspects of modern life and there is an increasing number of scientific studies evincing its efficacy in making us less stressed and a heck of a lot happier, yet there still seem to be a few outdated and archaic myths hanging around that need to be dispelled.

1. Meditation is complicated

This myth is probably one of the biggest barriers and one of the biggest misconceptions. Meditation is actually very simple, but it may seem complicated to those who try to 'do' it. Meditation is about just being and not doing. Simple, but not easy. It takes time, but once you get there you'll know why this myth is number one.

2. Meditation is about relaxing and zoning out

Although meditation does bring about a sense of relaxation, if you become so relaxed as to zone out or even fall asleep then you're missing out on the experience of meditation. Meditation is about balancing relaxation and alertness so that you can be fully present for the experience.

3. Meditation is a religious practice

Although the practices of meditation that have become popular in the West have come out of Buddhism, the practices themselves are free from any religious dogma and doctrine. They do not require you to buy into any belief system and only require you to look inward, at your own experience, to find what is true to you.

4. Meditation practice is a form of self-hypnosis

Hypnosis and meditation are polar opposites. Hypnosis involves achieving a state of not knowing, not being aware of what you're doing or experiencing. Whereas meditation is about paying attention, being fully present and aware of whatever you're experiencing.

5. Meditation requires sitting completely still

In meditation it is important to stay as still as possible, but it is not an endurance test. If you're sitting in a way that is causing you pain or discomfort, and if adjusting your posture slightly will ease this, then you should do so. The point of staying as still as possible is so that you are not spending all of your time shuffling and twitching, which distracts your mind and takes you away from your meditation. Your mind and body are one, so the more still you are in your body the quieter you are in your mind, but there's no need to be rigid as this creates tension. Just find your balance.

6. Meditation is a way to get away from your problems

Meditation is not escapism. It isn't an altered state of mind where your problems don't exist. Quite the opposite. In meditation you give your problems space and find the most wise and compassionate ways to handle them.

7. Meditation is about controlling thoughts and emotions

In meditation you're not trying to fix, change or control anything. You're simply learning how to accept whatever is in your life right now, allowing your thoughts and emotions to come and go without getting caught up in the stories you weave around them. This in turn leads to more clarity and flexibility in making the decisions right now that will lead to a better future.

8. You need to practice for hours on end

Although extended practice is beneficial for some people, it is neither desirable nor practical for many. There is no definitive study on the optimal length of time needed to benefit from meditation, but studies indicate that if you meditate for a short period of time (opinions vary, but the range is between 10 and 20 minutes a day) for approximately 8 weeks you will begin to experience the benefits.

9. Meditation is strict

Although meditation does require a certain amount of discipline in order to be able to pay attention, there are no absolutes. The instructions are more like recommendations than rules and always require you to feel comfortable with them.

10. Meditation is just for stress relief

It is widely known that meditation can ease stress and it is commonly used for this purpose, which is great, but meditation in its purest form is more of a preventative medicine than a treatment. Practiced daily, meditation can help you notice the way you respond to your experiences long before they turn into stress.

[This post originally appeared on the MindfullySo]