I cannot count how many people I’ve spoken with about meditation who have said things like, “I’d like to try it but [insert common misconception here]”. And truth be told, I WAS one of those people when I started into the practice. Although I’ve practiced yoga for 9 years now, I’ve only held an intentional meditation practice for maybe 5 years. Like so many others, I was intimidated by what, it turns out, I didn’t fully understand. So in hopes of making the practice more approachable to others, I want to address some of the most common misconceptions about meditation:
Okay, this is by FAR the biggest misconception and also the one that seems to hold the greatest number of people back. In reality, meditation is simply the continued awareness of thoughts. In meditation, instead of being swept away by the current of our thoughts (which is often how we go about most of our day), we step out of the water and stand on the river side where we can observe the thoughts from a distance. In other words, instead of being inside of our thoughts, we observe them as separate from ourselves.
Often, the result of a sustained practice like this is a slowing of thought. And after lots and lots of practice, there may even be moments without involuntary thought. But at the start of a meditation practice in particular, your mind will continue to think, and your role is simply to witness it instead of participate in it.
While we often picture monks seated cross-legged in caves as the ideal for meditating, that simply is not realistic. Everyone (in every context!) can meditate. In fact, some people find movement incredibly helpful in grounding them to the present moment. Consider walking or hiking -- does that allow you to be present? To witness the sights and sounds and smells? To see your thoughts without being swept away by them? If so, you’re probably already meditating as you do those things!
It can also be super helpful, especially at the start, to be guided through a meditation. Apps like Insight Timer offer meditations of different lengths and styles to guide listeners through a variety of meditations (“releasing stress” or “embracing change” etc). These are fabulous resources and can be more comfortable to folks who aren’t yet used to the intensity of sitting in silent stillness.
One thing to remember, though, is that meditation is not always supposed to be comfortable -- which brings me to point 3:
While peace and comfort are often results of meditation - especially a practice sustained over time - they are not always felt in the midst of a practice. Our modern world has us conditioned to constantly face sensory input; to constantly go-go--go; to constantly think “what’s next?”. All of these things are antithetical to meditation which asks us to slow down, find stillness, and be instead of do. Because we’re so unpracticed in these things, they’ll likely be incredibly uncomfortable for a long time. Additionally, when we do slow down and examine our thoughts, we’re forced to confront anything we’ve been suppressing / denying which is hardly a calm practice. It is, however, healthy.
So prepare for that. Know that it might not be pleasant in real time, but like taking a cold plunge, it’s incredibly invigorating after.
Yup, I’m calling you out on this one. You DO have time. How much time do you dedicate to social media or phone calls or TV shows or work that could wait a day? Meditating for even 3 minutes -- THREE MINUTES, YOU GUYS -- can have a huge impact on a person’s day. I can say with 100% certainty that you DO have 3 minutes.
So make it a habit. Let the first 3 minutes after waking or the first 3 minutes of your lunch break or the last 3 minutes of your day be time for you to meditate. Intentionally sit down and set everything else aside for just 3 minutes, slow your breath, and just be. You can do this.
While meditation has been used by all religions in different ways, it is not an inherently religious or even spiritual thing. To meditate is to observe without judgement; to be fully present and aware and honest. This requires no religion or spirituality.
Ultimately, meditation is an incredibly useful practice in living a life with greater clarity, meaning, and presence. Don’t let myths of misconceptions hold you back from trying it out for yourself.
Brooke is a contributing author for Tada Rugs. Tada Rugs is a 5x7 yoga mat disguised as an artistic area rug that you never have to put away. Tada is short for tadasana, or mountain pose, and our own backyard in the San Juan Mountains of Durango, Colorado is where we find our inspiration. Check out our new designs, enter for a chance to win a new Tada Rug, and be sure to follow us for deals and insider specials! Like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, or contact us through our website! Tie a room together and bring your practice home.
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