Although the mind is capable of creating life-affirming stories, it has what neuroscientists refer to as a negativity bias…yes…that tendency to pay more attention to negative experiences than to positive ones. The negativity bias evolved as a survival instinct millions of years ago, as our ancestors…and, now those who choose to focused much more attention on avoiding potential threats than on rewards. Stopping to enjoy and savor a delicious meal or admire a Once-in-a LifeTime sunset would have used valuable intentional resources, leaving our ancient ancestors more vulnerable to attack by a predator. Hey…go figure!!! Those who survived to pass on their genes paid a lot of attention to danger. Their legacy is a brain that is primed to focus on negative experiences and has a tendency to get stuck in conditioned patterns of thinking, returning again…and once again to thoughts of anxiety, and limitation…that “not enough” stuff!
Despite the growing popularity of meditation, prevailing misconceptions about the practice are a barrier that prevents many people from trying meditation and receiving its profound benefits for the body, mind, and Spirit. Here are several of the most common meditation misconceptions dispelled.
Meditation is difficult. False!
This total misconception is rooted in the image of meditation as an esoteric practice reserved only for gurus, saints, and the Spiritually elite. In reality, when you receive instruction from an experienced, knowledgeable teacher or practitioner, meditation is easy and fun to learn. The techniques can be as simple as focusing on the breath or silently repeating a mantra. One reason why meditation may seem difficult is that we try too hard to concentrate, we’re overly attached to results, or we’re not sure we are doing it right.
You have to quiet your mind in order to have a successful meditation practice. False!
This misconception regarding meditation is, likely, responsible for many people giving up in frustration on a daily meditation practice. Meditation isn’t about stopping our thoughts or trying to empty our mind. Actually, both of these approaches only create stress and contribute to that internal dialogue. We can’t stop or control our thoughts… but we can willingly decide how much attention to give them. Although we can’t impose quiet on our mind, through meditation we can find the quiet that already exists in the space between our thoughts. Sometimes referred to as the gap, this space between thoughts is pure consciousness, pure silence, and pure peace. When we meditate, we use an object of attention, such as our breath, an image, or a mantra, which allows our mind to relax into this silent stream of awareness. When thoughts arise, as they inevitably will, we don’t need to judge them or try to push them away. Instead, we gently return our attention to our object of attention. In every meditation, there are moments, even if only microseconds, when the mind dips into the gap and experiences the refreshment of pure awareness. As you meditate on a regular basis, you will spend more and more time in this state of expanded awareness and silence.
As you become less identified with your thoughts and stories, you experience greater peace and open to new possibilities…truly a benefit of meditation! Of this, I AM certain!
It takes years of dedicated practice to receive any benefits from meditation. False!
The benefits of meditation are both immediate and long-term. You can begin to experience benefits the first time you sit down to meditate and in the first few days of daily practice. Many scientific studies provide evidence that meditation has profound effects on the mind-body physiology within just weeks of practice.
Meditation is a means of escaping. False!
The real purpose of meditation isn’t to tune out and get away from it all but to tune in and get in touch with your true Self – that eternal aspect of yourself that goes beyond all the ever-changing, external circumstances of your life. In meditation you journey below the mind’s ego surface… which tends to be filled with repetitive thoughts about the past and worries about the future, into the still point of pure consciousness…present awareness…where peace thrives. In this state of higher awareness, you have the opportunity to let go of all the proverbial stories you’ve been telling yourself about who you are, and all that is limiting you… and you experience the truth that your deepest Self is infinite, unlimited, and without boundary. As you practice meditation on a regular basis, you clear out that which is not serving of perception… and your clarity expands. While some people do try to use meditation as a form of escape …that way to bypass unresolved emotional issues…this approach runs counter to all of the wisdom teachings about meditation and mindfulness. In fact, there are a variety of meditation techniques specifically developed to identify, mobilize and release stored emotional toxicity… safely explore and heal the pain of the past, allowing you to return to your natural state of wholeness and Love.
I don’t have enough time to meditate. False!
There are busy, productive individuals in all walks of life who have not missed a meditation in years. If you make meditation a priority, you will do it. If you feel like your schedule is too full, remember that even just a few minutes of meditation is better than none. In fact, I encourage you not to talk yourself out of meditating just because you might be feeling hurried, or you feel too sleepy.
In life’s paradoxical way, when we spend time meditating on a regular basis, we actually have more time. When we meditate, we dip in and out of the without time and space realm of consciousness . . . the state of pure awareness that is the source of everything that manifests in the universe. Our breathing and heart rate slow down, our blood pressure lowers, and our body decreases the production of stress hormones and other chemicals that speed up the aging process… and give us the subjective feeling that we are running out of time. In meditation, we are in a state of restful alertness that is extremely refreshing for the body and mind….and, most especially, the Spirit! As people stick with their meditation ritual, they notice that they are able to accomplish more while doing less. Instead of struggling so hard to achieve goals, they spend more and more time in the flow… aligned with universal intelligence…Source… that orchestrates everything.
Meditation is a spiritual or religious practice. False!
Meditation is a practice that takes us beyond the noisy ego of the mind into a place of stillness and silence. It doesn’t require a specific spiritual belief, and many people of many different religions practice meditation without any conflict with their current religious beliefs. We meditate in order to experience inner quiet and the numerous physical and emotional benefits of the practice… including lowered blood pressure, stress reduction, and restful sleep….to name but a few of the benefits. Meditation helps us to enrich our lives. It enables us to enjoy whatever we do in our lives more fully and with Joy…with bliss…whether we are at work, play, or rest.
I’m supposed to have transcendent experiences in meditation. False!
Some people are disappointed when they don’t experience visions, lightning bolts, levitate, or glimpse enlightenment…that light bulb Ah ha moment…when they meditate. Although we can have a variety of wonderful experiences when we meditate, including feelings of bliss, vitality, and oneness with Source, these aren’t the purpose of the practice of meditation. The real benefits of meditation are what happens in the other hours of the day when we’re going about our daily lives. When we emerge from our meditation session, we carry some of the stillness and silence of our practice with us, allowing us to be more creative, compassionate, centered, and loving to ourselves and everyone we encounter…identifying us to our highest and best good… or something better!