Myth One: It’s about ‘not thinking’.
I’ve heard so many times “I’ve tried to meditate. But I just can’t seem to quieten my mind.” or ‘meditation would never work for me. My mind runs at 100 miles an hour.” In fact, I’ve been/am one of those people. I have more thoughts and ideas pop into my head every minute of the day than Michael Phelps has gold medals… ok, maybe not the best example but that was one of the random thoughts that came to mind at that precise moment which I think validates my point even more.
So if it’s not about ‘not thinking’ what is it about?
For me, the answer came when I was reading one of Ram Daas’s books and he said something along the lines of… ‘meditation isn’t about not thinking, but accepting.’
When I read that, that instantly resonated with me. So the next time I meditated rather than get frustrated when a new random thought popped into my head, I simply said ‘oh, hello there little random thought. Thanks for stopping by I’m just going to gently bring my attention back over here.”
And the ‘over here’ focus point would be something like my breath or the sounds of what was around me, birds chirping, the ocean, meditation music etc
At first I was saying this a lot. But as time went on, the gaps between me saying this to myself started to get further and further apart and my meditation started to become deeper and more powerful.
Myth Two: You have to sit like a pretzel
Type into google meditation and you’ll get a hundred thousand photos of people sitting on top of a mountain cross-legged, eye’s closed, hands turned upwards resting on their knees with index fingers touching the thumbs. Got the visual right? Well, what did I do when I started out meditating? Yep, I found a mountain and sat in the pretzel position just like in the photos for half an hour or so until my body was riddled with cramps and I’d have to break the position with frustration and pain. Not the most peaceful of experiences.
The reason why we instantaneously associate meditation with the pretzel position is that traditional and very experienced meditators/gurus would choose this position to ‘lock’ themselves into position to forget about the body and focus. They would also often practise yoga and stretching which would help with their flexibility/posture.
Now if you’re just starting out to meditate, by all means try this position and if you feel comfortable in it, great. However, if your hamstrings are as tight as mine then I would recommend you start just sitting in a chair. Feet planted firmly on the ground and your hands resting in your lap however you choose. The only real suggestion I have when it comes to the sitting position is that your core is activated, shoulders are relaxed and your spine is nice and straight.
The reason why I suggest these few things is that although we want our body relaxed we want our mind to remain sharp and focused, not to fall asleep. Which often happens if you try and meditate laying down or if your core is not activated.
Myth 3: I’ll be enlightened within a few sessions.
You can’t get a six pack from doing just a 100 sit-ups. It takes time, effort and patience. This is true for meditation as well. However, it is even harder to ‘see’ the benefits as it’s a state of mind, not a muscle. But if you give it a chance it can change your life.
We spend so much time working out our bodies. I wonder what type of society we would live in if we spent even just a quarter of that time working out our minds?
Just 20 minutes a day. If you can’t do every day, start with 3 times a week and work your way up. As mentioned before your results will be harder to notice than most things you put effort into. But they will come. You may notice that you are able to focus on a particular task at work for longer than usual or you procrastinate less and are more confident in knowing what the right decisions are to make. It could even be that you catch yourself responding to situations more calmly and composed, whereas before a similar moment would of frustrated or annoyed you.
There is more and more research coming out that proves that meditation enhances all areas of one's life. But just like most things in life; it takes time, effort and patience.