Want to Meditate Regularly? Let Go of these 4 False Beliefs!
Any time I ask anyone about why they find it challenging to meditate on a regular basis, the answer is based on a false belief that holds them back from making meditation a solid part of their daily life.
Recently, I had the honour of giving a presentation about meditation in collaboration with Victoria Sardain where I stripped meditation to its very core, busting a few myths along the way. By the end of the presentation, the participants felt ready and enthusiastic to start meditating again - mission accomplished!
So, in this article, we'll explore what meditation is, but most importantly what it is not, so that you can let go of any false belief that makes you think that meditation is more complicated than it needs to be.
Ready? Let's dive in.
What is Meditation?
According to Yogic philosophy, there are two types of meditation:
Meditation WITH an object of focus (Savitarka Samadhi) where we focus the mind on a specific object like the breath, a mantra, a sound, a physical sensation, ...
Meditation WITHOUT an object of focus (Asamprajnata Samadhi) where we attempt to think of nothing, or to "shut our brain off".
Very often, people think of meditation as the latter and get discouraged when they discover just how difficult it is to "think about nothing". Most of the time, random thoughts creep their way into our mind and the more we try not to think the more frustrated we get. Sounds familiar?
But here's the thing: in today's day and age, with the millions of distractions that occupy our mental space (social media, the news, jobs, friends, responsibilities, Netflix shows, Whatsapp, emails, family, ...), hoping to be able to "turn our brain off" is plain unrealistic.
Thankfully, Yogic Philosophy explains that one type of meditation (with or without an object of focus) is not better, or more noble, than the other. They are just two different ways of going about it. So what if we just recognise that modern meditation will be WITH an object of focus for 99.9% of the time, and that sometimes, when the starts align, we might notice that, for a few seconds there, we weren't thinking about anything, without ever making that the goal? In other words, what if we reframed meditation as a continuous effort to bring the wandering mind back to our object of focus, over and over, rather than as a frustrating attempt to "shut it off"?
Meditation WITH an Object of Focus
With that said, what exactly do we mean by meditating with an object of focus?
This practice entails 3 elements:
Choosing a single point of focus (for example: the breath, a mantra, or a physical sensation)
Keeping the mind onto that point of focus
Bringing the mind back to the point of focus any time we notice that we were thinking about something else.
And here's the key: noticing that the mind has wandered and bringing it back to the object of focus IS the practice of meditation. So it doesn't matter if you have to bring your mind back to your object of focus 2000 times in the span of 5 minutes - that is the practice!
Now that that's cleared up, let's bust a few common myths, shall we?
MYTH #1: "I CAN'T TURN MY BRAIN OFF!"
Hopefully it is clear now that the point of meditation is not to turn your brain off. Instead, it is to notice when you are thinking about something else and bringing your mind back over & over towards your point of focus. Once in a blue moon, you might realise that you actually weren't thinking about anything, but that should not be the goal.
MYTH #2: MEDITATION SHOULD BE DONE SITTING CROSS-LEGGED ON THE FLOOR
When one of the participants at my presentation on meditation mentioned this belief, I asked her (and I'm asking you): who told you that? The answer was: no one in particular, it's just how meditation is portrayed most of the time. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a false belief creeps its way into global consciousness.
Whether it's in the movies or on pretty Instagram pictures, meditation is always portrayed as sitting on the floor. But... does it need to be? What about sitting on the floor would make it "better" or more effective? You guessed it: nada.
The only requirement that Yogic philosophy gives us is to do our best to have a straight spine. That is because we are said to have seven main energy centres along the spine (aka. "chakras"), so maintaining a long spine allows for the energy (aka. "prana") to circulate freely and without blockages throughout the body. But guess what: you can have a straight spine when you are sitting in a chair, or even lying down on the ground!
So if being uncomfortable on the floor has been keeping you away from meditation, please toss that idea right out the window and find a more comfortable position. That way, physical discomfort will be one less distraction you'll need to worry about!
MYTH #3: I SHOULD FEEL CALM WHEN MEDITATING
When we have thoughts or emotions in meditation, Yogic philosophy teaches us to take the "seat of the observer". By that, we mean objectively observing the thoughts or emotions that we are having (whatever those are), as if we were an external observer taking notes, without identifying or engaging with them, and bringing the mind back to our point of focus as soon as we notice that we were distracted.
Meditation, then, is an objective observation of.our thoughts and emotions... whatever those are!
Feeling calm during your meditation? Observe the experience of feeling calm.
Feeling bored during your meditation? Observe the experience of being bored.
Feeling like you don't want to meditate during your meditation? Observe the experience of not wanting to meditate!
MYTH #4: I NEED A QUIET SPACE TO MEDITATE
My teacher used to say: "you should be able to meditate in the middle of a highway".
You do not need any special conditions to meditate. Instead, your only job in meditation is to observe how you respond to the conditions. Are you getting frustrated because of the noise that there is around? Great - observe the experience of being frustrated! As simple as that :)
A long time ago, I read a quote that stuck with me: the noise is not bothering you. You are bothering the noise!
TO SUMMARISE: meditation means directing the mind to a single point of focus, and bringing it back to to the point of focus over and over, as soon as we notice, through objective observation, that other thoughts and emotions have arisen.
It is my hope that this article has helped to simplify the idea of meditation and to make it seem more accessible now that we have removed all of the common myths that are so often attached to it.
If you have any questions or feedback, I would love to hear from you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's have a chat!
Ps. want to dive deeper into meditation? Check out my 15x15 meditation course. 15x15 will teach you everything you need to know about meditation so that you can make it a solid part of your lifestyle and meditate for 15 minutes a day, every day!