Many years ago, when I was a brand new yoga teacher, I taught a class at my local YMCA and shared a story about my struggles with meditation. I had difficulty sitting without fidgeting. I couldn’t empty my mind. My back would ache after a few minutes of trying to sit. Sometimes, I’d nod off sitting upright.
Still, I tried to give myself a few moments with my eyes closed, just to breathe and have some space for myself, even though it was hard.
I shared my story as a way to say, “meditation can be tough, but I believe if I keep at it, meditation will get easier.”
After class, a student came up to me and said, “you know, meditation is supposed to be hard.”
I’m pretty sure I responded with some kind of, “well, of course it is” statement, but over the past few years, I’ve had a change of heart.
I don’t think meditation is “supposed to be hard” but I do think that too often this idea is communicated to us to make meditation seem like a big deal.
Not only really hard, but exclusive.
But seriously, who does that benefit?
What if your understanding of meditation was different?
What if you could see meditation as a simple practice?
Instead of avoiding meditation because of all of the assumptions you’ve made about why it’s so hard, what if you could challenge those assumptions?
In the spirit of making meditation more accessible, I’m busting a few big meditation myths. So grab your meditation cushion and let’s do this!
1. You Must “Quiet” Your Mind to Meditate Properly.
Nope. That’s just not true. Meditation isn’t about “quieting your mind” or emptying your mind. Your mind will wander during meditation. That’s natural. Meditation is more interested in whether or not you focus and then, re-focus. Basically this means, you strengthen your brain when you notice your mind wandering and can bring it back into whatever you were focusing on when you started.
That said, it’s also totally cool to sometimes just let your mind wander and take you on a weird, wild ride. Because there is no wrong way to meditate (see #2)
2. There is a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Meditate.
Nope. Not even close to true. For one thing, meditation is personal. Everyone gravitates to different methods and styles of meditation (see #5 for more on that). Meditation is also universal. Meaning, it didn’t originate in India. Most cultures have their own version of meditation. They might call it different things, but the idea is the same.
So what’s the basic idea of meditation? Go inside. Get a little quiet. Connect inward and get to know yourself a little better. Begin a lifelong, ongoing conversation with yourself. Which leads us to number 3.
3. The Point of Meditation is to Connect with God.
Sure. Maybe for some people, but not for everyone. It certainly isn’t why I meditate.
While some people might use meditation as a way to communicate with God or a higher being or even the universe, others use meditation as a way to simply find peace of mind.
Some people meditate to tap into inner strength.
Other people meditate to find some clarity and focus.
Still others use meditation to create a reservoir of calm that they can access whenever they need it.
Some people meditate to prevent themselves from going apeshit on their kids for singing a single verse of the same song 500 times.
The “point” of meditation is whatever you want and need it to be.
4. You Have to Sit in a Certain Way to Meditate.
Nope. Lotus pose is not a pre-requisite for meditation. You can sit on the floor, cross-legged. You can have a blanket or a meditation cushion underneath you. Or not.
You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor.
You can sit on your couch, leaning back into couch cushions.
Meditation can be done lying down on your back or your side or even up in a tree.
You can meditate anytime, anywhere, in any position.
Meditation myth busted.
5. There are Specific Techniques You MUST Use When Meditating.
No. There are techniques you CAN use when meditating, but you don’t have to. I like to think of meditating as “sitting with my eyes closed.” Sometimes I use a “technique” like a mantra or a visualization or even something as simple as counting my breath.
Most times, though, I just sit. And see what happens.
Yes, techniques can be monumentally helpful if creating more focus, more calm, more grounding. And what is really off-putting about that is when you don’t know what technique to use or when. Good news: I have a program for that.
6. Meditation Only Works When You Sit For a Long Time.
Says who? Based on what data or experiences?
No. Sometimes 2 minutes of sitting with my eyes closed is all I need. Other times it makes me crave more. But sitting for 30 minutes is not a requirement. It’s also not necessarily going to give you any more benefit than sitting for 5.
Aiming for 30 minutes, especially if you don’t currently have a meditation practice, is a recipe for disaster.
My best advice for meditation is to start simple and small. Aim for 2 minutes. Maybe 3. Dot his for a few days and see how it feels. Then up it to 5. Sit at 5 minutes for a few days. See how that feels. And if you like it and it works, keep doing it. If you are craving more quiet time with your eyes closed, add more time, slowly and intentionally.
Make your meditation work for you by giving yourself the time and space to explore it. Don’t feel like you have to check off certain boxes to do “real meditation.” Know that meditation doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as easy and accessible as you want it to be.
Don’t let these meditation myths limit you. Create a meditation practice tailored to your needs so that you can actually benefit from and enjoy meditation.
And if you want to learn some simple techniques to strengthen your meditation practice, while getting lots of support along the way, join me for a 6-day Meditation for Moms challenge beginning Sunday, March 17th. I’ll be sharing brief guided meditations daily, live in my facebook group (so you can do them with me!), as well as recorded and sent out later. Join me here.