Prior my first meditation training about three and a half years ago, I was what would be described as a “crisis meditator,” tapping into the meditation practice at the most expected of times (i.e., new year’s resolution) or the most desperate times (i.e., overly stressed, overwhelmed, etc.).
I walked away from that meditation training with a set of mindfulness and meditation tools and techniques that fit my lifestyle. But more importantly, I came to understand that I had some myths around meditation that made it easy for me justify keeping a daily practice conveniently at bay. But once I busted through these myths, the true benefits of meditation and mindfulness began to show up in the most obvious ways like sleeping better, feeling more relaxed, and being less reactive and more responsive in my communications. There were unexpected benefits too, like feeling more emotionally connected in my relationships, experiencing greater focus and lucidity during challenging situations, and an overall feeling of peace and presence in my life.
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. it’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there,” says Deepak Chopra. Here are just a few popular myths when it comes to practicing mindfulness and meditation, and how you can overcome them to create a practice that suits your lifestyle.
1. I can’t clear my mind: You aren’t supposed to; thoughts are normal. The nature of the mind is to think, just as the nature of your eye is to see. Many people think meditation is about “clearing” our mind and while ultimately that may happen, it’s not because you close your eyes and magically stop thinking. meditation is the practice of becoming aware of having a thought, and then gently and without judgment, coming back to a point of focus (breath, body awareness, etc.). So it’s normal to have a thought, and come back to the point of focus. Have a thought. Come back to the focus. Each time we do this it’s like a pushup for our brain and serves as daily exercise to be more present in our lives. You’ll find that as you do this, you can easily access more and more subtle levels of thinking and eventually you’ll experience the silence that underlies the thoughts. So in reality, thoughts are a tool to cue the point of focus.
Tip: Match your inhales and exhales. Close your eyes and inhale for four counts and exhale for four counts. repeat four times. if your thoughts wander (which they will), just start over with your inhale at one.
2. I’m too busy: When people think of meditation, they envision big chunks of time of sitting and doing nothing. Then, ultimately they imagine all the things they can get done in that time. but the truth is, you can start with 5 minutes. It’s a matter of prioritizing your time. Think of the time you spend waiting in line for a coffee or perusing social media – you manage to find it when you need it and most of us can find five minutes each day. So in reality, 5 minutes of meditation is better than none at all. Think of it as a mini nap, where you are nourishing yourself and will come out feeling more grounded, relaxed, and at peace.
Tip: Choose mindfulness triggers. Tack on five minutes of breathing to your daily rituals – after brushing your teeth, after your shower, waiting for the coffee or tea to brew, or pulling off on a side street on your way home. The simple act of breathing in and out of our nose accesses the parasympathetic nervous system which automatically calms and relaxes us.
3. I’m too stressed: We all know that stress is not great for us, yet many of us wear it like a badge of honor where we feel more important, valuable and useful. Stress activates our stress hormones (fight or flight), whereas meditation soothes our nervous system. The body shifts into a state of restful awareness (rest and digest). Meditation can actually help to increase the flow of energy in our bodies, which helps to improve our healing and optimal health. With meditation, we won’t become lazy or too relaxed, but we’ll be clearer, more creative, and better able to respond to situations with more focus and effectiveness. In reality, you’ll learn you can do less and accomplish more.
Tip: Become aware of how stress feels in your body. next time you feel yourself getting riled up, practice S.T.O.P.:
S: stop what you are doing
T: take a few deep breaths
O: observe your body and smile
P: Proceed with kindness and compassion
Hopefully, debunking these myths can be a game changer and eliminate the limiting beliefs that are blocking being more present, peaceful, and prosperous in our day-to-day lives. now, let’s proceed into the new year with mindful intentions, and become our very best selves, step by step. there’s nothing to lose, and you may be quite surprised by what you can achieve in this new year.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally created for The Society Diaries January/February Emerge Column.