Many people fail to get started with meditation and miss out on a lot of benefits because they have misconceptions about the practice. In this article, I dispel 11 myths about meditation I hear from students so that you can get out of your own way and reap the benefits of a regular meditation practice.
Why Do We Have Myths About Meditation?
Usually, we hold myths about meditation as truth because we are self-sabotaging our success. This often boils down to fear of change. Fear of change is a constant internal battle in the human mind. We desire to grow and improve and change our circumstances, yet our ego fears this change just in case it doesn’t work out.
The ego wants to keep us small to minimize the risk of it getting hurt. But as the Buddha teaches us, change is inevitable, and so we might as well harness it for our benefit. One of the best ways to change for the better is to develop a regular meditation practice, and I hope that the myths about meditation I dispel in this article will help you to do just that.
1: Meditation is Difficult
This is one of the top myths about meditation that people have, and I think it is helpful to reframe it. According to dictionary.com, the definition of difficult is: ‘not easily or readily done; requiring much labor, skill, or planning to be performed successfully; hard.’
Meditation can be challenging, certainly, but it does not ‘require extensive labor, skill, or planning to be performed successfully,’ and it definitely can be ‘easily and readily done.’ My observations have shown that people think meditation is difficult because they are attached to the idea that it should look or feel a certain way.
Did you realize that you meditate every day without knowing it? You meditate (fix your attention on a single point of focus) all the time; when you concentrate on a book, TV program, or work project. Formal meditation is simply shifting your concentration from TV, reading, or work to the breath or another conscious point of focus such as a candle flame or guided meditation.
2: My Mind is Busy so I Can’t Meditate
If I was given a dollar every time I heard this, I’d be a wealthy woman. Newsflash – EVERYONE has a busy mind. Thinking is the nature of the human mind. We have thousands of thoughts per day, and it is unwise to believe that these will immediately cease when we shut our eyes with the intention of meditating.
In fact, thoughts are part of meditation. The process of meditation involves observing thoughts without becoming attached to them, not trying to clear your mind completely. Unless you are an extremely experienced meditator, this feat is impossible. Of all the myths about meditation, this is the most opposite of the truth. Instead of thinking ‘my mind is busy so I can’t meditate,’ flip it around to ‘my mind is busy so I can and should meditate.’
3: Meditation Isn’t Meant for Me
One of the most common myths about meditation is that it is only for religious people. Meditation features in many religions because it is an effective tool for focusing the mind. It is also the principle practice of Buddhist monks. But these things do not make meditation a religious practice. They simply mean that it is utilized by religions as a tool of focus and self-discovery. Meditation is practiced by people of many religions, and equally by people of no religion.
Another misconception is that meditation is only for stressed people. It is true that meditation lowers cortisol and other stress hormones, and can help to manage anxiety and depression, but its benefits extend way past this. As such, meditation is beneficial to everyone, not just those who are anxious or stressed.
4: I Don’t Have Time to Meditate
Another of the myths about meditation that would have made me rich! Again, we are ALL busy. Not having time to do something is a classic excuse we tell ourselves when we don’t want to do something, or we are subconsciously self-sabotaging. It isn’t just used for meditation, we are also often too busy to exercise, read, write, eat healthily, and learn a new skill.
If you quit making excuses and dedicate 15 minutes a day to your meditation practice, you will soon see that your focus, productivity, concentration, and satisfaction improve, and you are able to achieve MORE things in your day, not less. If you can’t even find 15 minutes in your day, then you seriously need to examine your lifestyle, because you are on the road to burn out. I always recommend taking that 15 minutes from your social media consumption – the biggest time suck of the current age.
5: If I Do Yoga, I Don’t Need to Meditate
Yoga is definitely a form of meditation (when practiced with focus and intention), but it does not replace a formal meditation practice. Yoga can enhance meditation and vice versa, but they are not mutually exclusive. It is highly beneficial to practice meditation after yoga because you have warmed your muscles and are able to sit still for longer periods without becoming uncomfortable. Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga show us that both asana and meditation are crucial steps on the path to liberation and that the purpose of asana is to prepare the body for meditation.
6: Meditation is Always Calming
One of the most distressing myths about meditation is that you should always feel calm and relaxed during and after meditation. As I said earlier, meditation does reduce cortisol and so it can be good for lowering stress and anxiety. BUT, once you get past the beginning hurdles of distraction and lack of focus, you’ll start delving deeper into the layers of your psyche that have been hidden by walls of defence.
This exploration of self can often be very uncomfortable and can bring up past trauma that has been buried for years. These memories carry an emotional energetic charge that is felt as they bubble up to the surface. The key thing to remember here is not to become attached to them. Just like you do with your thoughts, acknowledge these emotions as they surface and allow them to pass on through.
7: I Need to Buy Lots of Fancy Equipment
No, you do not. Meditation is an internal practice, and so all you need is yourself. It is totally free of charge, portable, and adaptable. You can practice meditation wherever you are, just by focusing on your breath. While there are items that can enhance your meditation practice, such as cushions, incense, singing bowls, malas, shawls, and guided meditations, none of these things are NECESSARY for meditation. Cost is not a barrier to get started with meditation.
8: Taking Time to Meditate Daily is Selfish or Indulgent
This is one of the myths about meditation that breaks my heart to hear people say. Setting boundaries around your meditation practice is both an act of self-love and love for others. Meditation helps to recharge your batteries, give you space and time to process your experiences, and discover your Self. All of these things enable you to be more productive and better at giving to others.
There is a saying that goes; ‘you cannot give from an empty cup.’ Meditation is an activity that fills your cup so that you CAN give to others. Also, when you protect your meditation time, you are practicing self-care, and you set a good example for others to follow. By creating firm boundaries around your own meditation practice, you give permission to others to do the same, which benefits them enormously.
Since I created firm boundaries around my meditation practice, I have become more productive, a nicer person to be around, a better friend, and most importantly, a better mother. Regular meditation has spilled out into other areas of my life and I am more mindful during my day. I am more present with my loved ones, which, as we know, is the best gift you can give.
9: I Won’t Feel the Benefits for a Long Time
Meditation has both short and long-term benefits. Studies have shown that in as little as a few weeks, meditators have reduced anxiety, improved sleep, and boosted cognitive function. And benefits can be even more immediate than that. After just one session you can feel calmer and have more clarity of mind. People have noticed they are able to handle stressful situations better within as little as two or three meditation sessions.
I think the point in question here is not the length of time until you feel the benefits, but the quality and consistency of your practice. If you meditate for ten minutes once a week or even once a month, then no, you probably won’t notice much of a difference, and the quality of your practice won’t improve much. But if you meditate for ten minutes every single day, you will soon find that concentration becomes easier and you notice many benefits quite quickly.
It is this dedication and consistency that brings results, as well as your mindset and intention. If you go into each session with a negative mindset, expecting it to be hard, boring, and unfruitful, then it will be. But if you go into each session with a positive frame of mind, expecting it to be enjoyable, and open to any results you might receive, then you will be much more likely to experience the many benefits meditation can provide.
10: I Need a Guru or Teacher to be Successful
This is one of the most prevalent myths about meditation, and I think it stems from uncertainty about doing it right. While a teacher can help you to learn different meditation techniques, troubleshoot obstacles, and develop a consistent daily practice, it isn’t 100% necessary.
There are a ton of free meditation tutorials on YouTube if you feel the need for some guidance, as well as hundreds of books and blogs on the subject. You can even join meditation groups, both in person and online, for peer support. But sometimes you need to be your own teacher.
You can get started immediately by closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. Trust your intuition to guide you and don’t worry about getting it wrong. Getting started is the hardest part, once you’ve done that, the journey becomes easier.
11: Meditation is Running Away from Responsibilities
This is one of the stranger myths about meditation that people have – that meditation is escapism and avoidance of responsibility. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Meditation actually helps us to face life’s struggles and hardships rationally without getting entangled in negatively-charged emotion and habitual reactions.
We cannot use meditation to bypass difficult emotions or step out of the realm of responsibility to others. During meditation, we are faced with our emotions, our shortcomings, and our self-imposed limiting beliefs. We come face-to-face with the stories we tell ourselves and the world about why we can’t do certain things, and we are able to rewrite them to reflect our truth.
Meditation is the opposite of escapism; it is the realization of the truth of who we are as individuals, of our place in the world, and of the true nature of reality. This realization facilitates the desire to step into our position within society, face up to our responsibilities, and find joy in helping others to do the same. Meditation deepens our relationship with Self and others, and our understanding of reality.
There is no need to let myths about meditation stand in your way of receiving the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual benefits of a regular meditation practice. It is crucial to examine any limiting beliefs about meditation and ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this belief true?
- Am I creating this belief as an act of self-sabotage?
Most of the time, the answer to the first question will be no, and the answer to the second question will be yes. Once you have established the truth, you can move past your limiting or false beliefs and find a way to make meditation a non-negotiable part of your daily routine. If you need help with making meditation and spiritual practice a priority, join our Sacred Circle forum. In the Sacred Circle, we discuss this and many other topics to help you create a life of spiritual fulfillment.