Five Myths of Mindfulness Meditation – by Janet Sandman

With the unfamiliar and untried, sometimes we need to hear what something is NOT before we can be open to hearing what it actually is.  This can be true for the word meditation.  It can sort of freak people out or be a bit intimidating.  My mission here is to debunk some common misconceptions surrounding mindfulness meditation.  Hint:  It’s definitely not about rainbows and unicorns.

Myth #1:  Meditation will make me too relaxed to be at the top of my game.

Often, as we move through our work and life responsibilities, we are tense and stressed, believing that being hyped up is the only way to stay sharp and get things done.  Actually, this way of operating is not physically or mentally sustainable.  The effects of stress can eventually lessen your ability to concentrate or make good decisions.  With meditation, you will not become lazy or lose your edge.  Instead, you will be able to access more energy and be clearer, more relaxed, and aware of the bigger picture.  Pretty cool to be able to do less and accomplish more!

Myth #2:  Meditation requires me to stop thinking and I can’t do that.

It is the nature of the mind to think, just as it is the nature of the eyes to see and the ears to hear.  Despite what you may have heard, meditation is not about “clearing the mind”.  During meditation, it is natural for the mind to wander to thoughts about the past or future.  It is not a big deal.  You simply notice when this happens and return to the focus of your meditation, often the sensation of your breath.  With practice, the mind will naturally settle.  But bear in mind that thoughts will always be a part of meditation.  Again, not a big deal.

Myth #3:  Meditation requires too much time, and besides, I can relax watching TV.

If you’re being honest, most of us can find five minutes each day to meditate.  And five minutes is better than no minutes.  Meditation is much more than just a way to relax.  Think of meditation as the perfect way to reset your nervous system, release stress, and rejuvenate your mind and body.  It’s like a mini nap.  If you meditate for a short time every day (okay, almost every day), you will get way more benefits than sitting in front of the TV.  Do both if you want!  But make meditation the priority.  You deserve to live your best life!

Myth #4:  Meditation requires me to change my religion.

Though mindfulness meditation techniques have their roots in Eastern religions and philosophies, meditation is a personal practice, not necessarily part of a religious practice.  Regardless of your background or beliefs, you can meditate.  Meditation is simply about closing your eyes, sitting still, and training your attention.  It gives your body an opportunity to release stress and helps you to reconnect with who you really are.

Myth #5:  Meditation is just a way to escape your problems.

It would be nice if this myth were true.  Escaping all your problems sounds pretty good, right?  But then we would be resisting reality, pushing away what we do not want to face and failing to see what is really going on in this moment.  To live fully and deeply, you need to be hereNow.  Mindfulness is all about being present with what is happening while it is happening.  Sounds easy, but there is more to it.  You are supposed to do this without judging the experience or needing it to be other than it is.  In other words, having the capacity to be in it while you are in it.  So, yes, this one takes some practice.  But it is so worth it.  Regardless of what is unfolding, it is already there in front of you, so you might as well see it for what it is (no sugarcoating) and get on with getting on.

Now that you know what mindfulness meditation is not, it is fair to ask, “Then what is it?”

Mindfulness meditation is basically a collection of techniques which, when practiced over time, can help settle the nervous system and train the brain to be more focused, engaged and less emotionally reactive.  And fortunately for skeptics, there is a boatload of research to back up some pretty incredible benefits for increased physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  New blog topic alert here!

A regular mindfulness meditation practice works to create a new normal, one in which you more easily adapt to stressful situations without getting so upset; in which you meet challenges with courage, clarity, strength, and grace; in which what you say and do are aligned with your core values; in which your relationships are nourished and nourishing; and in which who you are is not overshadowed by what you do for a living.

So, if you meditate, will you still get stressed?  Yes, you will still get stressed.  But you will recover more quickly and will not sweat the small stuff so much.

Resources:  McLean Meditation Institute, Simple Easy Every Day (SEED) Meditation Method


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