You’re ready to start meditating. Consider yourself in good company.
A National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) report found that adult meditation tripled between 2012 and 2017. It’s estimated to be even more prevalent now, thanks to a global pandemic that left a lot of people stressed, anxious, and in search of inner calm.
The potential benefits of meditation are certainly alluring: lowered stress, anxiety, depression, and pain among them.
So you want in. You’ve already read all the meditation tips, but somehow you still can’t seem to start a practice.
Maybe that’s because, like many people, you still hold some preconceived notions about meditation or falsely believe some persistent meditation myths.
Experts say not to let these stop you from starting or continuing a practice.
If you want to meditate, here’s what you need to know about the most common meditation myths – and why they are inaccurate.
Myth: Thoughts during meditation is bad
The most common myth about meditation is that you’re not supposed to have thoughts while you’re meditating, according to Josephine Atluri, a meditation coach and teacher.
“I think that this myth got perpetuated because oftentimes you hear people saying that you’re supposed to clear your mind of anything to be in the present moment and to gain clarity and nirvana,” she says. “And that’s just not the case because the truth is we have between 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day.”
The idea of completely turning off thoughts is unrealistic, even for the most seasoned meditation practitioners and teachers. It’s an intimidating concept to think you must turn off thoughts entirely.
After all, even the thought of not thinking is still a thought, points out Dora Kamau, a meditation and mindfulness teacher.
The true goal is to achieve stillness and silence while sitting in meditation. Then, when a thought does come in, you acknowledge it without judgment and send the thought away.
What exactly does that mean? Well, it depends on the person.
Atluri says that might look like silently speaking to the thought, saying something like, “I’ll get back to you later.” Or you might visualise yourself putting the thought on a cloud and pushing it away. Go with whatever works for you.
Myth: Meditation should come naturally
Tatyana Souza, a yoga and meditation teacher, says not only is the idea of completely clearing your mind a myth but it also breeds other myths.
You might think that some people have an innate capacity for mind-clearing, or that the skill should be natural, not learned.
“This concept in practice is truthfully quite difficult, and that is why it is called a meditation ‘practice,’” she says. “This often leads to many people quitting after their first try or even after their first minute of attempting to meditate.”
In fact, being “good” at meditating, in general, is all relative. You don’t need to be “good” at meditating to try it or get the benefits of the practice.
People often swing to one side of the pendulum or the other, thinking that meditation is either very easy or very hard.
But Kamau notes that meditation is a practice, something to cultivate over time with consistency and discipline. That’s why it’s important to form a daily meditation habit.
“It’s similar to training our muscles. We’re training the mind with repetition and practice,” she says.
It may come easier to some than others, but you don’t have to be a certain type of person to achieve a meditative mindset, Kamau says.