Have you ever been encouraged to try meditation? Maybe wondered what it would be like to have a regular practice, or had one and are curious what got in the way? Ever had a judgment, concern or opinion about one who meditates? Yes.
In a world of endless stimulation, pressing deadlines, social commitments and busy-ness – the quest for a calm mind is a universal topic. It has been for ages. Yet, reports are saying that meditation is now ‘where yoga was two decades ago’ and see meditation becoming more and more a way of life.
So what is with all of the hype, you may be wondering? How come celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Tom Brady, Jennifer Aniston and Jerry Seinfeld preach the value of meditating? Well, for starters, scientific research has shown many health benefits that come from taking care of our mental state and prioritizing our wellbeing. Others say that meditation is the pathway to becoming more wise, kind, and peaceful. Access to enlightenment and eternal bliss. To me, meditation is a way of knowing and trusting our authentic selves – it is a way of being in the world.
As you can see, in all of the research and experience that human beings have had with meditation over the past 4,000+ years, there is a lot of gray area. So much of what it can provide depends on the user – aka you. As part of my commitment to making meditation more accessible, inspiring and invaluable today, let’s demystify some common misconceptions and deepen our understanding of the path and practice of modern meditation.
Myth I: Meditation is a religious practice
No! This is the easiest one to debunk. Meditation is not religious. No one has to adopt any beliefs or swear allegiance to any god(s) to sit and breathe. Meditation is simply a way to create awareness and detach from some of the many thoughts that automatically run through the brain. While you can and may choose to use meditation to create or deepen a spiritual connection, it is not required. In my personal practice, I find the most value in relating to meditation as the intersection of science and spirituality – the physical effect on the human body (relaxing muscles, brain waves, nervous system) stimulates a more intimate relationship with the soul.
Myth II: I need to stop my thoughts in order to meditate
Good news! You do not need to stop your thoughts or have an empty mind in order to meditate. It is common to wish or assume that in sitting down to meditate that one could pull some sort of emergency break to stop thoughts. However, that creates a lot of tension, expectation, and pressure – taking you away from relaxation, grace and awareness, the essentials of meditation. My favorite metaphor to give my students is: open your eyes and look around right now – try not to see anything. Seriously, try! Just as your eyes exist to see things, the mind exists to produce thoughts. We want to have a better relationship to our thoughts, not turn them off. The opportunity is to be more of ourselves and strengthen our ability to interrupt automatic thoughts loops, not become more robotic.
Myth III: Meditation is the same things as mindfulness
This one is tricky. Meditation is a mindfulness practice, but being mindful in meditation is only half of the equation. In its simplest definition meditation is ‘substituting your conscious thinking with another object of attention.’ Presence is found in focusing on what we are doing rather than thinking about what we are doing. That is all mindfulness. AND, the more we focus mindfully on one single point – breath, image, sound, mantra – the larger our awareness grows. It is that experience of vastness – like your mind is expanding, clarity and inspiration arise from nowhere, you are a smaller speck in a larger whole. Relaxing into this insight is a valuable part of meditation.
Truth: Meditation gives you the courage to be who you are.
I like to think of meditation as the broom sweeping our path – dusting off debris and waste so that our true wisdom and inspiration can arise. By practicing meditation regularly, you see the magic of the world because you believe in the perfection of the present moment. Rather than striving to make yourself perfect, you relax into the beauty of what is present now.
Imagine now how much more ease you can bring with you to your meditation cushion. You have full permission to just be you – a human being. Rather than trying to ward off scary thoughts and collect gold stars for positivity, you expand your capacity to be with ALL OF YOU. Nothing gets excluded. Voldemort is not going to show up if you’re bringing negativity to your practice. In holding space for acceptance, simplicity and breath, you make room for the full power of your life to manifest in stillness.
Do less, gain more. Sound delightful? Meditate with me here or join me for a grounding guided meditation and yoga flow at Free People Charlotte on Sunday September 29th at 10am!