The Top Ten Myths of Meditation. New to meditation and curious to learn more? here are some myths about the practice of meditation:
1. Just to concentrate on a word or action is meditation.
While concentration is certainly a part of meditation, there is much more to meditation. There are two kinds of differences between concentration and meditation, both in technique as well as in their ultimate goal. In meditation, the ideation or meaning which comes with the technique is very important. There is an ancient saying in the yogic tradition: “As you think, so you become.”
Concentrating on the word ‘one’, focusing on a candle flame or becoming immersed in jogging or some other activity can not lead us to our true self. Certainly these techniques are useful for mental development, but meditation leads to spiritual development as well. In meditation we seek to continue our self-development until we become fully aware of our highest human potential. True meditation accepts no limited conception of our Self. It leads us toward the Infinite which is ultimately beyond technique.
2. Meditation is just a process for relaxation and peace of mind.
While relaxation exercises are very beneficial for the practice of meditation, they are only a starting point. Similarly, peace of mind is only one of the many benefits of meditation. Meditation leads us to deeper self-awareness, in the broadest sense of the word. Sometimes self-awareness is painful and disturbing. Sometimes meditation will lead us into troubled portions of our mind. We may feel, at those times, that we are no longer on the path of meditation; but actually these troubles, if properly understood, can be helpful for our self-development.
Whatever is inside us, we must eventually come to accept. This self-acceptance is the first step towards self-transformation. Then we can continue to delve into the deeper layers of our mind. It is true that one of the ultimate goals of meditation is to attain that blissful state of true inner peace. It is also true that the process of meditation will lead us slowly but steadily toward peace of mind. But we must remember that meditation, because it makes us more aware, also opens us to the pain which exists inside and around us. That is why meditation also helps us to develop our compassion.
3. I can’t meditate because:
(a) my mind is too unsettled;
(b) my body is too uncomfortable sitting for long;
(c) my home is too noisy;
(d) I don’t have time;
(e) I’m not self-disciplined.
These are only five of the most common excuses people give for not meditating. Everyone (including those who do meditate regularly) has a list. Yet millions of people meditate regularly. If you were to poll regular meditators you would find that virtually every one of them has had all of the above problems (and often many others). So, how is it that they learned? Well, they accepted that learning anything worthwhile requires effort. Obviously learning meditation, which involves discovering so many hidden facets of our self, may require some special effort, especially at the beginning. What we have to do is to start looking upon our obstacles as challenges. Life is always full of challenges. Overcoming and working through challenges develops our will and our inner strength. That’s how we learn and grow.
4. Meditation is foreign, esoteric and unscientific.
Actually meditation is a universal practice which has been used worldwide for thousands of years. While some cultures are more attuned to the practice and philosophy of meditation, it still has roots in all of the world’s spiritual traditions. And despite the mystique in which meditation is sometimes cloaked, the reality is that anyone can learn to meditate. Proper instruction and regular practice are important, but they are important in learning to play a musical instrument, too.
Meditation techniques have been systematically developed for at least 7000 years. Countless meditators have experimented with a myriad of techniques in the laboratory of their minds. There is nothing haphazard about a proper meditation technique. How many other techniques of learning have been developed for so long? Meditation is unique because it is a science of our inner realms – an intuitive science. This intuitive science is so astute that western physics is only now coming to understand aspects of the ultimate nature of reality in the universe which were grasped and described by meditators thousands of years ago. Instead of calling meditation unscientific we need to expand our notion of what is science.
5. Meditation is escapist. It will pull me inside too much, away from my practical needs and the practical needs of others.
Actually, when meditation is properly taught and practiced, it will often lead toward greater involvement in the world. One of the goals of meditation is the experience of the oneness of all creation. As we delve deeper and deeper into our true selves, we become more aware of how we are all linked. From this realization comes compassion, love for others and a stronger desire to bring justice into the world.
Meditation also gives us a broader perspective from which to view our daily lives and more mental balance to guide our actions. Meditation may change our feelings about what is important in the world, but it does so by giving us more food for thought, not less.
6. Meditation is purely a mental exercise.
Certainly meditation begins in the mind. Its culmination, though, is found in our heart, in the innermost core of our heart where we feel love for all creation. Meditation has been called the practice of universal kinship, for as we delve into the deepest layers of our mind we discover that our external differences melt away. So, it is no surprise that many meditative paths also make use of devotional practices like chanting, spiritual dance and music, and sharing with others. On the spiritual path an open mind and an open heart go hand in hand.
7. Meditation is too complex and involved for me to learn.
Actually a beginning meditation technique is amazingly simple. It’s the process of getting established in the regular practice of meditation that takes time and effort. The paradox of meditation is that you can receive the basic teaching in minutes and then spend the rest of your life uncovering all the wisdom that is hidden in that teaching. Fortunately you don’t have to do it alone. Guidance and companionship on the path are freely available.
8. If I meditate too deeply, I’ll lose touch with my sense of self.
We don’t lose our sense of self when we meditate. Instead we deepen and expand our sense of self. We explore parts of our being we scarcely knew existed, and we experience our sense of connection with others. Indeed, we gain a whole new sense of self which is more beautiful and blissful than we could have imagined before.
9. Meditation conflicts with my religious beliefs and practices.
One of the goals of meditation is to give every individual an experience of the spiritual reality that all religions speak of. Indeed, meditation will bring you closer to the essence of any religious creed. Meditation leads us towards a universal spiritual goal – although meditation itself is not a religion.
10. Meditation will give me bliss easily.
Many new meditators become discouraged if they don’t have some sort of dramatic or blissful experience in a short time. While it is true that some people have wonderful experiences early on, the vast majority of us have to diligently practice for months or years before we begin to attain these higher states of consciousness. What happens usually is that we change in small and subtle ways which we may not fully notice or acknowledge ourselves.
Meditation is a slow but steady process of inner growth and expanded awareness. It’s slow because it’s real. The changes often occur deep inside where we don’t usually see ourselves. How quickly and how noticeably these changes appear is a wholly personal matter. Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge spiritual attainment and self-realization by external changes.
It’s important to remember that most of us have spent long, long periods of time looking outside of ourselves. If you’ve been looking mostly outside for 20, 30, 40 or more years, can you really expect to turn inside and see clearly in a few weeks? Certainly you will feel immediate effects from your first meditations. Many people say of their first meditations, “I thought I couldn’t concentrate at all, yet after I got up from meditation I felt so calm.” That is one sign of the first progress in your meditation.
It is not always easy though! In Sanskrit, the mother of all Indo-European languages, meditation is called sadhana. Sadhana means the effort to complete ourselves, the effort to become whole. So, what’s most important in the practice of meditation is sincerity and effort.