Everyone these days is talking about the benefits of meditation, but not so much about the challenges that hinder the practice of meditation. The practice of meditation has made its way mainstream; no longer something just for Buddhist monks, everyone seems to be touting the many benefits of meditation from stress reduction to productivity. However, it seems that less people are talking about how to actually practice meditation and overcome the challenges and misconceptions associated with it. If you’ve ever had the thought, “Meditation sounds great, but it’s not for me” or “I’m just not good at meditating”, I hear you and I understand why you may feel this way. Many of us overthink meditation itself, telling ourselves it’s just not something we are suited for or can do. However, getting better at meditation is very similar to working out and getting stronger. You have to keep practicing and putting in consistent work to notice and keep the benefits. That being said, meditation is much simpler than many of us make it out to be. Let’s debunk some common misconceptions about meditation so that you can either get started meditating or improve your current practice.
Myth #1 You’re supposed to stop thinking
Meditation is not something that helps you stop thinking. On the contrary, meditation helps you become more aware of your thoughts, thinking patterns, and sensations in your body so that you can have a healthier relationship with your thoughts and emotions. The goal of meditation is not to expel all of your thoughts and feelings completely, but to become more connected to the present moment and to be able to comfortably take note of what you’re thinking and feeling. Instead of becoming too attached or detached from your thoughts and feelings, meditation helps you become a nonjudgmental observer of your own mind that neither obsesses or represses.
More often then not, our rampant thoughts are simply our brain looking for something to be distracted by, pulling you away from the present moment. Don’t feel badly about it though, our brains were hardwired to notice distractions and focus on or create fake, yet troubling scenarios so that we are better equipped for survival. Here’s a big question though: If you’re constantly replaying the past, or worrying about the future, how much of your real life are you really living?
We will never be able to silence all of the thoughts in our head, but with the help of meditation we can train our minds so that we start living more in the present and less in our heads. Once you know that you don't have to completely“clear your mind” you will put less pressure on yourself and stop asking, “Am I doing this right?” during your meditation time. There’s no such thing as a perfect meditation. Your mind will wander, but as you practice more and more, you will be able to take note of this wandering sooner and refocus your attention with more ease.
Myth #2 You have to meditate for a long time
Sitting for hours in a dark candle lit room is not the only way to meditate. Even a 30-minute meditation seems daunting for many people, especially to those new to meditation, which is why I recommend starting small and working your way up. It’s never a good idea to start your practice with unreasonable or lengthy goals. Consistency over duration is key when it comes to your practice. It is much more helpful for your brain to practice more consistently for a shorter amount of time than to practice once in a while for a long time.
If you’re serious about improving your practice then it’s time to add the “Two-Minute Rule” to your daily routine. With the two-minute rule, you commit to meditating or practicing mindfulness for at least two minutes every day. If you want to meditate for a longer amount of time, of course do so and slowly build if you can, but make the commitment to practice for two-minutes daily no matter what. Finding two minutes in your day is doable, even if you have to take those two minutes in the bathroom stall. Set a timer so you don’t have to keep watching the clock and focus on your breath for at least two minutes a day. Even taking these few minutes to yourself can make a world of difference for your brain and for your practice.
Myth #3 You have to meditate in a certain way to be successful
I like to tell patients that if you’ve tried meditation before and you weren’t comfortable, maybe the setup or style of meditation just didn’t resonate and a shift in gears is needed. Also, when we start anything new, there is a level of discomfort of the unfamiliar that we need to be aware of. Fortunately, there are all kinds of ways to set up your meditation practice.
You can meditate seated, lying down, moving mindfully, or incorporate all three. You also can position your hands and fingers in whatever way feels best for your body.
You can listen to music, meditate in silence, or do guided meditations to help keep you on track or focus on a specific goal.
You can meditate by yourself, with a friend, or with an in-person or online group.
You can practice different kinds of meditation such as mantra meditation, visualization meditation, guided meditations, etc. There are different names for various styles of meditations that you can try as well such as Vipassana, Transcendental, Zen, Mindfulness Meditation, and more!
You can use a yoga mat, a pillow, a meditation stool, blankets, diffusers, table alters, candles, dim lighting, or whatever else makes you feel more comfortable.
If you are looking for more guidance on how to start, improve, or add to your practice, schedule in for a private meditation & breathwork session with Michelle. Our sessions take place in our salt cave and include halotherapy!