Top 8 Most Common Meditation Myths
28 Jan 2020
If you’re new to meditation, it’s likely that you’ve heard different myths around what you should expect during your practice. You may have heard it’s challenging and long, that you need to sit in uncomfortable positions, or that it’s about clearing your mind of any thoughts, just to name a few. The good news is that none of these are true. With all these misconceptions about meditation floating around, it’s no wonder you may also be confused or have found it intimidating to start a practice in the first place.
Here’s a roundup of the top 8 meditation myths I hear most often, which will hopefully simplify meditation and make it easier to get started or sustain your practice. Check out the list to see if there are any myths that resonate most, or bookmark it and share with friends and family who have been on the fence about giving meditation a try.
Top 8 Meditation Myths
1. Myth: Meditation is about “clearing your mind”
Truth: This might be the misconception I hear most often and the one that keeps most people away from starting a practice. The reality is that we don’t try to stop or control our thoughts during meditation, it’s actually not possible. Instead, we meditate to see those thoughts and patterns with more clarity. We can decide how much attention we give our thoughts, and we can begin to notice the quiet space in between these thoughts even if only for a few seconds.
When your everyday “monkey mind” presents itself, as it inevitably will, we don’t judge these thoughts or try to block them out. Instead, we notice that we are thinking, and return to our object of attention, which is most often the breath. As soon as you change your perception that your mind should be clear of thoughts for you to feel at ease, meditation becomes much easier.
2. Myth: You have to be in an uncomfortable position or fancy posture to meditate
Truth: The most important aspect of your meditation practice is comfort. Let’s be real, if you’re not comfortable, you won’t enjoy your meditation and are much less likely to continue something that doesn’t feel good.
If you have an itch, scratch it. If your leg is cramped up, stretch it out. Make any adjustments you need and feel free to use props such as pillows or blankets for additional support. You can also experiment with different positions, such as sitting, standing, walking, or lying down to find what feels best for your body. Do what works for you and don’t compare yourself to what others are doing or ideas you may have around what you should look like.
3. Myth: Meditation is a spiritual or religious practice
Truth: Religion and meditation are two separate things and you certainly don’t need a specific spiritual belief to meditate. And if you do have a religious practice, you can still enjoy the benefits of meditation without any conflict with your religious beliefs. On the other hand, if you don’t have any particular religious beliefs or are atheist or agnostic you can still meditate.
Many people simply start meditating to reap the health benefits—everything from deeper sleep to better immunity and improved brain function. The best part of meditation is how the benefits spill out into every area of your life and life becomes easier and more enjoyable.
4. Myth: You should only meditate if you’re stressed
Truth: Meditation is an incredible stress-relieving tool and it helps to lower cortisol, the stress hormone, which draws a lot of people into the practice. And while the stress-relieving benefits are real, meditation also serves to prevent stress from happening in the first place. So with regular practice, you will likely be less stressed and use meditation for its other mind-body benefits.
Many people enjoy meditation for the numerous other physical and emotional health benefits, including improved concentration, lower blood pressure, enhanced immunity, increased feelings of happiness, and better communication.
5. Myth: Meditation takes too much time
Truth: Even the busiest high performers (top CEOs, athletes, and executives) make the time to meditate each day. Why? Because the evidence shows that it improves your life in almost every way. So while you don’t necessarily need a daily practice, you’re missing out on a ton of benefits if it’s not part of your routine. So, ask yourself: can you really afford not to meditate?
And if you think you need hour-long sessions to begin to reap the benefits, you’re wrong. Even 5 minutes each day can have meaningful effects. Check out my free guided meditations to get started with these short, calming sessions.
6. Myth: Your mind is too busy to meditate
Truth: You’re not special, everyone thinks too much. Thinking is natural and a normal part of meditation. In fact, if you notice you’re having thoughts during meditation, that means you’re doing it right.
Each time your busy mind starts to wander off and think about your to-do list, upcoming deadlines, or any other form of being distracted, this is an opportunity to practice mindfulness. As soon as you notice you have been pulled off into thought, you can simply come back to your meditation. This is all a part of the experience.
At the end of the day, meditation is about tuning in and noticing our internal experience—not about changing it. The more we practice, the better we get at allowing our thoughts to be there, without getting too caught up in them.
7. Myth: Meditation is too difficult
Truth: Like anything else you practice, over time you will feel more comfortable. Experiment with different styles, keep an open mind and let go of the notion that this is an esoteric practice only reserved for a few. Everyone can meditate. Point blank. An experienced teacher will make it a fun and enjoyable process and help you get the most out of your practice.
8. Myth: Meditation and mindfulness are the same
Truth: Mindfulness is the act of being fully aware of what’s happening as it’s happening. Meditation, in contrast, is an activity, and most commonly it refers to formal practice. Mindfulness can be practiced virtually anywhere, anytime (i.e. doing your dishes, going for a run, or while having a conversation), while meditation is most commonly practiced sitting down. You may also choose to meditate while walking, standing, or lying down, but you definitely can’t meditate while having a conversation.
If mindfulness is like strength or flexibility, meditation is like running or going to the gym. You can be mindful without meditation, while meditation leads to more mindfulness. The two concepts feed each other, but they aren't the same thing and they have slightly different applications and benefits.