I grew up in a Buddhist household. My family wasn’t too religious about it, but we had some Buddhist texts lying on the bookshelf.
One afternoon, I picked up one of these books and tried to give it a go:
All I remember was reading a passage about meditating to an image of a flower…and promptly falling asleep.
Around that age, I began to learn about science. Compared to topics like algebra and biology, meditation seemed frothy. I associated meditation with an “out of touchness” with the world. In my mind, it was something that only hippies would do.
It would be more than a decade before I revisited meditation.
I used to listen to the Tim Ferriss podcast religiously. He’d interview all sorts of interesting guests, from comedians to CEOs of massive companies. A huge majority of these guests talked about meditation as a core practice in their daily lives.
What got me was that these top performers used meditation for mental performance.
That was the first time that I thought of meditation as being practical.
So I downloaded Headspace to give this meditation thing a shot.
Hundreds of sessions later, I felt the real benefits of meditation – managing stress, calming anxiety and tapping into presence.
This experienced showed me the various misconceptions that held me back from meditating for years. These are the top 5 meditation myths I want to dispel to help others start reaping the benefits of meditation quickly:
Myth #1: Meditation is “spiritual”
Think of the word “meditation.” What comes to mind? I always imagined a bald monk in some Tibetan temple, sitting in a lotus position for hours.
I attributed much mysticism to meditation (say that 3x fast). If I knew that meditation was mostly paying attention to my own breathing and thought patterns, I would’ve started much earlier.
Spiritual moments can occur while meditating, but meditation is not a uniquely spiritual nor religious practice.
In fact, meditation has added more objectivity to my life:
Wow, my mind is going everywhere today.
Ha, what a weird thought.
I just entered a pretty dark state there.
By observing the mind and what it generates, I’ve become both more curious and detached from the thoughts that my mind generates.
Myth #2: Meditation is clearing your mind of thoughts
I always thought that the goal of meditation is to have a blank mind.
This was impossible for me to achieve. I’d try to clear my head of all thoughts, and of course, my busy mind would generate random thoughts at will. Because of this, I always felt like I “failed” at meditation.
Then I learned that meditation is simply being present to my thoughts. Not to control them or judge myself for having them, but simply acknowledging each thought and letting it pass.
Much easier (and healthier TBH), than aiming for a blank mind.
Myth #3: Meditation has to be silent
Why did Headspace work for me compared to years of trying to meditate on my own?
One crucial difference – I thought meditation was a silent sport, and didn’t know about guided meditations. These are meditations in which a voice guides you through a session.
If you’re new to this, just search “guided meditations” on Youtube (link to a great 5 min meditation) and you’ll find tons.
Guided meditation was the gamechanger for me as a beginner. Instead of starting in silence, I felt like I had instant-access coaches for my brain.
Myth #4: Meditation is static
Before I started using Headspace, my window into meditation was weight lifting.
As I struggled with each rep, the world would melt away, and I’d only be focused on the movement and my breath.
Meditation doesn’t have to be static, it can be active.
For those who feel restless sitting still, consider moving meditation. If you’ve ever felt “in the zone” whether that’s going through a yoga flow or experiencing runner’s high, that can be your meditation.
To get the full benefits of meditation, I do still sit cross legged for at least 10 minutes listening to my Headspace app in the morning. The quality of this meditation – seeing my thoughts arise and go – is more difficult to me when I’m actively moving an visually stimulated.
Whatever your approach, meditation doesn’t have to be a static thing that you do at one place at one time. Even one conscious breath counts as meditation.
Myth #5: Meditation is a magic pill
Yes, you can meditate and still be an asshole. I’m living proof.
I thought I was so calm and zen after a year of meditation…then I spent a week with my family on vacation.
If you think you are spiritually evolved, just spend a weekend with your parents.
Meditation is no magic pill. Just like any muscle, mindfulness strengthens and atrophies according to practice.
I still get frustrated, impatient, angry…but I just get through it faster now.
My baseline of self-awareness and calm is higher than before. I’m less reactive and more observant of my own thought patterns – especially the unhealthy ones that creep up (“you’re not enough! You’re dumb!”).
This has led to more self-kindness and acceptance, precious things that are hard to put a price on.
If you’ve been curious about meditation, I hope this blog helps dispel the myths that prevent people from trying one of the most important self-management techniques known to man.
If you’re lazy like me, here’s all you need to do to get started:
- Download a free meditation app like Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer
- Start small, with just 10 minutes a day
- Keep it up for a week and then reflect on how you feel