The Ten Biggest Meditation Myths Debunked
Meditation is everywhere: airports, gyms, cafes. It has taken the world by storm. But with such popularity comes misinformation and false gurus. This can make it difficult for people to start meditating or put pressure on people to meditate in certain ways.
Here we debunk the ten biggest meditation myths that are circulating today.
MYTH 1: Meditation is a religious practice that is done in a temple under a master
Ok, so here we’ve wrapped three myths into one, but they’re all closely related. These myths likely still circulate due to the fact meditation was developed in ancient India and because originally this was how things were done when knowledge could only be passed from Guru (teacher) to Shishya (disciple).
Meditation hasn’t been an exclusively religious practice in centuries, however, and in a lot of ways, it never was. Meditation is so intimately intertwined with the human experience, that it cannot be claimed by anyone group or religion, at least not anymore. In actual fact, meditation is a truly universal practice. It is performed by those in all walks of life, from the traditionally religious, to the new age spiritual, all the way through to complete atheists. As such, neither a temple nor a master is required.
It is a skill, however, and having someone to guide you at first, or having a reputable source for knowledge and information is important to save you some time and help you get the most from your practice.
TRUTH: Meditation requires no previous beliefs, special places, or masters
MYTH 2: Meditation involves rituals like burning incense and using crystals
Ever hear the saying ‘can’t see the wood for the trees?’ Rituals in meditation is a perfect example where people often see the trees but miss the wood entirely. This has led to stories of people not meditating for months because they didn’t have a full thirty minutes, didn’t have any sage, or were waiting to buy a special meditation pillow. This is crazy, and something that is totally not necessary.
Rituals generally exist to complement the essence of a thing, not as something that is absolutely necessary. Meditation is no different. Now don’t get us wrong, this doesn’t mean that rituals shouldn’t be performed, or that they won’t complement a good meditation practice. They absolutely will. But the truth is they aren’t a requirement at all, and many people choose to meditate without them.
TRUTH: Meditation doesn’t require any rituals at all
MYTH 3: Meditation requires closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position
We’ve sneaked two myths into one here, but these two myths have helped keep each other alive over the years, so it makes sense to debunk them together.
It’s important to mention here, that there are so many different ways to meditate, that often one form is almost unrecognizable from another form. This can trick people into thinking that the type they know or have seen is the main or only way to meditate. Just because one of the most common meditation techniques involves sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed, doesn’t mean this is the only way to meditate. In truth, people meditate with their eyes closed or open in all different positions including lying, standing, and even during walking, running or other movements.
We just don’t recommend combining running meditation with closed eyes, but you can probably guess why.
TRUTH: You can meditate in any position, with your eyes closed or open
MYTH 4: Meditation needs to be done in silence
This myth is one of the more innocent myths, only perpetuated because meditation is often done in silence, so people think that means that it must be done in silence.
In truth, meditation is also often done to chanting, music, drumming and all manner of sounds. What’s more, it is often the case that meditating with some sound helps to quieten the mind and allow for a deeper practice. Additionally, there are guided meditations. These involve someone talking to guide the thoughts of those meditating and can help those beginning with meditation find their feet, and help those who are more experienced go deeper into their practice.
TRUTH: Meditation can be done in silence, or with the help of chanting, drumming, talking or a number of other sounds
MYTH 5: Meditation takes years to see any real benefit
This is a very negative myth, that tries to make an objective judgment about something that is a highly subjective experience. In truth, meditation is like anything else that requires regular practice, in that the more often you do it, and the longer you’ve done it for, the greater the benefits.
Many people experience the calming, soothing and peaceful effects of meditation after the first time though, where others may take a little longer to build up their practice to see the benefits. It is a skill after all, and when you look at it like this that makes total sense. What is more important here though is thinking of meditation, not as a means to an end, but as a beautiful journey in which you are embarking where you are reconnecting with yourself. In this way, it is a great metaphor for life. It is never about the destination; only the journey is what counts.
TRUTH: From the first-day meditation is a beautiful journey of reconnecting with yourself
MYTH 6: Meditation is effortless, it is just relaxing
This common misconception is one of the reasons we suggested earlier that it is beneficial to have someone to guide you who knows what they’re talking about or to make sure you are getting your information from a reputable source. Without any prior knowledge, someone may try meditating and liken it to just relaxing, something that is in fact effortless. But the truth here is that meditation can require a lot of effort, in a number of ways.
First, it requires practice. Just the idea of setting some time to one side every day or every few days to practice meditation requires in itself effort. But that’s not all. Relaxing here is seen as a passive thing, as in switching the mind off to relax. Meditation is a training of the mind, and as such requires the discipline to remain very active in the practice.
Furthermore, meditation can bring up some difficult thoughts, fears, and emotions, and processing these can certainly take a lot of effort. But the rewards for doing so make engaging in regular meditation practice entirely worthwhile.
TRUTH: Meditation requires active effort in a number of ways
MYTH 7: I need a quiet mind to meditate
This is a rather silly myth, but it is one of the most common reasons people do not begin a meditation practice.
In reality, saying ‘I need a quiet mind to meditate’ is like saying ‘I need to be fit to go to the gym’ – but people still say both! Upon any real scrutiny, this myth clearly gives way to reason. Meditation has so many benefits that we’ll likely discuss them over a number of future posts, but one of the most obvious is the quieting of the mind. This myth more commonly masks an underlying fear of what thoughts, fears, and emotions may surface when someone meditates. This is a completely natural and understandable fear.
What is important to remember during this process though is that meditation is a completely safe technique. You can stop meditating at any time you like, and by not meditating or using an alternative means to address them, you are leaving these underlying energies unchecked and they could then manifest in other ways.
TRUTH: Meditation helps quiet my mind
MYTH 8: Meditation is about emptying your mind of thoughts
This myth is similar to the previous one but requires its own spotlight. And let us begin by stating clearly: meditation is not about emptying the mind of thoughts. Emptying the mind of thoughts is a battle you cannot win by force. The more you try; the more thoughts will push back against you.
A mind free from thought is one of those magically elusive notions governed by the paradoxical law of the universe that states you cannot achieve it by direct pursuit. Instead, it is a by-product of other activities. This myth has confused the effect of meditation on its sole purpose. Using our gym analogy, that’s like saying going to the gym is about sleeping better. And yes, going to the gym helps you to sleep better, but it is not what going to the gym is about. Just as meditating can lead to emptying the mind of thought, but that is not its goal.
TRUTH: Emptying the mind of thoughts is one of the many benefits of a meditation practice
MYTH 9: Meditation is the same as mindfulness
Mindfulness and meditation have become as inseparable as Instagram and hashtags, but they are in fact very separate entities. Meditation is an umbrella term used for a large number of different techniques that help form a deeper connection with yourself. Mindfulness is being consciously present in the here and now, engaged in what you are doing from the core of your being.
It is easy to see how these two areas are complementary, and that is exactly what mindful meditation is, which is one of the most common forms of meditation. This is a meditation that specifically helps you to become more mindful in daily life, but this does add to the confusion a little!
TRUTH: Meditation and mindfulness are complementary, but are not the same thing
Myth 10: Meditation is separate from daily life
This myth is rife in the meditation communities. The belief that meditation is something that you can do for 5-10 minutes before you start your day or at the end of your day like a daily task, and that it is separate from daily life. To understand the point here, we should add that it is our belief that nothing is separate from daily life. Everything affects everything else in your life in a beautiful intricate web of existence from which nothing can be isolated.
This is especially important with meditation, however, as meditation is a practice that has so many benefits that spill over into daily life.
The goal here is to again shift gears from thinking of meditation as something you need to ‘do,’ and instead think of it as a journey, as a way of life. This will allow your meditation practice to naturally spill over more freely and benefit other areas of your life, and this will in-turn help guide and enhance your meditation practice further.
TRUTH: Meditation and daily life should complement and flow into each other
BONUS MYTH: You don’t have time to meditate
OK, we compiled our list of the top ten most common myths but thought this one needed special mention for two reasons.
First, because when we say we don’t have time, what we mean is, it is not a priority. But by truly measuring our time, it is very easy to see that there is a lot of time we spend on activities that do not serve us as well as a short, ten-minute meditation routine would. This can include endlessly browsing social media, reading celebrity gossip or watching another episode of your favorite TV show. And while these things can certainly form part of a healthy and balanced life, in excess they can lead to a lack of fulfillment, and can quite easily be replaced by short meditation practice.
Additionally, though, taking the time to meditate daily often gives us more time. This is again governed by the paradoxical laws of the universe, and while it seems counterintuitive, it is widely reported. The idea is that by meditating, we become so mindful of the time we are spending in other areas, that we are so much better at managing our own time. There’s a famous quote, often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, that goes:
“I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.”
TRUTH: Meditation practice can give us more time
Meditation is a huge topic, and one we’ll keep coming back to, but for now, we hope that this article has helped squash some of the most common myths surrounding the practice.
And it is a practice. This means meditation is something that needs a regular time commitment to see the most beneficial results. And this isn’t prescriptive. It doesn’t have to be 10 minutes every day, but like all practices, the more time you give it, and the more regular your efforts, the more you will reap the rewards.