Debunking the 10 Misconceived Notions Behind Meditation
Generally, the first image that pops up in your mind when you hear the word “Meditation”, is of a long-bearded Indian man crossing his legs and sitting under a banyan tree, deep in concentration.
In fact, the meditating man is often confused with possessing psychic powers that far surpass that of a normal human.
Powers such as levitation or telekinesis to move objects around.
But how do we know the difference between what’s factual and what’s fictitious about meditation?
Let’s unearth the truth from the lies, shall we?
MEDITATION & ITS IMPORTANCE IN THE MODERN WORLD
Meditation is a state of mind where we connect our body and soul and unify our senses to allow us to reap the benefits of a stress-free state.
Meditation itself comes from one of the 8 branches of Yoga. Imagine leaving our stress behind and walking towards a calm destination in our mind, forgetting all the stress and problems that bother us for a few minutes to celebrate life, that’s what meditation is all about.
The numerous benefits of meditation are as follows:
- Meditation stabilizes our mind to function at a normal speed and decrease activity. It’s key to attaining a good quality of sleep.
- By meditating regularly, we force our minds to concentrate on happy thoughts and do away with negative emotions.
- Meditating calms down the heart rate and assists in controlling our blood pressure to normal levels.
- Meditation opens our inner consciousness and allows us to tap into our creative mind. This is the ideal time to come up with new and brilliant ideas.
- Meditation improves lung health by taking long drawn breaths and circulating much-needed oxygen to the whole body.
- Meditation stores energy and improves the body’s ability to heal effectively.
- Meditation helps in controlling our anger and anxiety levels.
- Meditation provides us with a sacred time to be with ourselves and appreciate the things we have in life rather than sulk on things we don’t possess.
Meditation itself comes in many forms that suit different people. Some examples of types of meditation include:
- Transcendental Meditation
- Guided Meditation
- Metta Meditation
- Chakra Meditation
- Yogic Meditation
- Vipassana Meditation
Each type of meditation is unique and offers numerous benefits to your mind.
All meditation types are practiced experiencing a state of relaxation and to escape a world of conflict and depression.
MEDITATION IN THE MODERN WORLD
Meditation in the modern world is a much-needed technique and it helps the working population to solve several mental issues that are otherwise dangerous to health.
Whenever we feel rejected by society or our family, we shut ourselves to the world and harbor hatred towards others.
Through meditation, we relieve our mind from the negative energy of hate and hopelessness and embrace a spiritual journey toward forgiveness.
Meditation is empowering and isn’t hard to perform in any given situation.
For example – if you’re working at your office and have just received bad news about being denied a promotion, your next emotion is to either feel angry or frustrated.
Instead, if you were to shut your eyes and meditate while accepting the flow of life as it comes, you’ll automatically re-align your mind and replace anger with calmness.
A calm mind finds a solution in any given situation rather than an angry reaction.
Unfortunately, the modern world has also rejected the idea of meditation due to falsified beliefs attached to it.
There are myths circulating around the world that are simply not true and today, you’ll learn of some of these myths yourself and find out just why you should give meditation a try.
10 COMMON MYTHS DEBUNKED WITH THEIR REASONINGS
Is meditation simply a passage towards mental nirvana? Or is it part of being a sacred cult that wants you to embrace their way of life? Or better still, is meditation all about chanting mystical words that open a portal to an astral plane?
Often, we come across individuals that simply spout misinformation based on rumors.
We unknowingly process the fake information and accept it as facts.
But let’s get down to business and figure out just why these myths just don’t connect the dots and what the ultimate goal of meditation truly is.
Myth 1. Meditation is part of being in a religious cult
Among the many myths behind meditation, the one that strikes a chord among members of other faiths is the myth that “when you practice meditation, you offer yourself to a religious cult”.
In short, people believe that meditation leads to a change in religion.
While meditation is a part of Yoga, practicing meditation has nothing to do with signing a contract with a sacred and mysterious cult. You don’t offer yourself to members of a secret society.
You certainly will not be contacted by cultists in your dreams.
This phobia has been instilled by individuals who believe that meditation is attached to the roots of religion, which it certainly isn’t.
Meditation can be practiced by anyone – Young or old. Atheist or Religious. Male or Female. Child or Adult.
Meditation doesn’t need biological data to verify if someone gets to practice it or not. Meditation, simply put, is a technique that every human on earth has access to and it’s a mental exercise where we calm ourselves and enter a resting stance while trying to bond with our thoughts.
Contrary to popular belief, according to “Art of Living” founder “Sri Ravi Shankar”, meditation brings nations, religions, and humanity closer than before. It eradicates the boundaries created by humans and teaches us to forgive and love one another.
Yoga and meditation are ancient techniques that were created with the ideology that these practices transcend every manner of religion, cult, or political entity.
Myth 2. Meditation clears your mind of all thoughts
While the basic mantra of meditation is to discharge negative energy and refill on positive energy, it’s not uncommon for individuals to believe that meditation is like a complete reset of your mind.
People believe that practicing meditation erases their personification that makes them who they are and replaces it with controlled thoughts.
Psychologist Mike Brooks explains that meditation isn’t about clearing your mind and controlling your thoughts, instead meditation is all about putting you on the right path towards self-relaxation and helping your mind back to its main focus.
Let’s say you are expecting a promotion in the upcoming year from your company and when the time for your review comes up, you realize the company hasn’t opted to promote you. While this can be soul-crushing and devastating, you’re left with nothing but negative emotions like anger, frustration, and impatience to fall back on. These emotions could manifest themselves and transform you from a sweet loving family man into an aggressive jerk.
This is what happens to the mind when there is no form of self-defense to protect it from incoming stress. That’s why meditation acts as a shield and protects your mental state from forming any hasty decisions that you’d otherwise regret. It doesn’t wipe away the reason behind your dejection instead it allows you to accept the choice made by your company and come up with better self-defense of gratitude rather than to demonstrate frustration that could threaten your career.
With the following example, we’ve made it clear that meditation isn’t about controlling your thoughts or erasing your memories.
Instead, meditation is about coping with a scenario in a positive way and not reacting aggressively towards it.
Myth 3. Meditation takes up a lot of time
One reason many people refuse to participate in meditating every day is that they believe meditation requires time and it’s impossible to make time in their busy lives for it.
While others believe that meditation itself takes years to fully understand as they have heard stories of monks living in the wilderness who’ve meditated for years to gain enlightenment.
This is false.
Meditation isn’t about how long you perform or how often you perform it. Meditation can take as little as a minute or as long as 8 hours, depending on your needs.
Yes, meditation is completely flexible based on your own personal requirement.
You can gain the positive effects of meditation by simply closing your eyes for a minute and taking long-drawn breaths.
Try it for yourself right now and witness the instant relaxation you gain from it.
As for the monks meditating in forests and other wildlands while this may be true to some degree, it’s a way of life for them in their culture.
But what makes it false is, you don’t need years to gain enlightenment.
In fact, you’ll gain enlightenment by simply thinking positively and changing your choices towards making a positive impact in your life.
Enlightenment isn’t an astronomical peak that one needs to climb in order to attain, it can be gained by simply practicing good deeds and healthy practices such as meditation.
Here’s a simple 5-minute meditation exercise to help you relieve stress and control anger issues.
- Find a comfortable place to sit like a chair or preferably on the floor
- Close your eyes and deeply rest for exactly 1 minute
- Focus your thoughts on the most important goal of your life
- Now inhale and exhale deeply and let your lungs fill up with fresh oxygen
- After visualizing your goal for 2-3 minutes, spend the last minute of meditation by focusing on your breath
- Gently, open your eyes slowly and notice how the positive energy in your body feels
- This is the power of a simple 5-minute meditative technique and its effects of reducing stress.
Myth 4. Meditation should always be done right
Another common myth is – if you are meditating, there are a set of rules to follow or you’re doing it wrong. If you think of negative incidents in your mind, you must be doing it wrong.
If you are unable to focus on yourself, there’s something wrong.
And if you are unable to sit still without moving your body, your meditation technique is no longer worthy.
If this is something you believe in, it’s time we set things straight.
Meditating has nothing to do with posture, the kind of clothes you wear, your sitting position, or what you think.
As humans, it’s impossible to always focus on our goals and it’s not uncommon for us to think about situations that cause us great stress when we meditate.
In fact, the more we try not to think of a situation, the more our minds are attracted to it.
Avoiding something isn’t as easy as it sounds, and it requires you to constantly train your mental state into focusing on what you want to concentrate on without letting your mind wander.
But those are advanced stages of meditation, it’s like asking a kid to solve an advanced mathematical calculation. It’s impossible at the beginning stage.
Every living person that meditates during their first few times are unable to concentrate on themselves and instead carry themselves towards a stressful situation.
Meditation is all about trial and error to surpass yourself. In time, when you’ve practiced meditation for about 3-4 months, you’ll notice that you’re in a better position to focus on what you want, and your mind begins to wander less.
Here are some tips on how to maintain focus while meditating.
- Meditate for shorter periods of time during your first sessions
- Don’t pay attention to people around you and instead simply concentrate on yourself
- Don’t worry about your posture
- Preferably, meditate during the mornings when its quiet and you’ve rested well
- If you live near a sea or river nearby, head on over and meditate by the crashing waves
- Don’t force your mind to focus in the beginning. Allow it to wander.
- Earplugs help in canceling noise to minimize disruptions
- Good nutrition before meditating helps to focus better. Fix your dietary intake.
Myth 5. Meditation deals with uncomfortable positions
No doubt, this myth bares its fangs from all the television channels sponsoring yoga products.
You witness all the yoga enthusiasts sitting with folded legs and twisting and turning about.
At first, you try to copy their style and realize that you’ve just had a severe muscle pull that hurts so much that you want to give up on meditating altogether.
Meditating doesn’t have to be this way.
Sit back up on your bed or lie back comfortably on your chair and meditate in the position that suits you the best.
Meditating in the advanced positions mentioned above requires your body to attain some level of flexibility.
At first, your body will be extremely rigid and out of shape.
In time, when you begin to practice light stretching, your body will notice a transformation and you’ll slowly ease into the advanced sitting positions.
Again, you don’t have to enter any of these positions if you don’t feel like it, these are for advanced yoga seeking enthusiasts. Meditation by itself requires no position. You just need to focus your mind and close your eyes to experience relaxation.
Ideally, here are a few positions that are great for beginners.
These positions help stretch your legs and arms while meditating to loosen up your joints.
The Quarter Lotus
In this position, sit on the ground or a yoga mat and cross your legs in a way that they are comfortable and touch the ground. Now join both your hands, with your fingers pointing upwards to your face. Sit up erect and close your eyes to begin this convenient meditating posture.
Fold your legs backward, where your feet are touching the ground and behind your buttocks. In this position, gently put your hands on your thighs and close your eyes and take in deep breaths for a few minutes. If your knees hurt from prolonged pressure especially if you’re overweight, consider putting a cushion in between your feet and buttocks to relieve pressure.
When all else fails, simply sit on a chair or use a fluffy cushion to lie back on. From here just close your eyes and focus on meditating with deep breaths. Do this for a month before you move on to the other positions, this will give your body some time to get used to the meditating techniques.
Myth 6. Meditationrequires complete silence
It’s synonymous, isn’t it? Meditation and silence go so well together.
In fact, have you ever noticed any Buddhist temples with a noisy background?
And that’s why the myth of meditation requiring total silence makes its way to this list.
But the truth is, meditation is conducted in offices and even in military environments where silence is a distant dream.
So just how do you train your mind to ignore sounds that easily break your concentration and disrupt your meditative process?
You’ll need to get creative to drown out the noise. Here are some ways to eliminate noise when meditating.
- Pick the quietest location or room in your vicinity to meditate
- Buy a good pair of noise-cancellation headphones to mute out the noise
- Play calm music to help you build mental focus to concentrate on meditating
- Say a prayer or mantra or make loud breathing sounds to overlap the noise
- Wrap a towel or cloth around your head and ears to minimize noise and continue meditating
- Switch on the Television and let it cancel out the disturbances caused by loud noises
Once you manage to concentrate in noisy environments, your mind automatically resets itself whenever you meditate to focus more on yourself.
Soon, you’ll be challenging yourself to meditate during a rush hour in the middle of traffic within the confines of your car.
Myth 7. Meditation is hypnosis
Hypnosis is the state of being in a consciousness where you lose complete control of your voluntary actions.
In this state, you’re likely to respond to directions suggested from an outside voice. Meditation is nothing like hypnosis.
On the contrary, meditation strengthens your mind to liberate you from being controlled by negative words or influences.
Here are some key differences between hypnosis and meditation.
- Meditation is about developing self-control. Hypnosis is about losing self-control.
- Meditation is self-induced. Hypnosis is generally afflicted by an outside source – a person, a recording, or a symbol.
- Meditation reduces brain activity and calms the body down. Hypnosis increases the activity in the brain especially in the frontal lobe which controls emotions.
- Meditation is a state of heightened focus. Hypnosis is a state of trance.
- During meditation, you’ll be aware of your surroundings. Once you’re hypnotized, there’s very little awareness.
- Meditation unifies your body, mind, and soul. Hypnosis is simply a trance state where you respond to direction, there is no connection with yourself.
Now that we’ve understood the key differences between hypnosis and meditation, we understand that while both are induced consciousness of our mental state, they are vastly different to each other.
Hypnosis is generally used to cure traumatic events and is extremely controversial in the scientific world.
Meditation is all about self-awareness and relieving stress and developing a way of life to sustain happiness.
In the book “The Psychology of Meditation” by Michael A. West, those who meditate have a positive influence on their body and increase their overall self-respect.
Meditation is a journey that assists in learning more about us than before. In this fast-paced world, very few people sit down to take time and consider the decisions of their life or take a closer look at the mistakes committed.
Meditation helps us analyze and evaluate our self-worth. We are always asking questions to ourselves when we meditate, and we discover choices that never existed in our active state.
However, no such research linked with positive behavior was reported with hypnosis.
In fact, hypnosis is still a very much debated subject and the benefits of hypnotism is an ever-growing debate.
Myth 8. Meditation is complete only by chanting a mantra
Many traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism that incorporate meditation as a way of life are often seen employing mantras.
Somehow this experience has caused many around the world to believe that if you aren’t uttering these enchanted words, the entire meditative process just doesn’t work.
While many of the mantras take their origin from the “Sanskrit” language and the word “mantra” itself is derived from two Sanskrit words – “Man” meaning mind and “Trai” meaning “protection”.
Mantras are recited to aid in concentration and to connect your body and soul together.
It’s not a necessity. For example –
A magician on stage incorporates the use of colorful ribbons and showmanship, all the extra visuals are purely an act to compliment the show, the magician can also do the trick in a casual atmosphere with his friends and family. Similarly, the recited mantras are simply a way to connect yourself with the vibrations of sound and to experience an enhanced version of meditation. They aren’t a necessity.
Here’s another well-known example, when you watch a movie, the director of the film utilizes music to evoke various moods into his viewers.
Similarly, when meditating, reciting these mantras purely affect the way you meditate and don’t necessarily require you to recite a mantra to experience meditation.
The traditional meditative process utilizes 3 different types of mantra recitation. They are.
- Verbal Mantra – Where you speak the words out loud for everyone to hear while you keep your attention focused on your thoughts.
- Mind Mantra – When most of the phrases of the mantra is being read within the walls of your mind.
- Whispering Mantra – Gentle movement of lips to recite the mantra that is barely audible to others.
Reciting mantras also controls your breathing process. You exhale and inhale at the same speed when you speak words.
Myth 9. Meditation takes years to achieve any real benefits
While meditation does indeed provide long-term effects, as a beginner, you’ll be happy to know that meditation provides instant effects such as stress relief, decreased anxiety, improved mood, and a night of sound sleep.
You don’t have to take our word for it, instead here’s actual research conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital along with Harvard University that proves that in just eight weeks, the participants in the study experienced an increased quality in their health and mood. One of the senior authors on the study Sara Lazar claimed,
“This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”
In fact, let’s list the immediate positive effects of meditation to give you a greater understanding.
All the below benefits are linked to their study and research group to provide factual data on meditation.
Students that engaged in an hour of meditation were said to be active in school and had increased their cognitive skills. Meditation has been proven to increase concentration and cure mental illnesses such as Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD).
Improves Sleep Disorders
In a study by JAMA Internal medicine, individuals that suffered from sleep apnea, insomnia, and other sleep disorders found relief through meditating regularly.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Over 1 billion people suffer from hypertension and have increased blood pressure. Hypertension further leads to heart attacks, stroke, and other fatal conditions. Meditation has been proven to decrease blood pressure and has contributed to a positive life change in numerous hypertension sufferers.
A study has found that when participants who suffered from arthritis were introduced to light meditation, their condition improved significantly. Meditation has been shown to alleviate daily arthritis pain and was more potent than using over-the-counter painkillers in the long term.
Improved Blood & Oxygen Circulation
Did you know that by practicing meditation daily, your overall heart rate is lowered, and blood circulation is increased? The effect of meditation through which we inhale and exhale contribute to clearing our lungs and provide oxygen to all parts of our body. Meditation significantly reduces lung diseases such as asthma.
And there we have it, the myth is busted. Meditation does indeed possess instant benefits as well as long-term positivity.
Myth 10. Meditatingmakes you look likea monk or recluse
Do you fear that by taking up meditation, your next-door neighbor would take you for a crazy lunatic with a reclusive behavior and call the cops?
The truth couldn’t be much further than this. Meditation has been embraced by celebrities and famous figures the world over.
Some famous faces that practice meditation includes – Madonna (Singer), Katy Perry (Singer), Hugh Jackman (Actor), Clint Eastwood (Actor), Oprah Winfrey (TV Personality), and Ellen DeGeneres (TV Host) among others.
Now ask yourself – are any of these people being looked down upon because they meditate?
Instead, they have sworn by a world of benefits since they’ve begun to incorporate meditation into their lives.
Monks themselves meditate to experience a blissful life and yogi practitioners do so to attain a spiritual path.
Meditation has one destination but several different journeys. Everyone that meditates ends up with a different reason to meditate but all of us end up enjoying the good benefits that come with it.
For example – a celebrity might meditate to stay in shape and a monk meditates to experience spiritual bliss, similarly, a working professional meditates to decrease stress, but all these individuals experience the same relaxed state of mind after meditation.
CLOSING WORDS: MEDITATION IS FOR EVERYONE
Meditation isn’t bound by religion or caste. Meditation isn’t meant for one age group. Meditation knows no geographical boundaries.
It’s a free technique to improve one’s way of thinking and to train their bodies against the negative side of the world.
Before you condemn the practice of meditation due to a silly belief, take a few minutes to practice it and judge the process by your own experience.
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