There’s so much bullshit information out there regarding meditation (and mindfulness, and any spiritual practice, really) that I thought I’d lay out (and de-bunk) some common myths.
1. you have to stop thinking
You don’t have to stop thinking. It’s impossible to stop thinking! It’s about reducing the background noise. Thoughts will come into your awareness, but as they do, you notice them, and let them drift off back into nothingness. This takes practice – chances are, it’s not going to come easy – at least not initially. Which is why it’s called a meditation practice.
2. you have to be buddhist or hindu or…
Meditation is a completely secular practice. There is no worship/denouncement of any deity, nor does a meditation practice interfere with other religions.
3. sit… how? i can’t sit like that!
Sit however you want! Or stand. Or lay down (just don’t fall asleep). You can practice walking meditation or any other form of moving meditation (i.e. yoga, tai chi, qi gong).
4. you have to chant… and i’m not into that
Uh, me neither, dude. Chanting has been scientifically proven to have its benefits, though, and I’m not bashing it. It’s just… not for me. A meditation practice doesn’t require that you chant (or sing, or dance for that matter).
5. i don’t have time to meditate
Which is precisely why you should. It’s like saying ‘I’m not nourished enough to eat.’ WTF. That being said, it’s a practice. The first time you sit for meditation you probably won’t be able to find yourself in that elevated state for an hour. Probably not even for ten minutes. You may not feel like you ‘did it right’ the first time, or got anything out of it at all. But it’s a practice.
You work on getting better. You’re training your mind and body to become better at this specific activity. The more difficult it is for you, the more you need it. The better you get, the easier it becomes.
6. i don’t have the attention span necessary to meditate
Kinda like the above response – this is part of what you’re practicing/training/working on. A meditation practice does not require that you have any semblance of an attention span, but it helps to improve the attention span that you do have.
First of all, no one knows how to do something they’ve never done before. It’s as simple as that. It’s easy to get anxious or react with fear at the thought of starting something new and being bad at it, or fucking up somehow, or embarrassing yourself. But what are you going to do, stop trying anything new? At least with meditation you’re alone, or with a trusted teacher, and not burdened with the prospect of judgement.
Second, there’s not really a ‘right way.’ People meditate in different ways, taking different routes to get there, and different things work for different people. It’s the process of calming the mind and settling into a state of equanimity and contentment that matters. It may not look the same on every person.