I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t have at least some interest in meditating if he or she isn’t already doing so. There is so much science out there on the transformative benefits, and with mindfulness being this decade’s buzz term, I can’t imagine anyone actively avoiding it because they don’t believe in its value.
If you’re not meditating regularly, maybe you’ve tried it at least once, figured you’re probably doing it wrong and think, “I’ll get to that someday.” You probably have some should energy behind it – you know meditating could contribute to a better quality of life but you lack the genuine desire and discipline to make it a daily practice.
This week I dispel the misconceptions about meditating to help you finally take this on. (And if you’re already a committed meditator, share your comments below and tell us what keeps you going!) If we can clear up some of these myths on what meditating really is and how it works, we just might be able to change your relationship to it enough that you REALLY make it part of your daily routine.
“I’m doing it wrong.”
Yes, meditating is about quieting the mind. But see that image up there? Every meditator feels like that. The goal is to be with your mind, not take control of it. Our thoughts come and go – meditating is not attaching to them.
Someone gave me a great analogy once: imagine sitting on an overpass of a freeway and watching the cars zoom beneath you. Imagine those cars are your thoughts. Daily life and regular inner dialogue is akin to hopping off that overpass onto each approaching car and zooming away with it. Meditating is staying rooted on that overpass, simply witnessing each one pass by with no attachment.
Meditating is going to feel clunky, our minds are a mess. We’ll never get to a point where we consistently exist in a blissful abyss for the entire session. Each session is different – some being more peaceful, some being really loud and consuming. Our work is to intend to be present with whatever emerges and come back to the chosen focus of our meditation practice. Many choose the breath as an anchor to come back to, and some choose choice-less awareness of what’s in our experience (sounds, sensations, etc.) as a non-attached observer with no thoughts about it. Either is fine and you can’t really get it wrong.
“There’s something to get I’m not getting.”
Instead of thinking about meditation as something to get right, or as a means to an end, how about you think of it as an uneventful process that ultimately frees your mind from automatic mental conditioning.
Think of it this way, how do you feel about brushing your teeth? Do you hem and haw every time you have to do it? Do you resent it and complain that it takes up too much time? Do you criticize yourself for not doing it perfectly?
No, you probably have no context around brushing your teeth. You do it because you want to, you know it’s best for you, and though you reap no big rewards each time you do it, you still do it anyway. You know it’s serving you in the short and long term.
What if you had THAT relationship to meditating – that is was simply a mental and emotional hygiene practice that, while it’s nothing to get excited over, it’s something that you commit to doing because you want to and it’s for your own good.
And there’s really nothing to get out of it other than the practice of doing it.
Important point: when there’s nothing to get out of it then you can’t really judge the session as good, bad, right, or wrong. You set an intention to hold presence for that chunk of time, intend to come back every time you realize you’re down the road of a thought form, and that’s it. You brush your teeth because you do.
Much of the magic is the continual process of coming back, but just as magical is the self-compassion you cultivate by having no resistance to any part of the process. To allow each session to be what it is, whether blissful or chaotic, is JUST as invaluable as exercising that awareness muscle of “coming back.”
“I don’t have the time.”
Baloney. Seriously. When we say we don’t have the time, what we’re really saying is, “This isn’t a priority given the time I have.” You just have to decide you matter enough to channel 15 minutes of your day in this way. Really, just 15 minutes a day. When you commit and see this through for even just a few weeks, you’ll find that the benefits you’ll begin to experience are compelling enough to deepen your practice, or at least to stay the course.
And honestly, if you REALLY can’t find 15 minutes in your day then doesn’t that tell you that you need meditation more than ever??
It’s boring only if you think of meditating as as a means to an end. (Think teeth brushing.)
It’s an indispensable process in honoring yourself and minding how you perceive the world. It helps facilitate what I refer to as deliberate living vs. accidental living. Meditating is the royal road by which you live life instead of letting life live you.
Now, there are great benefits so it’s slightly incorrect to say there’s nothing to get. There is. (I’m just minding the frame that creates the boring trap.)
Regarding what we cultivate, here’s another fantastic analogy I read somewhere: imagine going for a hike along the coast and it’s really foggy. After some time you look down and notice that you’re drenched. When during the last few hours did I get wet?? It was a process that was gradually and imperceptibly accumulating until all of a sudden, the change was unavoidably evident. That’s like meditating. All of a sudden you’re going to look down and notice you’re drenched.
You’re calmer, more present, more accepting, more focused, more open-minded, more resilient, and more compassionate toward others. You feel more clear and at peace with how things turn out. You begin to feel a bit more rooted and capable in creating a life you love. Not to mention, neuroscientists are showing through fMRIs that experienced meditators have more brain tissue in the prefrontal cortex (which is responsible for processing attention, sensory information, and internal bodily sensations), and have reduced volume of the amygdala (the fear processing center).
All really good stuff.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably pretty invested in living the best life possible – which requires almost nothing more than self-awareness and a commitment to self-transformation and the desire for others’ well-being. Meditation is the ultimate practice to realize this. Ready to commit?
What say you? If you meditate regularly what keeps you practicing? Leave a comment and give us your experience!
Committed to getting drenched,
Amy Eliza Wong is a life coach, writer, and speaker in Sacramento and the Greater Bay Area, CA area committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.