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Top Myths About Meditation: Busted

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 27 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Meditation Myths Busted Misconceptions

One the reasons people often hold back from taking up meditation is because of the many myths floating around about this practice. People believe all sorts of erroneous things about meditation – from the type of positions which must be held to the religious nature of this activity. So here are the top six meditation myths busted:

Myth #1 – You’re not meditating properly unless your mind is completely blank and empty of all thoughts.

This is one of the most common beliefs about meditation and one of the reasons people often feel frustrated and think they are failing because they are unable to completely empty their minds. In actual fact, meditation is about ‘mindfulness’ – that’s ‘mind-FULL-ness’ – and not about mind-empty-ness. So meditation is not about trying to deny thoughts altogether. In fact, the more you try to keep your mind blank, the more all those useless little thoughts will start bubbling up. It is probably impossible to have a completely blank mind – would you even be conscious then? However, instead meditation is about opening yourself to your present thoughts, emotions and physical sensations without trying to identify or channel any of them in specific directions. In a sense, it is stopping active thinking but becoming aware of your present-moment experience so that your mind has not room for useless thoughts.

Myth #2 – To meditate properly, you have to sit in the lotus position

Another pervading myth – lots of people think that to meditate means sitting cross-legged, with closed eyes and fingers arched into strange shapes. Yes, the lotus position certainly is a classic pose for meditation, particularly in Asian countries where people spend more time crouched or sitting on the floor and therefore have more flexible hips. In the West, unfortunately, people spend more time on chairs and therefore have stiffer hips so often find it hard to maintain a cross-legged position for long. But this position is not a necessary requirement to meditate. You can meditate in an position that you feel comfortable in – sitting, kneeling, even lying down - and which enables you to concentrate more easily.

Myth #3 – Meditation is just the same as relaxation

Many people confuse meditation with relaxation when there are actually quite subtle but distinct differences. Meditation is about opening your mind to the present moment and becoming super sensitive to all your thoughts, feelings and emotions – whereas relaxation is simply about calming yourself down and removing anxiety and stress. Certainly, meditation is used in many stress-management programmes and it does help to remove stress and anxieties in its own way but it is very different from relaxation which is all about abandoning all effort, whereas meditation does involve effort.

Myth #4 – I have to always use visualisations when I meditate

Visualisation is a very powerful technique which involves deliberately creating an image in your mind and then picturing it as vividly as you can, as though it is real. It is very effective for healing and is used in relaxation programmes as well as meditation. However, meditation does not always have to involve visualisations – you do not always have to consciously create mental images to meditate successfully.

Myth #5 – Meditation is religious

Meditation is certainly closely associated with certain religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism but meditation itself is religion-neutral because it does not require you to believe in any specific higher being. People of all sorts of cultural, social and religious backgrounds have embraced meditation and gained benefit from it. Having said that, it can be a spiritual experience if you wish it to be – but ultimately, the experience and the focus is about you yourself.

Myth #6 – I’ll have to chant “Om” all the time in order to meditate

First of all, chanting a repetitive phrase of any kind is called “mantra meditation” and it is only one of many types of meditation you can choose to practise. Even if you do decide to use a mantra, it does not have to be “Om”. Although this is one of the classic mantras and is used by many people with great results, you can choose any word or phrase which has symbolic meaning for you and is easy for you to use.

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Thanks for the those helpful articles about Meditation, I was wondering if you would have one about the techniques to follow to introduce meditation for children at schools! is it better to start with young ones ( less than 10 years old) or older ones?Thanks again for your useful newsletters.
Amany Mokhtar - 1-Oct-11 @ 12:08 AM
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