4 Misperceptions + 4 Truths About Meditation
For most of my life I had considered mediation a new-agey, slightly “out there” practice. It was something that monks, hippies, yogis and the odd celebrity looking for attention did. I envisioned the burning of incense, crazy poses (read: sitting on the floor cross-legged for ridiculously long periods of time) and flowy clothing. Maybe even a little tie-dye.
So for me, the corporate gal, it was just never “my thing.” Which really was a nice way of saying “no thanks…I’m a responsible member of society.”
Oh, the judgement!
What I’ve since learned is that meditation doesn’t have to be woo-woo. And it doesn’t require the wearing of yoga pants (though you can if you’d like…and actually, they’re quite comfy!). The truth is it’s a simple practice with profound health benefits. So profound, I’m writing another post about it.
But today, let’s look at misperceptions and talk about what exactly meditation is and isn’t.
What meditation isn’t
It’s not a religious practice
Meditation is not a cult, ritual or something that requires you to believe a certain way. Everyone, from all backgrounds, upbringings and beliefs can meditate. It’s simply a practice of stillness and awareness.
It’s not about making your mind go blank
Meditation is not about erasing all thoughts and creating a blank mind. And just to be clear, it’s also not about laser-focused concentration. It’s simply observing your thoughts and feelings, as well as listening to your body and the environment.
It’s not all poses and chants
Meditation does not require you to sit in a lotus position or chant mantras. You can sit on the floor, in a chair or in any comfortable position. You also don’t need to make any sounds. Many who practice meditation just sit quietly.
It’s not difficult
Meditation does not pass judgement on “doing it right.” If you’re doing it, trust me, you’re doing it right. We all have active brains, we all have body twitches, we all start letting our mind wander when we feel like we should be more focused. When that happens, all you need to do is breathe.
What meditation is
It’s a state of mindfulness
Meditation is the practice of mindful awareness. To be aware of your thoughts, feelings and environment, but to not do anything. You simply acknowledge…and gain heaps of mental clarity.
It’s an effective stress reducer
Meditation allows you to relax in the present moment. In a noisy, information overloaded world, this presence can reduce anxiety, tension and worry. Your jumbled thoughts and chatterbox mind transforms to a state of calm and inner peace.
It’s a quick mind/body reset
Meditation can be done in as few as a couple minutes a day. A few slow, deep breaths can work wonders on slowing your heart rate and recalibrating your mind. From there, you can work up to a 20-minute daily practice for the greatest mind/body benefits.
It’s the cheapest healthcare you’ll ever have
Meditation can reverse your stress response, normalize your blood pressure, increase oxygen to your brain, improve immune function and decrease depression and anxiety. Oh, and there are no side effects or warning labels. It’s the holy grail of medicines! And with growing fervor, the world of science-based medicine is supporting what Buddhist monks have known for thousands of years. It simply works.
How to get started with meditation today?
If you’re new to the practice of meditation, let’s start with the basics – breathing. When I first learned how to breathe (really breathe), I realized that sadly, I may have been holding my breath for the last few years. How do I know this? Because those first deep belly breaths created a massive dose of oxygen to my brain. Electric clarity!
So let’s start your practice today with 5 deep breaths. First, find a comfortable spot to sit. You can either sit on the floor cross-legged, in a chair or kneel. You can do this outside in the grass or sand as well.
Then, ensure good posture by sitting upright. Rest your arms comfortably either in your lap or on your legs. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly, for a count of 5. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then breathe out for a count of 5. Do this 5 times…and notice your chest rise and fall with each breath.
Congratulations, you’ve just meditated!
Do you have meditation in your daily practice? If so, I’d love to hear how it’s helped you. And what were your perceptions before starting?
Extra Resource: Headspace App (this is what I use!)