5 Myths Of Meditation
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5 Myths Of MeditationTips To Deepen Your Meditation Practice
Most of what we know about meditation, we learned years ago from watching David Carradine in his role as “Grasshopper,” or Kwai Chang Caine, on the anachronistic TV show Kung Fu, or reading Somerset Maugham’s tale of experiencing one-ness in The Razor’s Edge, or watching Jim Carrey levitating in the jungle with the monkey and the guano in that second Ace Ventura movie. Perhaps you saw Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Oz, or Wayne Dyer espousing the benefits of meditation on television, or you read about it in one of their books. Or maybe you dropped into a weekend meditation workshop at a local yoga studio.
“What’s the message in Metallica? There is no message, but if there was a message, it really should be look within yourself, don't listen to me, don't listen to James, don’t listen to anybody, look within yourself for the answers.”
— LARS ULRICH
Wherever you got your original understanding of the practice of meditation, there are five basic myths that we all come across at some point in our attempts to develop a meditation practice. Embracing these myths helped us to rationalize that our lives would be better off without meditation. And ultimately, this rests at the core of why we may have stopped or let it slip away. But if you can embrace these myths as just that—myths—and then release them from your belief system, you will more easily give yourself permission to begin or re-engage your practice.
Myth #1: The first thing you need to do is to clear the thoughts from your mind or at least still them.
You have between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day. That’s approximately one thought every 1.2 seconds. They’re coming. You will not stop them, so don’t even try. Don’t lift a finger to resist or stop or do anything with your thoughts. They are not interruptions in your meditation; they are part of your meditation, so let them come and let them go. Simply drift back to the mantra, or your breath, or whatever else you were using to disconnect you from activity.
So many meditators stop meditating because they have thoughts, but having thoughts flowing in and out of your meditation is so perfect. This is your chance to process each day’s activities that otherwise would go buried, unaddressed, and unprocessed.
That doesn’t mean to pay attention to them . . . and that includes not resisting them either. To resist is to place attention on, and where attention goes, energy flows. Treat thoughts as you would clouds. Let them drift in, and let them drift away. Don’t engage them. Simply drift back to the object of your attention—the mantra, your breath, and so on. Here’s how much effort to use when you meditate: Like mist rising off a lake at dawn. Stop now, and envision morning mist ever so gently lifting off a field or a lake; there is virtually no movement. That’s how hard you should “work” or “try” to meditate.
You can’t stop thoughts, and you can’t clear the mind. So don’t even bother. Let the thoughts flow; be unconcerned and drift back to the mantra. Just keep drifting back and forth. Continue to float your attention back to following your breath or following a mantra, and ultimately, over time, you will find that during meditation, you spend more time in the land of witnessing your breath or following the mantra rather than in the land of thoughts; more time in the realm of no-meaning than in the realm of meaning; more time in stillness than in activity. And as you meditate each day, the fluctuations of your mind will slow. The parade of thoughts will slow as each is met by the tiniest bit of stillness . . . of silence.
Myth #2: Something special or transcendent is supposed to happen during meditation.
Nothing special is supposed to happen during meditation. Blissful, calming, and entertaining experiences can occur during meditation, but that is not a requirement and not our goal. Special moments don’t have to happen for the experience to have its emotional, physical, or spiritual benefits. But if cool things happen during meditation, hang out and enjoy them.
As you immerse more deeply in the experience and drift away from the object of your attention, you will see yourself move from witnessing the experience to thinking about it. As you begin to apply greater meaning to your experience, you will move back into activity from your stillness. At that point, you are essentially back where you started: in activity. That’s okay. It’s all part of the process. When you realize you have moved back into thought, just gently drift back to your breath, the mantra, or the object of your attention.
Your meditation session is part of your daily practice. Have you ever been to the gym? Most likely the reason that you go there is to work out . . . to practice. You don’t go to the gym to get magically fit in an hour or necessarily to be entertained. Your hour-long sessions at the gym bring you strength, flexibility, and balance throughout the day and night. That’s where the benefits of the practice come through. And over time, from those regular one-hour workouts, there is a subtle shift to your body and your emotional state.
The reason you work out is so that when you leave the gym, you are more physically fulfilled in the rest of your life. You’re not that concerned with achieving your peak health in the gym. The gym is your practice. It’s the same thing for yoga classes.
And it’s the same for your meditation practice. Those 10, 20, 30-minute sessions are the practice for the rest of your day . . . for the rest of your week . . . for the rest of your life. You aren’t serving the world when you’re sitting and meditating in the dark. It’s when the session is over and you open your eyes and step back out into the world that you can be more patient, more expansive, more creative, more intuitive, more compassionate, more abundant, more self-loving, and more open to infinite possibilities.
This, of course, is in addition to all the other physical benefits that ripple through your physiology. So nothing special is supposed to happen during the meditation, but when it does, enjoy it; hang out there, and let it soak in. If you have enjoyable experiences, you’ll keep coming back. Cool visions and intense sensations can occur during your meditation. You can experience deep energetic and spiritual connections, and you can witness your astral body and even the gap.
But those aren’t the signs of a successful meditation. A successful meditation is one you do. The magic happens when you open your eyes. The benefit happens in every word, every thought, and every action that flows from you as you carry around a little bit of stillness and silence with a dash of pure potentiality. The benefits of meditation happen in your waking state, so don’t be looking for clues during the meditation.
Just do it!
Myth #3: I don’t think I’m doing it right.
So many of us perfectionists out there want to know that we are “doing it right.”
How many times have we asked ourselves right before, during, and after meditation, “Am I doing it right?” Or because you didn’t experience the Buddha or nirvana, because you didn’t see colors, because you had thousands of thoughts, or couldn’t stop making lists, you resigned yourself to the fact that you weren’t doing it right?
Whenever you ask, “Am I doing it right?” the answer is yes, you are doing it right! There’s more performance anxiety about whether we’re doing it right in meditation than any other pressure I can think of. Well now and forever, know that the pressure is off here. In meditation, as long as you are doing it, you’re doing it right. Who’s your biggest critic? It’s you. And judging your meditation practice is no different.
There’s no need to be so hard on yourself. Don’t be critical of your form. Don’t try. Release. Let go. Surrender to the unknown. Surrender to what you don’t know. Surrender to the fact that you have only one purpose in meditation, and that is to innocently follow your breath in and out, or repeat the mantra, depending on which meditation practice you choose. As long as you do that, you are doing it right.
So congratulate yourself for just doing it. Don’t fret so much about form; just do the practice with innocence. Surrender, and your life will blossom and bloom. After several consecutive days of meditating, you will hear, “Hey, you look more relaxed.” Or, “Wow, great idea! I didn’t expect that from you.” Or, “Hey did you just get back from a vacation?” “What prescription are you on? Where can I get some of that?” Or, “I want some of what you’ve got!”
That’s your indicator that you’re doing it right. And if no one says anything, know that as long as you’re doing it, you’re doing it right. In time, you will be amazed at how life unfolds and how your awareness of life unfolds with it.
Myth #4: If I meditate long enough, I will achieve enlightenment.
In your very essence—at your very core—you were born enlightened, and enlightened you shall die. But from the time you were born into this world, you have been layered with interpretations, perspectives, and conditioning. From each moment since your birth, these layers have covered your divine self - that wholeness, purity, perfection, and pure consciousness from which you were formed.
You came through that birth canal, and an entire lifetime of conditioning was unveiled to you from the very first moment when the doctor gently patted you on the tush to welcome you into this physical realm. Since that very moment, doctors, nurses, parents, siblings, boyfriends, girlfriends, exes, father figures, teachers, students, mother figures, spouses, exes, coaches, clergy, bosses—and a lifetime of experiences—layered, layered, and layered you with conditioning.
It’s a few days, years, decades later, and you’ve traveled pretty far from that moment of pure, infinite, enlightened perfection. But that pure, infinite, enlightened, perfection is still who you are at your very core, underneath all those layers of conditioning. Meditation allows you to see glimpses of your pure, unconditioned, universal self and, therefore, have a deeper understanding of your life and perhaps life itself. It allows you to awaken your inner healer!
Will you become enlightened? That is the wrong question. You already are. You simply may not be awake to it. But each time you meditate, you get an opportunity to reach back and peel away more layers of that lifetime of conditioning. You get to let a veil drop and return to the wholeness that rests at your core.
And you get to dip your toes in… dip your fingers in… to that sweet pool of underlying divine magnificence, which is your essence . . . and reconnect to your unconditioned self—your pure, whole, perfect, enlightened self. And each time you dip your toes in, you bring back a thimbleful of stillness; each time you dip your fingers in, you bring back a tweezer full of silence; each time you surrender to who you really are in meditation, you take back an eyedropper full of your divine, unconditioned self.
Back into each day, back into each moment, back into each breath. So will you become enlightened? It’s the wrong question. You already are. Will you awaken yourself to your wholeness? To the divine essence that rests within? Yes. Meditation by meditation, moment by moment, you will wake up to more of your enlightened self.
Myth #5: If I meditate, I am a superior human being, because I am spiritual.
Meditation is a gift . . . a gift that you give yourself each time you practice. It’s also a gift that you give to the world around you. There is no spiritual hierarchy of humans based on whether they meditate or for how long. I do not believe meditation embraces a spiritual hierarchy. I believe it embraces the Golden Rule.
Having a daily meditation practice doesn’t make someone better than anyone else. Meditation allows you to connect more deeply and more frequently to your source . . . your highest power . . . your universality . . . the stillness and silence that rests within each of us . . . your most unconditioned self.
The more you can tap into your unconditioned self—that pure, unbounded, divine aspect of yourself—the easier it is to see your universality, which is essentially seeing yourself in others and seeing others in yourself. In that state of one-ness awareness, there is no comparison between you and anyone else.
Embracing these 5 myths of meditation, and understanding the powerful healing powers you have at your very fingertips will shift your life forever as you transform the world around you by transforming yourself. The process of awakening your inner healer begins with your next meditation. Stay the course… keep meditating… and trust in the universe to deliver you to exactly where you need to be. In the meantime… I’ll see you in the gap!
Learn more about my course, The Art of Meditation here.