Meditation offers many benefits to the lives of those that practice it, from reduced stress levels to banishing insomnia.
There are still some common myths about meditation, which may stop some from practising it. I would like to address some of these ‘myths’ around meditation.
Meditation and visualization, 2 different things. One of the common things I hear is the confusion between visualization and meditation. They are 2 different things that are able to achieve the same thing. The main difference is that when we practice meditation, we are allowing the mind to settle down and become ‘blank’ in a way. When practicing visualization we are guided to bring our mind on a ‘journey’, with a bit of imagination these journeys can go to the most magical places.
Meditation does not have to be practiced sitting or lying down. Because the main thing we want to achieve when practicing meditation is finding that lovely place of quiet and inner peace in our mind, it can be practiced anywhere. If you walk around your garden in full consciousness, allowing your thoughts to flow through you and out through your feet into the ground so that the mind is at peace, you are practicing walking meditation.
You do not need a flexible body to meditate. Even though some people do practice meditation while sitting in lotus position, it really is about what works for you. If you do not feel able to sit in a full lotus, then don’t, just place your body in a position that is comfortable for you in order to allow yourself not to be disrupted by a nagging feeling somewhere in the body while meditating.
You can meditate even if you have trouble with your respiratory system. Yes, part of meditation is to focus on your breathing. However, you focus on the rhythm of breathing that comes natural to you. You do not need to inhale for 10 seconds, hold for 3 seconds and exhale for 10 seconds if this does not suit you.
If your attention is drawn to your lungs when you breathe or your breathing feels stuck in the upper part of your torso, acknowledge your body in its current state and allow it to be. You might find that over time your breathing might change, it might not, either way, it is fine, it is you.
You do not need to start with having a quiet mind for an hour. Everything takes practice, especially finding the quiet mind. Start with something simple. When I still worked in my stressful office job, I would come home, make myself a cup of tea, sit down and just do nothing but look outside over the hills and sip my tea for about 15 minutes.
Granted, not everyone is blessed with the same view as I have from my home, and not everyone likes tea. If you like the ocean and lemonade, put up a poster of the ocean and sit in front of it, sipping your lemonade. The key is to find that moment of peace and quiet in order to allow yourself to be grounded in the present. As you get better at finding that quiet you can practice more advanced techniques of meditation and allow yourself more time.
When you read stories written by people that have been practising meditation for years, it’s like reading the stories of people that are able to run a marathon with their mind. Do not beat yourself up or get frustrated when you just cannot get your mind settled. Keep acknowledging your thoughts and bringing back your awareness to your breathing. If you find the quiet for even 10 seconds you know what it feels like and you will be able to build on that.
Someone I met over the weekend shared the following knowledge on meditation with me: ‘think about what will be your next thought.’ I think that is brilliant, because instantly when you try to think about what you will think next your mind goes blank.
Ideally meditation is practiced for 20 minutes each day (unless you don’t have the time, then practice an hour is a common Zen proverb). It sounds like a lot of time to invest, however once you do start practicing and feel the benefits you will want to grant yourself that time every day. In the end, it is what works for you.
So, why not take a moment now. Just close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
Breathe in, acknowledging your body, breathe out acknowledging your body.
Breathe in calm. Breathe out calm. Keep repeating until you feel calm and completely at ease. Namaste.