10 Common Myths About Meditation

By Amiel Pineda October 19, 2018

10 Common Myths About Meditation

Introduction

“Hey, you forgot your car keys”, my wife said as I walked towards the door.  I was going to get a haircut.

“No, it's ok. I'm not taking the car.”

“You sure? That's gonna be quite a walk.”

“Yup, want to stretch my feet a bit”.

To be honest, it was really more than just getting my legs some exercise.

While walking has obvious physical benefits, it’s the mental aspect of the activity that makes me want to do it more.

It's a way to clear my mind.  Take my mind off things like work and various to-dos. Relax my nerves and give them a much-needed break.  An imaginary pause button for the day's endless barrage of tasks.

Wait - aren’t those benefits similar to what you’ll get through meditating?

True, because while it shouldn’t be recognized as a “pure” form of meditation, most of the benefits of meditating can be had through “walking meditation”.

Meditation Myths

Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn's book, Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, promotes the practice of meditative walking as an alternative way of practicing meditation.

And this is the reason why I prefer to walk whenever I can.  It’s my own practical way of meditating.  I can easily squeeze it in my schedule and is an activity I actually enjoy and look forward to.  Sure it’s not meditation per se, but let me ask you this: Is the point of meditation the practice itself or its benefits?

That’s right - we meditate to reach a mindful and collected state, not necessarily because of the technicalities of the exercise itself.

Thinking that meditation can only be performed through a single, “sit-down” approach is one common misconception on meditation.  And the following section aims to show and explain the most popular myths out there.

1. Meditation requires you to follow certain rules and rituals

Pop culture and movies influenced the way we understand how meditation is performed.  Here’s a popular “image” of what pop culture meditation looks like: A monk in a yellow robe sitting cross-legged in front of a candle while endlessly chanting “om”.  Graphical examples like that made us think that meditation is a tedious exercise for both mind and body.

Meditation performed as a religious practice might require certain elements to be included.  However, in its purest form, there are no absolute requirements or rules for meditating.

Meditation For Beginners

2. Meditation needs to be performed in a temple or somewhere similar

Absolutely not.  Meditation can be done anywhere. A park bench will suffice.  Sitting in the corner of a bare room works as well.  You can even meditate during your flight.  It all boils down to people’s preference and capability.  The ability to focus is perhaps the most crucial element in meditation, everything else is secondary, including the type of place to perform it.

For example, schools have started to promote meditation as a daily practice for to its benefits.  Do they need to be at a temple to meditate?  No. In fact, they do it just about anywhere within the school, whether it’s inside their classrooms, gym, or playground.

3. Meditation is just another technique for running away from your problems

Escapism is sometimes called “fantasizing” and “daydreaming”, forms of imaginative activity for the purpose of escaping reality.  It’s the practice of distracting yourself to get away from whatever circumstance you’re in right now. 

In contrast, meditation is the act of turning your attention away from distracting thoughts.  It’s the art of directing your energies and focusing the mind on a specific object, activity or thought, for the purpose of achieving mental clarity.

Meditation and Mindfulness

When you meditate, you don’t actually fantasize.  You focus.  You want to achieve the exact opposite of Escapism, which is to distract yourself to avoid dealing with the present moment.

4. Meditation is just relaxation

Yes, relaxation can be one of its benefits but it’s not the entire point of meditation.  In meditation, the ultimate goal is to experience a connection of being “one with the universe” by transcending our mind and bodies.  During our efforts to achieve this, relaxation will be one of the states that your body will naturally experience.  It is also one of the main benefits.  So to think that meditation is simply another way of relaxing is inaccurate.  There is a goal in meditation. It transcends both mind and body to achieve a state of love, oneness, and peace.

5. There is only one type of meditation

Meditation comes in various techniques and disciplines.  Each technique has its own subtypes, branching out to different styles and format.  There are no hard rules when it comes to performing a meditation technique.  You can even “combine” various methods in order to come up with your own preferred style.  Remember, the most important thing is to achieve the goal of meditation, not the technicalities of the discipline.  That being said, here are some of the most popular meditation techniques for your reference:

  • Mindfulness - Focuses on being “present” and awareness
  • Zen Meditation (ZaZen) - Similar to mindfulness (focus and observing one’s thoughts without judgment) but follows a more traditional form of meditation. ZaZen usually involves performing specific steps and requires more discipline and practice which is why beginner practitioners study under a Zen teacher.
  • Transcendental Meditation - From its name, the goal is to transcend or detach from one’s self by using a form of silent mantra.
  • Loving-kindness - Also known as “Metta” meditation.  Designed to promote feelings of love and compassion for the self and for others.

Meditation For Buddhists

6. I can't sit still and quiet my mind.  Meditation is not for me.

It’s perfectly normal for this to happen.  In fact, even the most seasoned practitioners face some sort of mental struggle during the exercise.  Having all sorts of thoughts and feelings are parts of our everyday lives so “quieting them down” will require significant effort.  It’s not really about making your thoughts go away. Rather, you should acknowledge them and then focus on “becoming aware” so that a state of balance and calmness can be achieved.

7. I don't have the time

If you think that meditation should be performed under a specific amount of time, you’re wrong.  And that’s a good thing.  See, meditation can take anywhere from a couple of hours to less than a few minutes.  As stressed earlier, it’s not the technique that matters.  It’s how you can experience the proper state in order to achieve its benefits.

8. It's only for patient and calm people

Not true.  In fact, I believe it should be practiced by people who are NOT patient and calm.  Why? Because meditation can actually help them to be more calm and compassionate.  Meditation is not a practice meant to be performed by “peaceful” individuals simply because it matches the calm and collected nature of the exercise itself.  If anything, meditation should be recommended most especially to people struggling with finding peace and calmness in their minds.

9. My religion does not align with the practice of meditation

Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not tied to a specific religion or dogma.  Sure, it was discovered within the context of spirituality and religion.  However, if you look really closely at the discipline itself, nothing in there strictly ties it to a fixed set of beliefs.  You are not required to worship or pledge allegiance to any God.  And if you think about it, meditation can be a way for you to achieve oneness with the God you believe and acknowledgment of others.  Because meditation requires that you clear your mind of judgment and replace it with compassion and understanding.

10. I need a teacher or master

It depends, If your goal is to experience inner peace and relaxation whether to improve your health or life in general, you don’t actually need a teacher.  There are plenty of ways to learn meditation, whether through books or via the internet.  In fact, there are even apps out there that can help you do this.

Because let’s face it, not everyone will have the time or resources to hire the services of a teacher.   And this can act as a barrier for anyone looking into integrating meditation into their daily schedules.  Mindfulness meditation, for example, become popular in the last few years thanks to its simplicity.  However, if you want to go deeper with the workings of meditation, getting a teacher or talking to other practitioners will be valuable.  There are plenty of places to meet them and connect with, whether it’s a Zen center or temple, or during Yoga retreats, for example.

Conclusion

Pop culture and movies instilled an image of meditation that had me believe that it’s a form of religious and spiritual practice that only a certain group of people perform. As I realized later, this view is absolutely incorrect.  As meditation reaches a broader audience, my goal is to dispel some of the most common myths that serve as barriers for anyone interested in the practice.  I hope this article helped shed some light on what meditation is all about.

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10 Meditation Myths and Misconceptions


Amiel Pineda

Amiel is a staff writer at Kaiya, who enjoys the simple things that life has to offer. When not reading, he's usually taking long walks, or spending time with his family.


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