By Jim Van Huysse, HBI’s Executive Director
With the onset of the global pandemic, many people are searching for things that help give them comfort, decrease stress and burnout, and reduce worries, especially from sources we can’t control.
There have been numerous studies concerning the benefits of mediation, from alleviating mental challenges like stress, depression and PTSD, to helping with physical challenges, such as high blood pressure, insomnia, and psoriasis.
But where to begin? And what’s keeping us from it? What should we expect from meditation?
Things to help you start…or pivot!
I’ve been doing a heart based meditation practice for 14 years. Prior to that, I had dabbled in various forms of meditation as well. In no way do I consider myself anything close to an “expert” – and such an attitude would run counter to the nature of it! But I have experienced some things which have limited my ability to let go, shed baggage and find joy.
As meditation becomes more mainstream in Western cultures, I’ve also stumbled upon (or through!) some things while exploring other practices.
Hopefully this list helps you avoid some of them too… 🙂
11 Meditation Myths
- You need a dedicated space/room – or a specific app/technique – for meditation to be effective. A quiet room with minimal distractions or a guided recording can certainly help, but only meditating when you have these elements may actually limit your attitude and experience over time. A good meditation practice is one that you can bring into every moment, not just when your environment is optimum.
- Meditation requires singular attention or heightened awareness to be effective. Focus on breathing, the repetition of a mantra, scanning/observing the body, and visualizing are all common meditation techniques. But how effective are they? In my experience, these methods can be useful in raising awareness of parts of us that are holding and can be effective in calming us down. But I have also found that they can make me busy, becoming an observer of my experience that is itself a form of “doing,” making it challenging to reach deeper levels of peace.
- If there was a goal to meditation, it might be stillness. Quieting our thoughts and the monkey mind is certainly a good thing, but it does not reflect the true potential of a meditation practice. A good meditation practice should not only help us be calmer, but it should bring us a sense of connectedness and joy.
- Meditation is really just an inward-looking practice. Whether done alone or in a group, the most beautiful and profound meditation practices I’ve experienced involve connection and relationship. I’m talking about connection to who you really are and to something beyond yourself. And as we begin to deepen this connection and interrelationship, we change what we “broadcast” to others – either consciously or unconsciously – helping those around us as well.
- If I’m tense, I won’t be able to “get there,” so better to wait for the turmoil to pass. This is a tricky one. It’s true that tension and holding are related, and if you’re holding you can’t be taken deeper into your practice. But waiting for the moment to pass might mean being stuck in some pretty negative stuff. A good meditation practice incorporates a natural process that supports you to relax. I have found that without incorporating a relaxation component, the heart and mind cannot properly come into alignment. This could be as simple as taking a few deep (e.g. “yoga”) breaths, touching your heart, and smiling sweetly to your heart. With practice, this “relaxation reset” becomes easier and faster.
- Meditation is something I need to get “good at”; it’s something that takes diligence and practice to master. There’s no getting around the need to practice regularly, as this helps us go deeper into our experience of what we at HBI call “true heart feelings.” But this is not at all about mastery or overcoming limitations, either internal or external. A good practice should be about allowing: surrendering the control and who is “in charge” and letting the connection to that which is beyond us melt away the things that keep us from deepening those feelings.
- If thoughts come in – or I drift – I’m getting it wrong. Let’s get this one out of the way now. 🙂 We’re human. Many of us have spent all our waking moments thinking, planning, critiquing, observing, absorbing, pondering, calculating, imagining, weighing, deciding, remembering, sensing, and then some. We can’t just turn this off. Second, there is no such thing as getting it wrong, as this is implicitly self-judging and limiting. Thoughts will come in. But when they do, instead of beating ourselves up, just go back to simply letting them go instead of overcoming it. Just smile to those thoughts, and let your heart connection bring you deeper again.
- My mind is a saboteur, undermining my ability to find peace. The mind is not the enemy. It’s a blessing and a gift. Without it, we could not be aware of our reactivity or self-defeating patterns. In my experience, with the help of the heart, the mind can become an ally carrying out the (usually) untapped innate wisdom within our hearts.
- If I’ve hit a plateau, I need to try harder, try a new technique, or try to focus more. I’ve found that if I try and use a “special talent” or technique, I get over-involved in the process. If you’re not experiencing what you think you should be, please don’t try harder. People often undermine their practice by putting in more “effort,” which can significantly limit the experience. This is a process that should unfold and get easier as well as more natural.
- Meditation is boring / I’m not the meditation “type”. We are conditioned to look for stimulation. That said, there are surely times when we feel our minds are full enough, regardless of our “typical” demeanor. What may be lacking is not our attention spans, but the means by which we experience peace, calmness, connection, and joy. Find a practice that helps you experience these, and I don’t think you’ll be bored!
- I don’t have time to meditate. I love the adage that if you can’t find time to meditate for 15 minutes, meditate for 30. It’s true. And while we all find ourselves overwhelmed with to-do’s, that feeling of overwhelm won’t serve our productivity (or really anything else). Prioritize giving yourself the time and space. You’ll be a happier, healthier and more efficient person as a result.
If you feel like you want to start exploring a meditation practice or want to try something different, we welcome you to experience a form of heart based meditation. Enjoy this guided video example. We will also be launching new online offerings within the next few weeks. In the meantime, feel free to contact us with any questions.