With more than seven billion minds active every moment, there are endless streams of thoughts in these minds on every aspect of creation. Some thoughts perceive reality the way it is, some are imagination, and some are simply misconceptions. While there are misconceptions and myths about many topics, one of the most popular topics is meditation. Say the word, "meditation" and all kinds of images and notions come up. Is this for me? I can't sit for long hours. Who wants to meditate anyway?
Here are some of the most common myths about meditation:
Myth #1: Meditation is concentration
Meditation is actually deconcentration. Concentration is a result of meditation. Concentration requires effort, while meditation is absolute relaxation of the mind. Meditation is letting go, and when that happens, you are in a state of deep rest. When the mind is relaxed, we can concentrate better.
Myth #2: Meditation is a religious practice
Yoga and meditation are ancient practices that transcend all religions. In fact, meditation has the ability to bring people of different religions and nations together. Just like the sun shines for everyone, and the wind blows for everyone, meditation benefits everyone. Global humanitarian and peace ambassador Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, "We encourage people from all backgrounds, religions and cultural traditions to come together and meditate in a spirit of celebration."
Myth #3: Sit in the lotus posture to meditate
The Patanjali Yoga Sutras are perhaps one of the most scientific and detailed study that man has produced dealing with the nature of the mind. "Sthira sukham asanam," a yoga sutra by the venerable sage Patanjali, explains that while meditating it is more important to be comfortable and steady. This helps us to have a deeper experience in meditation. You can sit cross-legged, on a chair or on a couch. Any of these are fine. What's important is that when you start your meditation, you maintain a posture where the spine is erect and head, neck and shoulders are relaxed.
Myth #4: Meditation is only for old people
Many young people seem to think this way, however, meditation is essential for all youngsters. A majority of our learning happens during our youth, and we also gain skills to live a happy life. Regular practice of meditation instills such life skills in young minds. One important skill is learning to be emotionally stable and strong, and meditation can help develop this ability. Just like a shower keeps the body clean, meditation is like the shower for the mind.
As an Art of Meditation (Sahaj Samadhi Meditation) teacher, I believe that when we are emotionally weak, we tend to latch on to negativity more easily. Meditation can bring you to a space that is unshakable, and you can view life from a balanced perspective.
Many youngsters have shared how they have been benefitted from meditation. "After practicing meditation, I do not get as angry as before," shares Sandra, a middle school student. "Just a few minutes of meditation keeps me calm all day," shares 19-year-old Karan, another young mediator. "Meditation gives me the zeal and enthusiasm to spread positivity around me," shares 23-year-old Don, who works in the IT industry.
Meditation adds value in our lives, across age groups. One can start mediating at the age of 8 or 9.
Myth #5: Meditation is like hypnotizing yourself
Meditation is in fact an antidote for hypnosis. In a state of hypnosis, the person is not aware of what he or she is going through. Meditation is complete awareness of each and every moment. Hypnotism takes the person through the same impressions that are in his mind. Meditation frees us from these impressions so that our consciousness is clear and fresh. Hypnosis increases metabolic activity while meditation reduces it, and provides deep rest to the mind. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar notes that those who practice pranayama and meditation regularly cannot be hypnotized easily.
Myth #6: Meditation is thought control
Thoughts do not come to us by invitation. We become aware of them only after they have arrived! Thoughts are like clouds in the sky. They come and go on their own. Trying to control thoughts involves effort and the key to a relaxed mind is effortlessness. In meditation, we do not crave for good thoughts nor are we averse to bad thoughts. We simply witness and eventually transcend thoughts and move into that deep inner silent space.
Myth #7: Meditation is a way of running away from problems
On the contrary, meditation empowers you to face problems with a smile. Meditation enables us to develop skills to handle situations in a pleasant and constructive manner. We develop the ability to accept situations as they are and take conscious action instead of brooding over the past or worrying about the future. Meditation nurtures inner strength and self-esteem. It acts like an umbrella during rainy days. Challenges will arise, but we can still move ahead with confidence.
Myth #8: You have to meditate for hours to go deep
You do not have to sit for hours to have a deeper experience in meditation. The connection with that deep inner core of your being, your source can happen in just a fraction of a moment. Just a 20-minute session of Sahaj Samadhi meditation every morning and evening is sufficient to take you on this beautiful inward journey. As you practice your meditation every day, the quality of your meditation will improve gradually.
Myth #9: If you meditate, you will become a monk or recluse
You do not have to give up material life to meditate or progress on the spiritual path. With a relaxed and peaceful mind, you are able to live happily and make others in your family and surroundings happy, too.
Myth #10: You can only meditate at certain times, facing a particular direction
Any time is a good time for meditation, and you can sit facing any direction. It is good to meditate when your stomach is not full, or else you may nod off to sleep instead of meditating. However, it is generally a good practice to meditate during sunrise and sunset (morning and evening) as it can keep you calm and energetic throughout the day.
The author is the chairperson of the International Women's Conference "Harmony: Evolution towards Perfection" Feb. 7-9, 2014 . For details and to register, visit iwc.artofliving.org.
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