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Changing Our Misconceptions About Meditation

Meditation offers countless benefits for our mental and emotional health, including helping us calm our thoughts, manage our emotions, change our limiting beliefs, and react to life with more calm, patience and love. Unfortunately, though, many of us don’t meditate and take advantage of everything it can offer us because we have misconceptions about meditation. These misconceptions are widespread and keep people from even wanting to try to meditate. Here are some of those misconceptions, as well as new ways to think about meditating that will hopefully encourage you to start.

The goal of meditation is to have zero thoughts.

Our minds are complex thinking machines. We think an average of 60,000 thoughts a day. To experience moments of total silence isn’t impossible, but it does take time and practice. New meditators are intimidated by this lofty goal and think that because they can’t shut their minds off, they can’t meditate.

Rather than trying to stop thoughts altogether, a better goal is to slow down our thoughts, calm our minds, deepen our breathing and relax our heart rates. Forcibly trying to remove thoughts can create resistance in the form of mental backlash and our thoughts going into overdrive. Beginning meditators might find that their racing thoughts are even worse than before they tried to meditate, another factor that can dissuade people from practicing.

Rather than trying to remove our thoughts, we can choose something to focus on- our breath or a breathing exercise, a visualization, a mantra or affirmation, or a single focal point such as a candle flame. When the thoughts pop up as they inevitably will, we can practice returning, again and again, to our chosen focus. That is the practice.  That is meditation, not the total absence of thoughts.

You have to sit still to meditate.

Many people don’t find it comfortable to sit, let alone to sit still. Walking meditation can be just as beneficial. The practice is the same, just walk as you meditate rather than sitting. You might find this to be both calming and rejuvenating, especially when walking in nature. It’s no wonder people go for a long walk when they need to clear their minds- it helps!

There is a “perfect” way to meditate, with the end goal being enlightenment.

The beauty of meditation lies in the practice. The healing and enlightenment are in the process itself, not in some distant, abstract concept. The growth is in doing the work- returning to our practice even when it’s difficult, even when we’re depressed, tired, busy or stressed, committing to meditate even when we don’t feel like it. There is no perfect way to meditate, and no certain specific milestone when it comes to meditation. The goal is deepening our practice and allowing the healing to come to us.

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