Being a mindfulness instructor and major proponent of the technique, I commonly hear the same reasons of why people aren’t practicing mindfulness in spite of its many evidence-backed benefits. In this post I will explain the myth behind each of these “reasons” for not practicing, to help in the understanding of what mindfulness really is and how results are best achieved.
Myth #1: You need to be able to quiet your mind in order to practice.
Truth: Everyone’s mind wanders, and that is not a problem when you are meditating. There’s a common misconception that to meditate you need to clear or quiet your mind. This is simply not true when it comes to mindful meditation. There are other types of meditation that may involve clearing your mind. For the purpose of simplicity, for the remainder of this post I will refer to mindful meditation as just meditation, but please know that some of what I’m saying does not apply to all types of meditation. Mindfulness is about directing attention and becoming aware, so if you sit down to meditate and notice that your mind is all over the place, then you are being mindful because you have noticed this. Often with repeated practice some of the racing thoughts will settle, but it is not necessary or even mindful at all to try to clear your mind in order to practice.
Myth #2: Meditation is a method of relaxation, so if you don’t feel relaxed during or after a meditation then it is not working.
Truth: The purpose of meditation is NOT relaxation. Relaxation is a common side effect of meditation, but it is not the main effect or the reason to meditate. The purposes of mindful meditation are to increase focus, attention to the present moment, awareness, and acceptance of our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and situations in life that we cannot control. Therefore meditation is often not a completely pleasant experience. If you are experiencing physical or emotional pain, mindfulness practice will involve becoming aware of the pain so that you can learn to respond to it in a different way. This increased awareness may be uncomfortable, but that does not mean that the practice is not working, in fact it actually can be an indication that it is. Often in order to get relief from suffering, we must first face something that we’ve been avoiding, which will increase the discomfort temporarily. Through continued practice, and especially with the help of a trained instructor, you will find great relief from your suffering by reducing your resistance to it and allowing yourself to experience what is actually there.
Myth #3: Meditation takes up too much time.
Truth: Meditation can be as short as one to three minutes, or as long as you want it to be. It is generally recommended to start with smaller amounts of time and gradually increase to about 10 to 20 minutes a day. A three minute meditation every day is a good place to start, which is less time then you spend brushing your teeth if you go by the dentists’ recommendations of two minutes twice a day. I don’t often hear people saying that they don’t have time to brush their teeth, yet this is a common reason why people don’t meditate. It’s really about priorities, and most do not prioritize meditation because they view it as more of an optional thing to do when needed or when they have time. However, once you make meditation a priority and a regular part of your day, you will actually find that it saves you time by making you more efficient in your work, and giving you better quality of sleep so that you do not require as much of it.
Myth #4: The benefits of mindfulness can be determined by meditating occasionally.
Truth: The myriad of benefits of mindfulness that have been proven through research are only evidenced when practiced regularly. By regularly, I mean daily, or as close to daily as you can. Think about getting physical exercise only once a week or just every once in a while. Would you expect to see as much benefit from this as you would from working out 3 to 4 times a week? Most would say no, and the same is true for mindfulness, which is like exercise for your brain. In order to see improvements you need to do the mindfulness exercises every day.
Myth #5: Meditation requires sitting still.
: While the most common meditations are done sitting, meditation can also be done in movement. Mindful stretching, like yoga, and mindful walking are also a part of most mindfulness courses because they can be equally as effective means of practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice of paying attention in the present moment, which can just as easily be done while your body is moving, as long as you redirect your attention back to the sensations of your body in movement whenever your mind wanders. One of the reasons that yoga has become so popular and provides so many benefits is because it is essentially a meditation when done in its true form.
If this interests you and you’d like to learn more about how mindfulness can transform your life, as well as trouble shoot any issues that come up in your practice so that you can keep up a regular practice, consider taking a mindfulness course. We offer several types at the center, which you can find in the Mindfulness Courses tab above.