January 2020 has been an enlightening month. What started out as a semi-serious attempt at Deepak Chopra’s 21 Days of Abundance Challenge, turned into a true ah-ha moment. The challenge involves 21 days of small written tasks, followed by a short meditation.. It was the meditation segment that had the most profound influence on how I lead my life. Type A people are high achievers, and therefore seldom leave anything to chance. This makes their approach to life controlling to say the least. We see it all, we know it all, we do it all.
After finally mastering meditation (on a very basic level) it has become apparent to me that thinking I know it all is the greatest mistake (meditation included, I am by no means a guru but I feel my tips could be helpful to others). Today if I were to describe my before and after meditation, it looks exactly like a child learning to swim. Unfamiliar with water’s ability to hold her, she thrashes around in the water, kicking and splashing, blinding herself in the process, and creating a certain sense of panic. But no matter how hard the child is told to let go and relax, it is very difficult to do so. Difficult to trust in the unknown.. Meditation in a nutshell, widens your horizons and makes you understand that trusting is the only way forward.
But seriously how are you expected to trust.. you need the tools. If you, like me, have had a hard time meditating in the past, it may be these myths that are holding you back. Give them a try.
Myth #1 : Meditation Comes Naturally to Us
Actually it doesn’t and to me this is the greatest sabotaging belief. Perhaps because meditators appear so relaxed and comfortable, you are deceived by the actual process. Once you understand that meditation although looks natural, is anything but. If you think it is ‘like sitting’ you need to come to understand that it is more like floating, it looks natural but isn’t.
Myth #2: In Meditation You Need to Relax
Often ‘relax’ is misunderstood as ‘do nothing’, and that is not the case with meditation. Yes, you need to calm down, in order to be in the right frame of mind to meditate, but meditation is an activity that requires you to relax, but it is not the act of relaxation.
Myth #3; In Meditation You Just Breathe
That’s like saying, in order to float, just lay on your back in the water. The act of meditation requires specific instructions that allow your body and mind to find that miraculous sense of zen. You do need to sit up, you do need to lay your palms loosely in your lap, you do need to slowly breathe in and out, you do need to push away any thoughts that come to you. So again, it’s an exercise and there are certain steps.
Myth #4: You Don’t Think About Anything When You’re Meditating
Not true.. The whole time you are meditating, you are not switching your brain off, you are merely focusing it on the breath, and where it is going inside your body. When you focus on your breath 100%, you are able to physically feel it opening up your heart in an inhale, then releasing it in an exhale. The more muscles you use to breathe, the easier it is to identify what you are doing. When you inhale, physically expanding your heart serves as a guide, and again same when flexing your abdominals in the exhale. Its exactly like navigating a room in the dark, you need to reach out and touch the chair and wall, to give you some bearings.
Myth #5: Meditating Is The Same For Everyone
Although the same techniques are used, we as individuals need to calibrate them so that they work best for us. As with floating, some prefer to keep their eyes closed, others opened. Some don’t mind their ears under the water, others do..
Once you start practicing #4, you will realize that some techniques work better than others. I for example, used to understand ‘breathe deeply’ as ‘breathe forcefully’, so I was huffing and puffing and making a right mess of things till I realized that deeply yet gently is what works for me..
Myth #6: Once You Start, You Get Into The Zone
Unfortunately not.. It could take a few minutes for you to settle into meditation at first. In that sense it’s like riding a bike. At first, you wobble then you are on your way.. till you get better. Another good example is that of a muscle, you need to warm it up, in order for it to stretch.. So if you sit down, palms in hand and don’t ‘feel’ it right away, don’t be discouraged. With time, getting into the zone will become must faster.
Myth #7: There Are No Training Wheels In Meditation
Actually there are.. I attempted, unsuccessfully to meditate in silence for many years. Turns out I needed the guidance of some gentle music, and for each person the guidance varies. Some people prefer the practicality of meditation apps such as Headspace, others prefer the spiritual ambiance of Eastern music, and others just prefer sounds as opposed to music.. Check out the wide array of meditation apps, there is bound to be one that suits you best.
Myth #8: You Need to Do the Chants In Sanskrit
Just because Deepak tells me to say OM.. doesn’t mean I have to.. I can say Allah instead, or love, or joy or anything at all. It is the act of repetition that is important and not the word itself. At first at least. I am sure that some sounds have deeper vibrational values etc, but like I said this is meditation 101.
Myth #9: Meditation Should Be Effortless
Well it does look it, just like floating and bicycle riding do too… but what is actually involved is a lot of focus and discipline.. so you may not be flexing your body muscles but you’re certainly flexing your brain to stay focused, actively pushing away any thoughts that come in the way of your meditation.
Myth #10: You Just Start Meditating For Life
Just like any other habit in the universe, you need to do something consistently for at lease 60 days for your brain to acknowledge it as a habit. Be diligent at first, as you would with exercise or diet, to see true results and to turn it into a part of your lifestyle going forward.
Myth #11: You Need to Meditation Alone and In Silence
Well the silence part has already been addressed. Meditating as a group at first is actually a great idea. We learn from each other and are guided by our commonalities.. Turns out we are not so special after all.. and we are generally feeling the same things at the same time 🙂