Back in 2011 I had just left a toxic relationship and found myself in a new city, feeling quite depressed and lonely. I don't exactly remember how, but I downloaded a few guided meditations and I was amazed at how these recordings had the ability to relax and calm me down. I didn't make much of it until I started reading a bit more about consciousness and about meditation itself, I also did yoga quite regularly by then and sometimes my yoga teacher would include a mini-meditation at the end of the class. I really wanted to learn to meditate, and boy, it wasn't easy. Why? Firstly, because I didn't know about these major fake news about meditation.
Fake news about meditation
1. You're not allowed to think while meditating
Super fake! Meditation does not mean you don't think. In fact, when you first start meditating you will think A LOT. Although meditation does eventually lead to stilling the mind, the actual act of meditating usually consists of this:
"I'm inhaling, I'm exhaling, I'm inha.. oh, I didn't call my mom yesterday. I should call her right after this... where was I? ah, yes, inhale, exhale.. my nose is itchy... oops, I'm totally distracted now. Ok, let's start again... inhale, exhale..."
Meditation is actually the act of being aware of your thoughts and returning back to that point of concentration that you chose (e.g. the breath, a candle or a mantra). By doing this, with practice, you will start noticing the thought patterns that you have, noticing them without judgment and letting them pass. You will become mindful without feeling mind-full. Capisci?
2. You can only meditate in a cross-legged, very yogi-like position
Nope. The truth is that you can meditate in any position, as long as you feel comfortable - you could sit on a chair, for example, or prop yourself up with cushions until you feel really comfortable in your body. Ideally, your lower body should be on the ground and your spine straight. If you lie down, you will probably fall asleep. This is why it is always recommended that you sit.
3. You have to meditate every day
You don't HAVE TO do anything. Isn't that wonderful? This is your life, your time and you decide how you want to manage it. While daily meditation is encouraged, you can also learn to meditate if you "sit" once or twice a week. The truth is that you can also practice mindfulness while walking in the park, while cooking a meal, you can meditate while sitting in the bus or subway on your way to work. You don't need to do a full-on session with candles in order to meditate.
As I mentioned earlier, meditation is the process (hint: process) of becoming aware. Becoming the "watcher"of your thoughts, without judgment, without trying to control them. It is in these pauses of awareness that we learn more about ourselves, we understand more our minds and become more conscious.
I love how Stephen Levine describes the practice of meditation in one of his books:
Practice is very much like a dance on a tightrope, balancing energies, awareness, concentration; balancing what is appropriate at the moment. In a moment of forgetfulness we fall from the tightrope only to find that we land on another tightrope. We fall from moment to moment. We discover that there's really just one moment, and that moment is now. In our awakening, we begin to experience the totality of that moment.
I hope debunking these fake news inspires you to give meditation a try. There are numerous resources online nowadays. I recommend the following from my personal experience:
Download the Insight Timer app - Thousands of free guided meditations, plus a lovely timer for when you're ready to venture on meditating on your own
Esther Teule and Esther Ekhart from Ekhart Yoga.com - I actually found them on YouTube. I love their voice, so calming. Below is one of Esther's 5 minute meditations - great to start.
Practice yoga - this one does not need a WIFI connection. Simply do your yoga practice and at the end, instead of getting up and going on about your day, stay seated for a bit. Notice your body - how does it feel? Notice your breath. Just sit a notice. A few minutes will do. I promise.