What do you think of when you think of meditation?
Probably the picture of a person sitting in a lotus session. Or at least a person sitting right somewhere?
That's not entirely wrong, but not entirely right either.
Let me explain.
They confuse meditation with fantasizing
In the western world at least, meditation usually refers to a person sitting with their eyes closed.
But what do you do while your eyes are closed?
Rene Descartes thought of meditation as thinking of something. When he wanted to solve a problem, he would meditate on it.
This is not the type of meditation I am talking about.
Sometimes people visualize something when they refer to meditation. For example, they imagine being in a relaxed place, like a forest or a beach.
I don't talk about that either.
When I say meditation, I mean focusing on something. It doesn't matter if it's your breath or an object in front of you. Or even a mantra. There are different types of meditation.
But they all involve deep focus. And they're not passive; in fact, they are very active processes.
So if you want to know if you are meditating properly, focus as much as possible on the subject of your meditation.
However, you shouldn't tense yourself.
After you are done with your meditation session, you should feel relaxed and full of energy.
If it doesn't, keep in mind that getting started is not always pleasant.
But do not worry.
If you stick to your practice you will be rewarded with a deep sense of inner peace and a very relaxed yet attentive mind.
They think meditation is just sitting
But sure, if you sit and focus on the object of your meditation, you are doing the right thing, right?
It is you, but that's not all.
Meditation is not limited to just sitting. When you're just starting out, it's a good idea to sit with your eyes closed.
Nothing can distract you. Well, your thoughts still can. Although I'm sure you are already aware of it 😉
But the truth is that pretty much any activity can be meditation.
Take Qi Gong or Tai Chi, for example. When using an activity as a meditation practice, it is often done with slower movement than usual. This makes it easier to concentrate fully on your body movements.
In China you can often see old people practicing Tai Chi.
You don't even have to do that, however.
Let's say you practice kendo. This is not a slow activity like tai chi. But on the contrary. Not only do you have to be quick, you also have to fight others.
And you can still be very vigilant while doing it. You must be. If you don't, you will most likely lose.
Do you think Bruce Lee was there when he fought his opponents?
Of course it was. He couldn't have been a successful martial artist if he hadn't drawn his full attention in the present moment.
Any activity can be meditation as long as you are fully focused on the activity.
Washing dishes can be your meditation.
When you focus on the feel of your hand when you pick up a plate or mug. And how it feels when the water touches your skin. Be as vigilant as possible for as long as possible.
If you can only stay in this alarm state for a short time, don't worry.
This is normal in the beginning.
Do not give up!
You always find it pleasant
I recently read a study that claimed that meditation could have a negative effect on you.
That surprised me.
So far, I've only heard of the myriad health benefits of meditation.
You are more relaxed and your self-confidence increases. The blood pressure drops. It helps you deal with fear.
What negative side effects could there be?
It turned out that some practitioners in this study had very active minds. In fact, they had a constant stream of thoughts. Unfortunately, very negative thoughts.
If you increase your level of awareness through regular meditation exercises, a similar negative effect can initially occur.
You may even feel your body become more tense. This is in response to your negative thoughts.
Your negative thoughts will subside if you keep practicing regularly. Giving up before that point would be a waste.
It's like giving up jogging because your feet hurt after your first run.
At some point it will be fun and what you tried very hard in the beginning will be effortless in the future.
You are obsessed with words
If you read different books or articles on meditation, you are likely to get confused.
Why is that?
Because different teachers, especially spiritual teachers, often use different vocabulary for the same thing.
Depending on the teacher's cultural background and experience, you may receive advice that may sound different at first but mean the same thing.
Here's an example:
In Eckhart Tolle's book "The Power of Now" he calls the state in which you are fully present "being". You could also call it "presence". Or, in the case of the book A Course in Miracles, you could call it God.
Maybe you think it sucks that they use different words.
But that also means that you can replace one word you don't like with another without losing context.
Don't let them be religious about you. Then you probably won't be using the word "God". If you still want to read A Course in Miracles, just replace “God” with “Being”.
Do not get involved in words. Meditation is not an intellectual exercise.
Often times, you can find helpful advice in books from spiritual teachers, even if you don't like the choice of words. It would be a waste not to read them openly.
I didn't count the number of times I thought a particular book was nonsense because it used some esoteric words. Most of these books turned out to be very helpful.
Though they contained a lot of spiritual hocus-pocus at times.
Don't worry, there is an easy way to bypass these books. Just download my list of the books that influenced me.
Contains no nonsense 😉
You are trying to stop your mind
I don't even remember how many times I came across this myth.
That sounds very logical.
Meditation is about focusing on something. And when you concentrate fully on something, you don't think about anything.
But here's what's wrong with this approach: your thoughts are not your enemy. Obsessive thoughts are.
Your thoughts can be very useful. But only if you are using your thoughts and your thoughts are not using you.
Let your thoughts flow freely, don't defend yourself.
If you want to solve a math equation, you need to think about it. It is completely normal.
But what if, while solving this equation, your mind suddenly changed something like, "I can't do this. I'm sucking on math. Why am I even trying? I'm a loser." Then this thought pattern won't help you at all.
In fact, it will make sure you underperform. Since you are not focusing on the problem, try to solve it.
Instead, you are wasting precious energy because you have to fight with yourself.
If you struggle with yourself often, you will run out of energy. You might even get burnout. This is common nowadays.
Or worse, you can become depressed and sabotage yourself for a long time.
As you continue with your meditation practice, these sabotaging thoughts will appear less and less.
Eventually they will stop altogether.
But until that happens, once you notice these negative thought patterns, you can stop them.
It might be too difficult right now to watch them without judging them. Especially if this occurs when you are short on time. Like during an exam.
You're wrongly measuring progress
What do you think is the best way to measure your success in your meditation practice?
Maybe you think it is the length of your meditation session. The longer you can meditate the better, right?
Or when you can stop your mind completely. Oh wait, we've already blown that myth.
However, there is a better way to measure this. It's a path that is both easy to measure and difficult to improve.
A path so simple that most people completely forget about it.
To determine your progress, ask yourself the following questions: How often do I lose consciousness of my life situation?
Here is an example: You are talking to someone at work.
Do you know your own breath as you speak? Are you really listening to the other person, or is your attention shifting between the other person's words and your own thoughts? Do you argue a lot with your friends and family?
If your awareness is mostly limited to your sitting meditation practice, you have made little progress.
Being present in your sitting practice is the easiest part. The hard part is being fully present in your daily activities.
Depending on how far along you are, reading about it can help you become more present in your daily life.
They think meditation is just for stress relief
That's why most people meditate, isn't it?
Because they are stressed and need to relax.
And they are not wrong. Meditation is a great way to relax. However, meditation is more than just relaxation. When you are present in your daily life, most of the stress that you want to get rid of will not even occur in the first place.
In my experience, this is a very underrated side effect of meditation.
Often people do not even notice that they can transfer their consciousness into their daily life.
An example: a person practices yoga. Over time, the person will notice how much yoga relaxes them. She feels calm and her posture is beautiful.
As she exercises her postures, her breathing slows down and she watches her breathing with great awareness.
She finishes her yoga practice and comes home. Your husband is waiting for you. He's had a bad day. His boss blamed him for something he hadn't done. He's grumpy and complains a lot.
Slowly she is losing the calm she had previously gained. She is also in a bad mood now. Anger replaced calm. They start an argument.
"Why are you like this? I just want to help you!" She says. "You keep talking. Don't you know how difficult my life is "he replies. They yell at each other.
And all the awareness and graceful demeanor are gone. Your consciousness is now as low as its.
It is difficult to be mindful of an argument.
It happens very often. Every day in many houses.
Don't let it happen to you.
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