MISCONCEPTIONS ON MEDITATION
Today I completed my 22nd day of Headspace guided meditation.
For those of you who have never heard of Headspace, it’s a meditation app for mobile devices created by former Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe. I won’t go into detail about the app, but I definitely recommend it for anyone who’s interested in learning meditation with the guidance of a true master.
Through my 22 days of practice, I’ve learned a lot about myself. However, the most shocking thing I learned, was how flawed my understanding of meditation truly was. I’ve had this conversation with a few close friends, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a huge amount of misinformation and incorrect assumptions surrounding meditative practices.
In this blog post, I want to analyze the two most common misconceptions on meditation that I’ve come across, and provide readers with a framework for reproaching or introducing themselves to true meditative practices.
MISCONCEPTION #1: MEDITATION AS A WAY OF “CLEARING THE MIND”
A few days ago, I asked a close friend of mine who doesn’t practice meditation, to identify what she believed to be the core purpose of meditating. Her answer was (paraphrasing): “I think of meditation as a practice to help you clear your own mind”. Red lights immediately started going off in my head.
No matter who we are, or what we do, our human nature will always force our minds to be consistently engaged in thought (the Buddhists call this “Monkey Chatter). Therefore, North-American society needs to stop seeing meditation as some form of a mental eraser. Meditation has nothing to do with clearing your mind of thoughts or emotions. On the contrary, meditation is about becoming extremely aware of these thoughts and emotions, and then accepting them.
Why? Because awareness leads to understanding, and understanding leads to power. If we become aware of our emotions, thoughts, and motivations, we create a clearer picture of who we are (note this is completely different than a “clear mind”).
The notion of knowing who you are may seem trivial, but most of North-American society really has only has a shallow identity. Sure, we may have clear pictures of our ambitions and our surface emotions, but that’s usually it: a one dimensional understanding of ourselves.
Our identity is much more than what’s visible from the surface (whether physically, or mentally). Taking the time to meditate will help you identity aspects of yourself that are only found through the practice of mental awareness.
"Most people assume meditation is about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind. But actually it’s about stepping back, seeing the thoughts clearly, witnessing it coming and going."
MISCONCEPTION #2: MEDITATION AS A TIME FOR REFLECTION
I recently had a conversation with a friend who’s going through a major life transition. He informed me that he’s been spending a lot of time meditating to help him get through these tough times, and that’s great. However, when I asked him what his meditation practice looked like, he told me that (once again, paraphrasing): “I analyze and reflect on a lot of my issues”. Upon hearing his response, I immediately knew that his practice was not true meditation.
If you’re under the impression that meditation is about taking the time to reflect on your life, and engage in deep thought, you’re wrong. Meditation is about letting thoughts come and go, and never delving deep into them. The second you start getting wound up in a particular thought or emotion, you’re straying from meditation and instead, simply thinking.
Once again, you’re never going to be able to escape those thoughts and emotions, and you don’t want to do that anyways. However, once you become aware of those emotions and thoughts, it’s about acknowledging them, and that’s it….Move on. Don’t get stuck filling out an entry for a mental diary. Although it’s good to take the time to reflect and analyze on your life, it’s never a good idea to do that during meditation.
"Don’t seek, don’t search, don’t ask, don’t knock, don’t demand – relax."
I hope this post helps clarify the concepts surrounding meditation. In my opinion, every person can benefit from meditating on a regular basis. However, we must ensure that our meditation is actually meditation, and not just thinking. Furthermore, we need to have a clear goal in mind when we meditate. Don’t try to fight your thoughts, and don’t try to delve deeper into them. Just let them be.
Please share your own meditative experiences in the comment box below. I’d love to hear what meditation has done for you!