We make meditation difficult by turning it an impossible feat and a near-superhuman ability. But in truth meditation can be so easy. Here are the five greatest misconceptions about meditation that prevent us from benefiting from this greatest way of self-healing!
Meditation is Intense Concentration – Meditation is the relaxation of the mind, not the exercise of it. Trying to concentrate consciously is like stiffening your muscles for a body massage. It is counterproductive to meditation.
Concentration is actually a side-effect or benefit of good meditation. Most people, even many meditation teachers mistake it for meditation. It is not. Meditation is easy focus; like the way you would spend an evening at the beach with a book. You really don’t concentrate on anything. You just let your mind relax.
Meditation is Total Absence of Thoughts – It is not. Once again this is a by-product of meditation sometimes and it is mistaken to be meditation. Meditation is simple awareness of your thoughts. You know that if you try to stop your mind from thinking about something all the mind can then think of is that which you don’t want to think about. And a lot of beginners give up meditation because of this. They think they are simply unfit for meditation. As if someone can be unfit to relax!
In meditation you are training your mind to take your thoughts less seriously. This is done simply by letting your mind think and at the same time watching those thoughts with an attitude of a dispassionate bystander. As if your thoughts are some vehicles passing on the street below as you watch them from your balcony. Yes in the beginning you tend to get lost with the thinking easily. That is the bystander becomes the driver of the car. And all you do, as soon as you realize this, is to go back to watching your thoughts idly.
Meditation must be done only at a certain Place And Time – It is not a must, it just an option. In fact, as a beginner you are most likely setting up yourself for failure if think you must do it at a certain place and only at an appointed hour. Because, then, even if you miss it once you are likely to get frustrated and give your mind an opportunity to quit it altogether. Sure meditating at a certain place and at a regular hour will help with your practice. But there is another benefit to meditating at various hours and at various places every day.
That is gaining the ability to relax your mind anyplace and at anytime. Anything can help you do that. The sounds and sights around you, watching your thoughts, being aware of sensations on the body, literally anything! One of the best methods is to combine both techniques of meditation. Meditate at a regular spot and time for a slightly longer time like, say between 10 and 30 minutes, and then meditate just for a minute or two at various times of the day wherever you are. This is one of the best combinations that works for me always! Then even if I skip the longer meditation I am not so disappointed, and I also gain the capacity to relax and heal in midst of work and noise! Try it and see!
Meditation takes a long time to master – What do you want – mastery or benefits of mediation like peace of mind, and mental clarity? Of course, by ‘mastery’ most people assume staying in a particular posture for long hours with intense concentration and without any thoughts whatsoever! Even the most practiced of all meditators cannot claim such an achievement! In a yogic practice such a state is called Samadhi, whereas meditation is called Dhyana – a state of continued awareness that can lead to Samadhi if the aspirant wishes it. So meditation is different from Samadhi.
The long-term benefits of meditation require sometime to pop up in your life. The immediate benefits of mediation are, however, quite readily apparent. And meditation by itself does not take months or years to master. How many seconds do you need to relax? Relaxing the mind is successful mediation! To be able to relax with such consistency takes regular practice but by no means more than a couple of months if you really go at it.
Meditation is Difficult – Do you really think it is that difficult even after reading all of the points above? Meditation is easy! We are all programmed to believe that we cannot gain anything unless we work hard towards it. And then we translate that belief into mental work too. Mind works the opposite. The harder we try to control the mind, the more violent and chaotic it becomes. In fact, our efforts to control it are adding to the mental noise not easing it.
The trick with the mind is to relax it by letting it wander. And then simply watching it without much reaction. It is easy to do. With enough practice you learn to do it even when you are disturbed. What you need here is not hard work, but short and easy repetitions. Remember, meditation is easy!