What you thought you knew about meditation might be wrong.
OK so wrong is a bit harsh. There’s always two sides to every story if you identify one as right and the other as wrong you miss the bit in the middle which is more likely the truth.
You have to sit still
You have to close your eyes
You have to empty your mind
Image Credit: Chelsea Gates (Unsplash)
Find your truth
Who are you and what matters to you?
It’s a big question. Can you answer it without hesitation?
Meditation is one way to find the answer. Bonus, it also gives your mind and your body a little rest while you make a decision to pause.
Is there a right way to meditate?
We place so many expectations on ourselves. It’s understandable. Most of us have been through a rigorous schooling system where this is a ‘right’ answer. How else can we be tested to see that we have learnt what needs learning? This is great for things like math and science where rules apply. Imagine a world where numbers meant different things to different people and we couldn’t agree on what one-plus-one equals? There would be problems.
This same system though is completely incompatible with life. There is no right and wrong. Though you probably do want to be living with a moral code of some sort and not going around hurting people.
Every conversation has two viewpoints assuming two people in the conversation, more for more people (see maths it’s useful, stay in school, learn it).
So when I say you’ve been meditating wrong I’m trying to tempt you to read this, you can’t be wrong as I just mentioned the whole right/wrong thing is a little sketchy.
Back to meditating though. Let’s start with its purpose.
There can be lots of reasons to meditate. Different motivations inspire different objectives and techniques. The similarity between each is a chance to connect with your inner thoughts or feelings then let them go, ultimately you’re seeking a sense of ease.
We often hear the phrase “clear the mind”. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it as a yoga teacher then started backpedalling to encourage thoughts to drift by. It’s a bit like “How are you?” “Good thanks” a reflex.
What we’re trying to do is shift the thoughts that are stuck. Imagine your brain as a magnificent machine with cogs turning, then a single thought we’re obsessing over as something stuck between the cogs getting caught up and taking all your attention.
For me it’s often worry that gets trapped in the ‘what if’. When I was younger, pre-yoga it was all about the gossip ‘I can’t believe so-and-so said that’, ‘do you think they like me?’. That was a big one I was always keen to be liked! Still am. Which is why sharing writing like this is a bit intimidating. I digress. Worrying about what others think is a stress no one needs. Meditation can help you let go of that stress.
A common meditation technique is to bring your focus to your breath. Breath is one of the only functions of the body we can control, it's also one we can feel and look at. By listening to its sounds and feeling it's rhythm we can move our attention away from the worries the conversations that are stuck the should haves and the to-do lists.
In meditation we want to release any specific concern which is what we really mean when we say “clear the mind” let go and move to looking at how incredible the whole machine is as a bystander. The big picture so to speak. It's there we'll find out who we are and what's important.
Meditation myths busted
You need to sit in lotus, with your legs in a pretzel
Wrong. You don’t even need to sit
You don’t even need to be still, you can move and meditate
You need to close your eyes
Wrong. You can meditate with your eyes open
You can think while your meditating, actually it would be kind of weird if you didn’t
You need to have an empty mind Wrong. You can meditate with a mantra
You don’t even need to be peaceful, you can be angry and meditate
You can even meditate by accident without even realising, it is sometimes called finding a State of Flow. Where you are so focused on one thing that you don’t notice anything else, you’re not interrupted by doubts, worried about deadlines, there’s a feeling of calm and clarity. A sense of ease.
Swap “need to” for “can choose to” and you’ll find you’re closer to the truth, because you can sit in lotus and close your eyes if you want.
Trying to force meditation and do it right could be the only way to do it wrong.