Meditation, Mindfulness and Misconceptions

Misconception 6: Meditation is for saints, not for regular people.

This is like saying that singing is for opera stars or rock stars, or basketball is for NBA players. People with strong spiritual inclinations usually practice some form of meditation, true. But almost anyone who does practice meditation consistently is going to find themselves becoming more aware, more empathetic, less reactive and more in touch with themselves.

Misconception 7: Meditation is running away from reality.

Ah, if only this were true! Meditation is more like running into reality, the reality of the confusion and turmoil of our thought and feelings. As we face this confusion head on, we find a different kind of awareness developing, one which offers insight, clarity and stability. This helps us to face reality at a deeper level.

Misconception 8: Meditation is a great way to get high.

While meditation practice produces blissful and enjoyable experiences for some people some of the time, there is no guarantee. Nor is this the point. Most people eventually find meditation meaningful and not unpleasant, not because they “get high” but more because they appreciate the clarity and presence that matures in them through meditation.

Misconception 9: Meditation is selfish.

Appearances are deceiving. The person who meditates withdraws and spends, say, half an hour by themselves. Totally unproductive? Totally self-centered? Perhaps, but more than one child has been heard to encourage their parents to meditate since they appreciate the greater clarity, responsiveness and connection they feel from their parents when they do practice.

Misconception 10: When you meditate, you think lofty thoughts.

This misconception probably derives from Western notions of contemplation. Buddhist meditation is a constant returning of attention to the breath, stepping out of the thinking process over and over again. Lofty thoughts, base thoughts, brilliant thoughts, stupid thoughts, kind thoughts, mean thoughts, they’re all thoughts. Back to the breath!

Misconception 11: A couple of weeks of meditation and all my problems will go away.

Meditation is not a quick cure-all. We are used to quick fixes: ten ways to better communication, the five magic steps for better relationships, the eight things every manager should know, etc. The trouble is that all of this good advice is useless if we aren’t sufficiently present to implement it. Meditation cultivates just that presence, so we could regard it as a foundational skill.

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