Most of what we know about meditation, we learned years ago from watching David Carradine in his role as “Grasshopper,” or Kwai Chang Caine on the anachronistic TV show Kung Fu, or reading Somerset Maugham’s tale of experiencing one-ness in The Razor’s Edge, or watching Jim Carrey levitating in the jungle with the monkey and the guano in that second Ace Ventura movie. Perhaps you saw Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Oz, or Wayne Dyer espousing the benefits of meditation on television, or you read about it in one of their books. Or maybe you dropped into a weekend meditation workshop at a local yoga studio.
Wherever you got your original understanding of the practice of meditation, there are five basic myths that we all come across at some point in our attempts to develop a meditation practice.
Embracing these myths helped us to rationalize that our lives would be better off without meditation. And, ultimately, this rests at the core of why we may have stopped or let it slip away. But if you can embrace these myths as just that—myths—and then release them from your belief system, you will more easily give yourself permission to begin or reengage your practice.
In this first part of a two-part series, I’ve addressed the first two myths of meditation. Use these first two steps to re-engage your practice and share this article with anyone you know who may be struggling with their practice. Then next month, we’ll explore the final three myths.
Myth #1: The first thing you need to do is to clear the thoughts from your mind, or at least still them.
You have between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day. That’s approximately one thought every 1.2 seconds. They’re coming. You will not stop them, so don’t even try. Don’t lift a finger to resist or stop or do anything with your thoughts. They are not interruptions in your meditation; they are part your meditation, so let them come and let them go. Simply drift back to the mantra, or your breath, or whatever else you were using to disconnect you from activity. So many meditators stop meditating because they have thoughts, but having thoughts flowing in and out of your meditation is so perfect. This is your chance to process each day’s activities that otherwise would go buried, unaddressed, and unprocessed.
That doesn’t mean to pay attention to them, and that includes not resisting them either. To resist is to place attention on, and where attention goes, energy flows. Treat thoughts as you would clouds. Let them drift in, and let them drift away. Don’t engage them. Simply drift back to the object of your attention—the mantra, your breath, the drishti, and so on. Here’s how much effort to use when you meditate: Like mist rising off a lake at dawn. Stop now, and envision morning mist ever so gently lifting off a field or a lake; there is virtually no movement. That’s how hard you should “work” or “try” to meditate. You can’t stop thoughts, and you can’t clear the mind. So don’t even bother. Let the thoughts flow. Be unconcerned and drift back to the mantra. Just keep drifting back and forth. Continue to float your attention back to the mantra, and, ultimately, over time, you will find that during meditation, you spend more time in mantra land than in thought land; more time in the realm of no-meaning than in the realm of meaning; more time in stillness than in activity. And as you meditate each day, the fluctuations of your mind will slow. The parade of thoughts will slow as each is met by the tiniest bit of stillness, of silence.
Myth #2: Something special or transcendent is supposed to happen during meditation.
Nothing special is supposed to happen during meditation. Blissful, calming, and entertaining experiences can occur during meditation, but that is not a requirement and not our goal. Special moments don’t have to happen for the experience to have its emotional, physical, or spiritual benefits. But if cool things happen during meditation, hang out and enjoy them. As you immerse more deeply in the experience and drift from the mantra, you will see yourself move from witnessing the experience to thinking about it. As you begin to apply greater meaning to your experience, you will move back into activity from your stillness. At that point, you are essentially back where you started: in activity. That’s okay. It’s all part of the process. When you realize you have moved back into thought, just gently drift back to the mantra or the object of your attention.
Your meditation session is part of your daily practice. Have you ever been to the gym? Most likely, the reason that you go there is to work out—to practice. You don’t go to the gym to get magically fit in an hour or necessarily to be entertained. Your hour-long sessions at the gym bring you strength, flexibility, and balance throughout the day and night. That’s where the benefits of the practice come through. And, over time, from those regular one-hour workouts, there is a subtle shift to your body and your emotional state.
The reason you work out is so that when you leave the gym, you are more physically fulfilled in the rest of your life. You’re not that concerned with achieving your peak health in the gym. The gym is your practice. It’s the same thing for yoga classes.
And it’s the same for your meditation practice. Those thirty-minute sessions of silence are the practice for the rest of your day, for the rest of your week, for the rest of your life. You aren’t serving the world when you’re sitting and meditating in the dark. It’s when the session is over, and you open your eyes and go back with the rest of us that you can be more expansive, more creative, more intuitive, more compassionate, more abundant, more self-loving, and more open to infinite possibilities.
This, of course, is in addition to all the other physical benefits that ripple through your physiology. So nothing special is supposed to happen during the meditation, but when it does, enjoy it, hang out there, and let it soak in. If you have enjoyable experiences, you’ll keep coming back. Cool visions and intense sensations can occur during your meditation. You can experience deep energetic and spiritual connections, and you can witness your astral body and even the one-ness of the gap. But those aren’t the signs of a successful meditation.
A successful meditation is one you show up for!
The magic happens afterwards—when you open your eyes and you’re back here with the rest of us. The benefit happens in every word, every thought, and every action that flows from you as you carry around a little bit of stillness and silence with a dash of pure potentiality. The benefits of meditation happen in your waking state, so don’t be looking for clues during the meditation. Just do it!
davidji is an internationally recognized life guide, author, meditation recording artist, motivational speaker, and meditation instructor. Often referred to as “The Meditation Maestro” and “The Velvet Voice of Stillness,” he travels the world sharing timeless wisdom on cultivating a spiritual practice, modern-day stress management, emotional healing techniques, work/life balance, and finding deeper fulfillment through conscious choice-making. He was the Lead Educator of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing and was appointed the first Dean of Chopra Center University. He is a Chopra Center Certified Vedic Master, certified to teach Primordial Sound Meditation, Perfect Health Ayurvedic Lifestyle Wisdom, and Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga. In addition, he has a highly acclaimed CD Guided Meditations: Fill What is Empty; Empty What is Full, hosts LIVE from the Sweetspot with davidji on Hay House Radio every Wednesday, and recently published Secrets of Meditation: A Practical Guide to Inner Peace & Personal Transformation. To join the davidji SweetSpot Meditation Community, visit davidji.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
*Photo by jessebezz.
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