With the explosion of research showing that mediation helps with everything from depression and anxiety to heart disease and cancer, many people are interested in giving this simple, ancient practice a try. For some, the idea seems foreign or impossible. Here are some common myths about meditation and some facts to clear up the misunderstanding:

Myth: My mind must be completely still for me to meditate (and that’s impossible).

Fact: Meditation is not having a blank mind. It is having a directed mind. It’s more of a practice of focus than of blankness. You focus all the time; in the case of meditation, you are just focusing on something different, like your breath.

Myth: If my mind wanders, I’m doing it wrong.

Fact: Minds wander. When you notice what your mind is doing, you can think of that as a victory, because you are aware of what you are thinking. Then get back to the focus of your meditation!

Myth: Meditation means chanting or focusing on mysterious words or phrases.

Fact: There are many approaches to meditation. The most popular in the West and in the research is focusing on your breath and watching what thoughts arise. Some people like to meditate on religious passages, uplifting quotes, or universal concepts; some meditate on symbols or objects (like a candle or flower); some focus on bodily sensations with the intention of relaxing and releasing them. You could try these different approaches and see what works best for you.

Myth: I have to sit cross-legged to meditate (and that’s impossible).

Fact: Many people do sit cross-legged. You could also sit with your feet on the floor or with your ankles crossed. You can lie down. You can meditate while walking or moving in other ways, like with yoga or Qi Gong.

Myth: Meditation is a religion.

Fact: Meditation is part of many religious traditions, but it can be an entirely secular practice. Indeed, most of the research on meditation is focused on a secular approach.

Myth: Meditation is hard, requires special training, and takes a long time to become proficient in.

Fact: There are many courses and advanced practitioners, but that’s not necessarily the goal. Research shows people receive benefits in a short period of time. One study documented brain changes in eight weeks.

Myth: I don’t have time to meditate.

Fact: Modern life is busy. Luckily, meditation doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. Even five minutes of practice helps us feel calm and get into a more resilient state. The HeartMath Institute’s Quick Coherence Technique works in 3-5 minutes.

Myth: Meditation should make me feel better even when I am very upset.

Fact: The wise meditator knows when to practice and when to practice distraction. Trying to meditate when you are distraught can be impossible and trying can make you really uncomfortable. When you are super upset and can’t calm down, you can try incorporating body-based techniques like the ones featured here.

How to Meditate

Now that we’ve cleared that up, are you ready to give meditation a try? Set your timer for five minutes and see how it goes! Take a nice deep breath, and as you exhale, relax. Let your eyes close. Feel the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe. Notice a peaceful, loving feeling in your heart. Imagine sending that out into the world. Imagine it circling around and coming back to you.

Try A Guided Meditation

Join our meditation community online with a free virtual guided meditation each week.

UFH Live Guided Meditation

Wednesdays at 12:15 pm EST
Live on Facebook.com/unite4her


Written by Staff Counselor Sarah Murphy LPC