First, the good news: Meditation has risen in popularity in the U.S. in recent years, with more people experiencing the wonderful benefits of meditation than ever before. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has written a best seller on the topic (Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple), Jerry Seinfeld is a well-known fan of transcendental meditation, and even more doctors are starting to prescribe meditation to their patients. But here’s the bad news: So many people still believe a variety of myths about meditation, and as a result, they never try it or experience its amazing benefits. Here are five common meditation myths debunked:
1. You have to be sitting with your eyes closed in a perfectly quiet room to meditate. This is a really common misconception about meditation. I have found from working with animals that the opposite is true; truly any moment can be a meditation, because meditation is about bringing compassion into our lives—and then sharing it with the world. We do this by taking our practice out of the quiet room and learning to meditate not just in a sitting position, but rather when walking our dog, taking a stroll on the beach, standing in a pasture with our horse, cuddling our cat and so on. These forms of meditation may be considered “informal,” but they’re just as powerful—if not more so.
2. Meditation is just woo-woo nonsense. Unfortunately, this is a common belief among many people. However, science has shown again and again that there are powerful health advantages to the regular practice of meditation. As explained in this WebMD article, those benefits include: improved heart health, lowered blood pressure, stress relief, a boost in your immune system, help with infertility, an improvement in the symptoms of PMS and hot flashes, stress management and more.
3. Meditation is time-consuming. Some people—especially busy ones balancing jobs, families, hobbies, aging parents, you name it—think they just don’t have time to meditate. While it can feel that way (and I can relate!), it’s very empowering to realize you don’t need to set aside an hour of your time every day to do this. It can be incorporated into your already busy life, and even just 15 minutes can help you feel better and more balanced.
4. You have to put your animals in another room to meditate. I’ve heard this so many times, and I’m not quite sure where this myth originated. But truly (and luckily for animal lovers), the exact opposite is true! I have found that animals make the best meditation teachers, if only we would open our hearts and listen. With their calming and compassionate presence, they are able to help us stay present and peaceful when meditating. You may have already discovered this on your own; your dog and cat have probably crawled into your lap when you’re meditating! I wrote more about animals and how essential they are to my meditation practice here.
5. Kids are too young to meditate. A lot of people think meditation is an intellectual, mysterious activity only for adults. This just isn’t true! Kids can learn meditation and mindfulness, too—they not only love it, but it helps them in many ways, such as improving test scores and attention spans and decreasing drop-out rates and suspensions, as reported in this piece on the recent trend of “ohm schooling” by ABC News. Teaching meditation to children doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start with simple breathing exercises and go from there. Here are a few tips to help.
What myths have you heard about meditation? Include them the comments below.