I do not usually do a point by point debate about articles, but this was particularly worthy.
Posted in Psychology Today “Meditation? That’s Not for Me” the article says that the “man on the street” are not interested in trying medication because:
Misconception Number 1: Meditation is About NOT Thinking.
“I can’t meditate because I can’t stop thinking” was the most common response we heard—and it was definitely one that I had before I tried it and learned to think differently about my own thoughts. I once read a book called Thoughts Are Not the Enemy. What a great title! Thoughts come and go. They’re always with us, which means trying to get rid of them is rather fruitless. The point of meditation isn’t to get rid of thoughts—it’s simply to get to know them, maybe even make friends with them. This won’t be easy, especially because many of our thoughts are unpleasant. They can be mean or angry or full of suffering. They are often filled with memories of people and things we don’t want to remember but can’t quit thinking about.
My POV: True, thoughts will come – and while I would not “try to make friends with them” – rather I instruct my subjects to acknowledge them and just let them pass. This, I believe, truly is the point of meditation; to bring your brain back to the present. Retraining, rewiring and reprogramming your own brain that it is allowable to let those thoughts just pass. That you do now have to dwell on them while meditating.
Misconception Number 2: Meditation is About Relaxing.
Many people said they would like to meditate so they could relax more. While many people feel more relaxed or at least “quiet” after meditating, I think it does a disservice to the practice to consider it relaxation. In actuality, it’s significantly more demanding than that, to the point that it is often considered a form of brain training. In order to really train the brain, some effort must be expended. And expending effort is not always that relaxing.
My POV: See #1. When you “get it” – it is relaxing. Something I look forward to. Yes, it is work to reprogram your brain, but starting with 10 minutes a day and working up to 20 minutes, even 30, it is about letting the body relax and letting the meditation practice do all the work – in the brain.
Misconception Number 3: Meditation is Something You Do Alone.
Many people think you have to meditate all alone. Now of course, you can meditate alone, but you certainly don’t have to. Even monks don’t necessarily meditate alone, despite the common notion. For beginners, it is probably best not to do it alone. I suggest finding a class or “sangha,” where you can sit with others. This helps in so many ways. For one, you can learn from watching (or not watching) others in the room. But also, because everyone is doing it with you, you are more likely to do it, too. You are forced to not check your phone or check the fridge or even check your watch. Most towns and cities have groups who gather weekly to mediate; many of these can be found by a simple Google search.
My POV: The group “mentality” in my opinion is BS. Like having a partner or a group of friends that you work out with. If someone is sick or doesn’t show, you likely will not do it – so it quite literally becomes a codependent class, depending on if every shows or not. This is your path, you take it alone, you reprogram your own brain and you do this for you. In my opinion, meditation is not about a group, a partner or tech. It should be done alone and unplugged.
Misconception Number 4: “I’m just not good at meditating.”
Many people who had tried meditation told us they just weren’t good at it. This is probably the biggest misconception, because there really is no way to be “good” at meditation. Your mind might feel quiet one minute and noisy and crazy the next. There is no point or goal to reach during meditation—or even afterwards. Once I heard that I couldn’t become an “expert”—no matter how much I meditated—it took away the pressure. What a relief—something I could try to do without trying to be the best! If you are also a goal-oriented person, you might feel relieved too. I once heard someone say that “what you learn during the practice of mediation is not only wide, it is deep.” You can just keep going and going and going with no end (or goal) in sight.
My POV: I agree with the author. You can (and should) keep going with no end in sight. It is a practice. The more you practice it, the better you become at it. I practice meditation daily at least 3 times a day. Granted, not everyone has the time to practice 3 times a day but once a day is enough. Sit or even lie down, as long as you are comfortable. Practice for 10 minutes a week. Then 20 minutes the next week. Then stop counting the minutes and meditate for as long as you care to. Practice, practice, practice.
Author: Tracey Shors, Ph.D.