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The Myths of Meditation
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.