Many are missing out on the benefits of meditation practice due to their beliefs about what it is, and what it isn’t. So here is a little meditation myth busting. 1. It is a religious practice Although mindfulness is rooted in Buddhism it is not affiliated to any religion. You can practice mindful meditation no matter what religion you are (and even if you have no religion). 2. You have to sit cross legged for hours You can practice meditation in any position you like! An upright and alert position is best but this can be on the floor or a chair. If you prefer you can lie down but this often leads to falling asleep. 3. Meditation is complicated and I’m no good at it You cannot get mindful meditation wrong. If you are being still that’s great, if you are able to watch the breath and explore the breath, that’s even better. It is not about having an empty mind. It is about paying attention, and developing awareness of thoughts and emotions as the arise. The more thoughts that arise, the more opportunity you have to flex your mindful muscles. 4. It will make me too placid and complacent You will not lose your drive to strive through meditation, but you will have space to look at what you’re striving for and why. You will gain clarity and focus. 5. Meditation practice requires too much time The more meditation practice you can do the better it is but any amount of stillness is beneficial. If you don’t have time for a seated practice, try introducing mindfulness into you daily routine. See my previous posts entitled 5 easy ways to turn frustrating situations into calming mindful pauses and savour the simple things. 6. I don’t have time to meditate Just 5 minutes of stillness in your day would benefit you. The more busy you feel the more you will benefit from finding stillness. There is an old zen saying that you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes per day, unless you are too busy, then you should sit for an hour.
One of my favourite speakers, authors and thought leaders about mindfulness is John Kabat-Zinn. He is the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts and he has written many books on mindfulness.
He wrote this poem which to me, totally embodies what mindfulness is, and how mindfulness feels. It is impossible not be moved by the possibility of feeling the essence of what is captured in his words. I hope you enjoy these words as much as I do.
‘Poem’, by Jon Kabat-Zinn,
A Taste of Mindfulness
“Have you ever had the experience of stopping so completely,
of being in your body so completely,
of being in your life so completely,
that what you knew and what you didn’t know,
that what had been and what was yet to come,
and the way things are right now,
no longer held even the slightest hint of anxiety or discord,
a moment of complete presence beyond striving,
beyond mere acceptance,
beyond the desire to escape or fix anything or plunge ahead,
a moment of pure being,
no longer in time,
a moment of pure seeing,
a moment in which life simply is,
and that is-ness grabs you by all your senses,
all your memories, by your very genes,
by your loves,
and welcomes you home,
that is a taste of mindfulness.”
We all long for more time. More time to ourselves, more peace and quiet, more rest and less activity. Unfortunately though, when we get the time to be still, we are so uncomfortable in the stillness that we just fill it up with more “stuff”. I’m guilty of this myself this morning which is what has prompted me to write this post. For the first time in weeks, I have the house to myself and not a single activity on the agenda for today. I feel agitated, I have wandered around the house, done the house work, watched TV and tried to entice a friend out for a walk and it is not even ten o clock yet!
If we sit in stillness, often thoughts or feeling arise that we are normally distracted from by all our activity. So we inflict the busy-ness onto ourselves to keep these thoughts and feelings at bay.
Jon Kabat-Zinn Said,
Non-doing has nothing to do with being indolent or passive. Quite the contrary. It takes great courage and energy to cultivate non-doing, both in stillness and in activity. Nor is it easy to make a special time for non-doing and to keep at it in the face of everything in our lives which needs to be done.