One of the problems with meditation is that there is a lot of chatter and received wisdom about it swirling around that people take into their practices as unquestionable truths. Some of these ideas come simply from misunderstanding and confused language that has become part of the meditation lexicon. Others are practices used for lives other than the ones you might have and were never meant for our lives, a key example being meditation practices which have developed around monkhood, for celibate men living thousands of years ago and who had renounced life.
Nothing is more heartbreaking to me than people who have given up meditation because they have given over their natural instincts and inner resources to systems not designed for them or misleading meditation instructions.
So that being said….let’s bust some myths and reclaim a healthy and life-affirming approach to meditation. I haven’t invented this by the way – this healthy approach has been adopted by us humans since the beginning of time and is backed up by robust, replicated science.
“We Have To Concentrate in Meditation”
In life, there are thousands of ways in which we have to concentrate. We all have to concentrate on something and most of the time. We all come into a different range of ability to concentrate, so yes, we sometimes need practice. But meditation is not the place to come. Meditation is not the place we come to in order to improve our concentration skills. We can go to concentration practices for that. Meditation is not a concentration practice.”
“We Have To Sit Still in Meditation”
More than ever, we are a sedentary lot. We sit in cars, we sit at desks, we sit on sofas and watch TV. Our bodies, all the while are building a craving for movement. When we come to meditation in particular, we may very well feel this craving and start to feel fidgety and restless. Welcome this restlessness and ask your body what it wants to do with it. Dance has been a vessel of meditation in many cultures since ancient times, for instance. People who walk often find they get clearer about thoughts, have “aha” moments or creative ideas while they are walking. Even if you are sitting or lying down to rest during meditation, you can still respond to your body’s impulse for movement. For example, by swaying, rolling, moving your arms or hands.
“We Have To Endure Pain And “Transcend” Our Bodies During Meditation”
List the benefits of ignoring pain.
Are there any?
Our bodies are one of the allies of our intuition. Should we really suppress what they are telling us? Meditation is improved the more you are able to relax. Any holding or enduring of pain is counter to that. Further, we need to bring attention to that relaxation process. When we come to meditate and we begin to relax, often the first thing we feel is those little-to-big stresses and strains the body has been holding onto until we are not too busy to attend to them. Bringing attention to our bodies is a very important part of meditation. Not only does it allow the tense and painful parts to relax and release, but it can bring tour notice things we may need to bring to the attention to of a doctor or other professional healer in the outside world. Our bodies love this attention. So much so, that simply breathing with everything they alert us to can bring them respite, healing and renewal.
“We Have To Block Our Thoughts in Meditation”
If you try to stop thinking in meditation, you will fail. We stop thinking when we are brain dead. While we are vibrantly alive, we have the gift of this miraculous tool of consciousness, that deeply bonds us into being and expressing. If you want to make yourself really unhappy in meditation, shame yourself for having thoughts. If you want to be with your own naturalness and miracle of your whole mind/body/system, then welcome every impulse of the mind as expressions of the energy circulating inside you.
“We Mustn’t Let Our Minds Drift in Meditation”
Clouds drift, water drifts, feathers drift on the breeze……Nature is full of drifting. And so is your innate nature. There can be few things as relaxing and expansive as letting your awareness roam freely. Scientific research shows that we need to daydream to thrive. R.E.M. – the dreaming phase of sleep – is the most important element of the cycle. When sleep is interrupted and people miss this phase, they are deprived of essential rest. Decisions are harder to make, impulses are slower, moods are turbulent and they are likely to have more accidents. The benefits of meditation – clarity, restedness, peace, restored vitality – will not be there if natural dreaming and drifting is blocked from its range.
“We Must Close Our Eyes in Meditation”
When you lose yourself in your lover’s eyes, take in a breathtaking view of the ocean or gaze in awe at a sumptuous sunset, are your eyes open or closed?
Like many meditation instructions, this one is often accepted without question. When you think about it, there is no rationale to back this precept up.
I have had many a student who, on being given permission to keep their eyes open, found it transformed their practice. All meditation is enhanced exponentially by engaging even one of our senses. A great way to open your meditation is to let your eyes roam and settle on something that draws them in and then rest your gaze there and feel as you do, your inner world unleashed.
You may find, like I do, that your eyes spontaneously move between both open and closed during the cycle of meditation – the way I explain this is sometimes I draw from the beyond and others, from within, and between those two realms is a connecting thread, a pulse.
You may like to experiment for yourself. And remember the saying – the eyes are the windows of the soul. It might be nice to keep those soul-windows open now and then, and see what comes into vision.
“We Mustn't Have Emotions In Meditation”
To me, this is such a sad instruction. It is like being told we aren’t allowed to feel what we really feel. We come into meditation to experience intimacy with the flow of life as particular to us, not distance. Every day, life is touching us in myriad ways, with the unwritten agreement that at some stage we will come inside and feel those touches and tend to them. Emotion is – e-motion; energy in motion. Have you ever had a moment of spontaneous cherishing of someone or something and felt your whole heart fill and thrum with feeling? Behind that feeling will be your heart’s journey in the past and the present and even its perception of the future. All wrapped up in a sense of deep blessing. That kind of feeling-awareness is meditative. Our emotions play the song of our lives. It is worth listening to that song and entering it more deeply.
“We Must Be In The Now where “Being In the Now” means in the present only”
Do you have memories that you cherish so deeply that when you play them over in your head, your whole body tingles with feeling, as if you were right back to where you were then? Are you looking forward to something so much that every time to bring that thing to mind – especially if you go into the rich detail of it – you have a wild sense of being thrilled to be alive? Have you ever been so enchanted by a dream or fantasy that it seems as real and fulfilling to you as your ordinary life?
Our inner being is perfectly capable of cycling through many realms and this adds to our enjoyment and appreciation if life.
Great poets, visionaries, artists and film-makers have used this innate “time-travelling” ability we have to produce breath-taking creations and inventions.
The present in one dimension can feel very monochrome for a meditator. If you can be present in all the dimensions – well, then you get to meditate in colour.
Alison is partnering with Amy for their upcoming At Home In Your Heart - a winter luxury farm retreat & and also the long overdue second installment of 'Embodying Bliss' Bali Yoga & Meditation Retreat.