While it’s important to understand what meditation is, it’s just as important to understand what meditation is not. There is so much confusion. Here are 6 myths of meditation:
- First and foremost, meditation is not about getting rid of thoughts. Trying to get rid of thoughts will only drive you crazy. Thoughts are not a problem. The only problem is relating inappropriately to thoughts, which means grasping after them or trying to get rid of them. Let them come and let them go, like clouds passing through the open sky.
- Second, meditation is not about creating some special state of mind. Special states might arise, but they are not the point. You’re not trying to create a thought-free state, or a blissful state. Meditation is about accepting whatever arises and then relating to it properly. If a thought-free or blissful state arises, fine. If it doesn’t, fine. Relate to whatever arises with equanimity, and without preference to anything.
- Third, meditation is not about mind control. You’re not trying to force your mind into any particular state, you’re trying to open your mind to any state. “Mind control” can imply a forced or excessively controlling environment. That’s not it. It’s more about giving your mind a pasture instead of cramming it into a corral. Meditation does work with controlling your posture and engaging a technique, but there’s no mental muscling involved. It’s more about creating an environment that allows openness and acceptance.
- Fourth, meditation is not about concentration. This is similar to the last one, where you’re not trying to force your mind to do anything. It is about concentration only in the sense of gathering, or centering onto the present moment. But it’s not like trying to concentrate hard on something, which is exhausting. Once again, it’s more about opening.
- Fifth, meditation is not about escape. You’re not trying to run away from anything, you’re trying to face things honestly, openly, and directly. The only thing you’re escaping from is distraction. As Trungpa Rinpoche said, “There is no way out. The magic is to discover that there is a way in.”
- Sixth, meditation is not about religion, or even spirituality. Even though religion and spirituality often engage meditation, meditation itself is “secular,” in the sense that it’s not about any tradition. Meditation is about working skillfully with the mind, and no one has a patent on that.
These are the most frequent examples of what meditation is not. While there are others, most of them fit into one of these categories. It’s really important to have a good definition of meditation, and one way to arrive at the right definition is to remove all the wrong ones.
You’ll find more about what Meditation is and is not and how it can change your life in “Meditation for the iGeneration, How to Meditate in a Word of Speed and Stress”.