What Meditation Isn’t: 5 Common Misnomers of the Ancient Practice

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So you want to meditate… kudos to you for wanting to improve your mental health and life. When I’ve practiced it consistently, which admittedly wanes depending on the week, meditation has changed my life for the better. While some have tried to quantify meditation with a number, I feel like that might be doing meditations benefits a disservice. With regular practice, you just aren’t the same person you before meditation; suddenly there is space between thoughts and you are more present. You’re kinder, more loving and more patient.

But there is a lot of disinformation on what meditation actually is. I’ve heard wild things about meditation from people trying to reach astral planes or from novices who believe that meditation means clearing one’s mind of all thoughts. So without further ado, I thought I’d try to address 5 common misnomers about meditation.

1) Meditation will make you more productive at work and in one’s life.

My first point is a bit of a cheat because meditation actually will make you more productive at work if practiced consistently. (It’s no accident that enormous, billion dollar corporations teach mindfulness). But as I’ve said elsewhere,

”To use meditation as a tool to quell anxiety so you can become a more productive and compliant employee feels wrong to me. It tells me we as a society value competition and status and achievement instead of compassion. It tells me we are under the spell of capitalism, and that we must try to hold it together and remain compliant because we know that our institutions will oppress us instead of helping us and that in the end, all we have to rely on is ourselves.”

Meditation rose out of religious traditions with morality as their base. It is not another vehicle for your ambition. To use meditation without thinking about the well-being of others is missing the point.

2) Meditation is not a relaxation technique

Again this point is a bit of a cheat because meditation will make you more relaxed! It’s actually pretty great at helping anxiety. But it’s much more than that. It helps us be more present in our lives. It helps give us space between our thoughts. It allows us to touch true happiness in a way that we haven’t known. And sure, yes, of course, our anxiety will go down and we will be more relaxed.

3) Meditation means clearing your mind and having no thoughts

Let me make this clear: meditation isn’t about having no thoughts. In fact, one of the reasons to meditate is to learn to be mindful of your thoughts and to see how compulsive they really can be. Thoughts can dissipate after you’re deep in meditation, of course.  But even then one can see residual thoughts popping up. It’s just that we’re so much better equipped to see them and let them go in meditation. This also spills over into our daily lives as our brains feel less weighed down my ruminations.

4) Meditation takes too much time, maybe years To Be Helpful

Not true. In fact, it’s benefits can be felt after one session. But try doing it every day for 2 weeks. The change in your mood and how you perceive the world can be very drastic.

5) Meditation is an escape from reality

I had a client recently tell me that he tried to reach astral planes when he meditated in the past. He was also high on marijuana while doing this. While this is all well and good, it is not exactly what the Buddha had in mind for meditation practice.

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