Mindfulness Myths. I have come across a number of articles recently that seem to share strange myths about Mindfulness. I've picked out the key items that I feel are important to me. You might agree or disagree and please feel free to do so. I wanted to try to articulate the most important reasons people have given me as to why they do not practice Mindfulness. I will start with the biggest myth of all:
1. Myth: Mindfulness does not work.
People have said all sorts of things to me regarding Mindfulness. Most of it, if stated negatively is based on hearsay and not understanding what it can bring. However, for my family, friends, work colleagues and associates, who have known me for a while have all commented on how significantly more relaxed I am; how I am so tolerant and forgiving; who much I will sit and listen to discussions; how engaging and generally happy I am. That is what Mindfulness has brought to me.
2. Myth: You can't meditate because you think too much.
Everyone thinks too much, on average between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day, this means between 35 and 48 thoughts per minute or one every couple of seconds per person. But it's often the people who say they "think too much to meditate" who could really benefit from giving the practice a try. The practice of meditation is about tuning in -- not tuning out. It is not about trying to blank your mind. I was at my monthly mindfulness group session last night and one of the attendees & I discussed her challenge of trying to meditate and the issue with to many thoughts going through her mind. My answer, is it comes with practice and to not beat yourself up if thoughts do flit across your mind, it happens to us all!
The type of mindfulness that I practices - based on the MBSR programme from Dr Mike Williams [Oxford University Mindfulness Centre] means I can either concentrate on my breathing, or consciously focus on the thoughts and feelings going on at that time. If you even try to practice the “7-11” method of breathing in for the count of 7 and breathing out for the count of 11 for just 1 minute, you will notice a difference. THis was the suggestion I shared and the lady said she would give it a try.
2. Myth: You can't meditate because you can't sit still.
For those who struggle with sitting still during meditation, good news! Moving around is totally fine, you can readjust your position,scratch an itch or just stretch your legs out in the middle of your practice. You do not have to be a statue. There is even a Mindful Movement exercise that I practice every weekday morning. It helps to me get stretching and being aware of my body.
3. Myth: You can't meditate because you don't have time.
We all are busy. We can always make the excuse that we do not have time. The quickest meditation I know of is the 3 minute breathing exercise. 3 minutes? 3 minutes! That is all it takes. And you will notice a difference. Meditating first thing in the morning makes your whole day go slower and many people say they actually get more done and feel more productive after meditation. Because meditation helps improve focus and lowers stress, you can actually fit more in if you take the time out to practice. Strange, but true.
4. Myth: You can't meditate because you don't know if you're doing it right.
The only wrong or bad meditation is the one you don't do at all. Meditation is pretty simple. The simplest one I know of is focusing on your breathing. When you notice that your mind has drifted off, as it will, acknowledge that this has occured, congratulate yourself for noticing it and simply come back to the breathing you are focused on. Don't critisie yourself.
5. Myth: Meditation has to be religious or spiritual praying
I came to Mindfulness by complete accident, through watching a Youtube video from the School of Life where Ruby Wax talked about how she had dealt with depression. Go check it out here:
She referenced a Doctor Mike Williams and I checked out what it was all about and came across his book - Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Doctor Mike Williams. On a pure whim, I bought the book and that is where my journey started. I did not realise that the book was in fact the 8 week MBSR programme. I started reading it and thought, why not try it. Other people may have come to meditate through Buddhism or some other religion. Each to their own.
6. Myth: Meditation is only for stressed out people.
While meditation helps lower the presence of coristol, the stress hormone, in our bodies, there are many other benefits of the practice. Meditation helps boost our immune systems, improves concentration, decreases blood pressure, improves sleep, and can increase your feelings of happiness.
7. Myth: Meditation is only for adults. kids meditate
One of my previous articles talked about how schools and colleges in the UK are reaching out to start using Mindfulness and meditation in the daily activities of the school. From primary school children [ages 6 years and above], right through to teenagers in 6th form [18 year olds]; schools across the UK are taking it up. So, if your children are doing it, why not do it with them.
8. Myth: Finally, Meditation takes years to learn.
While the Dalai Lama says that meditation can change your life, he has also been practicing for most of his life. Fear not. You can actually learn in minutes. I have helped out on a number of Mindfulness taster days and the people that have been on the one day course come away feeling invigorated, uplifted and can feel the benefits straight away.
So what have you got to lose?
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations