Start Where You Are
COMMON MYTHS ABOUT MEDITATION
Myth 1: All Buddhists meditate.
Meditation is a common element of modern Buddhism. Historically, it was practiced by certain monks. Since the 20th century, meditation has begun to be widely practiced by laypeople. Still, it is a personal decision.
Myth 2: Meditation is always a religious practice.
For some people, meditation is primarily a spiritual practice but it doesn’t rely on a particular set of religious beliefs. Some meditate to find inner calm or to experience the mental and physical health benefits of the practice.
Myth 3: One must empty one’s mind in meditation.
The mind may often wander during meditation. The goal is to not engage with random thoughts. Simply observe the thoughts that arise, let them go without judgment, and return gently to the present moment. In meditation practice, we are not trying to be thought-less but thoughtful as an observer.
Myth 4: Meditation must be practiced in a special place.
Although meditation may be practiced anywhere, ideally it is best to set aside a quiet spot specifically for that purpose. If you practice regularly, you will find that simply sitting in the space you have set aside prepares your mind for meditation.
Myth 5: One must sit in a particular position to meditate.
Ideally, one sits on a mat or cushion in an upright and stable position, shoulders relaxed, and the hands resting softly in the lap or on the knees. Many people sit cross-legged and others kneel or sit in a chair. Others practice moving meditation while walking, or while doing yoga or tai chi.
Myth 6: Meditation is best practiced alone.
Many people meditate alone, but it is a matter of preference. Others may meditate with the community group for support in their personal practice. The goal is to meditate daily, preferably at the same time each day.
Myth 7: One should have inspirational experiences in meditation.
Having visions or experiencing peace of mind or instant enlightenment is not the purpose of meditation. Setting such lofty goals can create stress. It’s best to practice without expectations.
Myth 8: Meditation is too difficult for children.
Children are often willing to try meditation. A parent or teacher should gently guide a child to find techniques with which he or she is comfortable. Meditation can provide a child with tools to improve social interactions and deal with stress.
Myth 9: Meditation and mindfulness are the same.
Meditation and mindfulness are different but related. Through meditation, we become comfortable with our thoughts. This practice prepares us to be mindful in our daily activities, present with each moment as it occurs, moment by moment.
Myth 10: It takes years of practice to be good at meditation.
Some people experience restful feelings of calm as soon as they begin meditation. If you practice daily, even for a few minutes, and approach your practice with an open heart and no expectations, you will begin to notice benefits..
Practicing breath work (pranayama) can provide psychological, psychoanalytic, spiritual, cognitive, and physical benefits. Breath work has also been employed in a variety of treatment programs, including those for individuals who have been dealing with grief or loss, trauma, drug addiction, alcoholism, and related emotional and psychological issues. We also practice various forms of breath work to lead us into Meditation and while practicing Yoga. Our breathing takes place in our body. Through breath awareness we can find the blockages in our body and by taking our breath to them, work with them and release them. There is no body work that can succeed without using the breath to support it.
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Buddha’s universal insight into what causes suffering for people and what alleviates their suffering.
The Dharma Sitting, Dharma Talk, and Dharma Teacher
A Dharma Sitting usually includes Meditation and a Dharma Talk, a public discourse on Buddhist teachings and practice by a Dharma Teacher specially prepared and trained in the Buddhist tradition. It is an act of compassion in which
the teacher shares knowledge, meets the needs of the listeners, and helps those in the sitting deepen their understanding of mindfulness and loving-kindness.
Renowned Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh explains, “A Dharma talk must always be appropriate in two ways: it must accord perfectly with the spirit of the Dharma and it must also respond perfectly to the situation in which it is given."
It is very exciting to discover that by focusing on your breath, and by breathing in certain ways, you can awaken healing energies and calming forces within you. By controlling and directing your breath, you can control and direct many so called “unconscious” reactions or “involuntary” processes. Through conscious breathing you can regulate your physiological, emotional, psychological and spiritual states.