- Meditation is boring
The point of mediation is to really tune into something, to really experience it. This means, for example, that if you are having a cup of coffee, you are really paying attention to the experience of having that cup of coffee. You are focusing on the warmth of the cup in your hands, the aroma, the texture, what it looks like, perhaps the sounds as it is being made, the taste, taking each individual moment – knowing the coffee is not going to be exactly the same from one moment to the next. You focus on each mouthful, just savouring each individual experience, and focusing only on that drink. You are NOT making mental to-do lists in your head, pulling on your coat/shoes as you gulp it down, watching the people at the next table, or checking your emails/social media while you are drinking it.
Focusing solely on the full experience of drinking that coffee, is a meditation in itself. And people usually report that those drinks (or meals – you can do it with anything you choose to eat or drink!) are some of the best drinks/meals they have ever had, definitely meaning that there is no reason why meditation is inherently ‘boring’.
- Meditation means clearing my mind
This is one of the biggest myths of all. Many people think meditation means achieving a clear mind and having no thoughts. When they find this difficult to do, they feel like they are failing, and are ‘no good’ at meditation. Here’s the truth though – the ‘clear mind’ is impossible to achieve! The brain is a thought machine, its job is to produce thoughts, so you cannot stop it from doing that. Meditation is about becoming aware that YOU are not your thoughts. That you can actually step back and observe your thoughts. That you don’t need to believe everything you think. That you don’t need to engage with every thought. And to notice how our emotions (and subsequently also our actions) are shaped by our thoughts, but that over time, thoughts often change, and as they do so, so do our emotions, and the associated actions we feel compelled to take.
By using movement, or the breath, or an experience, to meditate you are likely to still have thoughts pop into your mind. But I imagine it like someone who insists on trying to throw me a ball while I’m trying to do something else – I can choose to try and catch every ball they throw (engaging with the thoughts) or I can choose to let that person keep throwing those balls, but stay focused on what I am doing.
So if you are trying to meditate and you notice your mind is wandering – rather than you having ‘failed’ at meditating, it actually means you ARE meditating! If you have noticed your mind has wandered, then you ARE observing what your mind is doing. The key when that happens, is to choose to not engage (or to disengage) with those thoughts, and to return to your focus of your meditation. The more you practice doing this, the easier it will become – this does not mean that you will stop having thoughts, it just means you will find focus and observation easier.
- Meditation means silence
Nope. You can meditate anywhere. In fact, sometimes it is in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the world that we need to meditate the most!
The most commonly used technique for meditation is to focus on the breath. You can do this at ANY time, in ANY place. You just turn your attention inwards and focus on that breath in, and breath out. In our MummyNatal classes we teach ways of how to tune into that breath – as we don’t try and control it (we don’t try and make the outbreath a certain length), we just use our senses to become focused and aware of the breath itself.
In fact, I used the breathing meditation the other week in the busy and noisy supermarket, when my youngest was having one of *those* moments! It was a great way to stay calm, separate judgement from reality, and to take time to respond rather than react!
- Meditation means being still
Meditation means focus and awareness, so can do done whether you are still or active. Some of us are more naturally predisposed to moving than stillness, and especially in my work teaching meditation skills to pregnant women to use in birth, I feel that understanding of how to use meditation with movement is crucial, as in labour it is often a very strong instinct for women to be mobile.
There are lots of ways which movement can be used in meditation. It is also true, that while ANY movement can be used meditatively, it is a choice to do so. For example, Tai Chi is often used for meditating, but doing Tai Chi does not automatically mean you are meditating – it is all in how you do it! This is the same with a lot of other disciplines, including yoga. In our MummyNatal birth preparation classes, we practice meditation using movements on a birthing ball, as well as a walking meditation.
- I’m a parent with kids, I don’t have time/space/energy for meditation!
There is an assumption that meditation needs to be done on your own and that it is not a child-friendly activity! I would actually say that children can actually bring some of the greatest opportunities for meditative practice, and as mentioned in #3, sometimes a short meditation helps us handle some of the challenges parenthood brings, when we are right in the middle of it. I know I used a walking meditation frequently, with my son in a sling, when he was a baby suffering with colic and crying for hours and hours on end.
So often as parents we can feel that we are having to do twenty things at once. We are making lunches while we are wiping noses. We are changing nappies while thinking about doing the school run. We are playing with our little ones while thinking about work. We are checking Facebook while we are feeding. Life is busy and hectic, and we multitask to stay on top of everything. Feeling like this is normal, and some multitasking is absolutely fine! But we can also choose to take 5/10/15 minutes each day to NOT multitask, but to be completely present with our children, and this in itself is a form of meditation.
Playing with our children, really getting involved with their activity 100%, is a kind of meditation. Choosing to really look, feel, smell, touch, just really experience our child as they feed, is a form of meditation. Even really focusing on buttering the bread for a sandwich can be a form of meditation! Any part of our day with our child can be a short meditation if we choose to focus on it completely, to not multitask or to engage with all those other thoughts which pop in.
So EVERYONE has the time, ability and opportunity to introduce a short meditative practice into their day, if they wish.