[Editor’s note: Hard to believe, but people still have misconceptions about meditation. Check out some other debunked myths here.]
Picture this: it’s a quiet afternoon aside from two birds singing to one another.
A soft breeze blows past your face as you inhale deeply. You feel the sunlight warm your skin as all the muscles in your body begin to relax, one by one. You’ve never felt more clear or settled.
…and you haven’t even left your living room.
When people talk about meditation, it often conjures visions of remote monasteries nestled away into a lush mountainside or expensive retreats with incense, silence, and possibly even crystals. Oh, and loads and loads of paid time off. No one has time for that, which often equates to people thinking they don’t have time, or the means, to meditate.
Here’s the thing, meditation is not a luxury for the one percent. It’s for everyone. And it’s a skill you can learn even without sunshine and songbirds. So before you open your mouth with an excuse for why it’s not for you, let’s debunk some of those myths:
Of course it doesn’t! It’s actually kind of impossible to clear the in the mind. It’s science. Our fast running minds are actually an evolutionary trait that stems from our ancestors’ survival instincts to be constantly seeking clues and connections in a dangerous environment.
That said, meditation isn’t asking the impossible. Completely clearing your mind of thoughts, while it might be nice, isn’t the end goal for meditation. The idea is to bring calmness and clarity, and if a few wandering thoughts creep in, you aren’t doing it wrong—just acknowledge them and let them go. Guided meditation is a great way to gently remind you to bring back the focus when you catch your mind running down a mental to-do list. Don’t be intimidated by believing meditation requires you to be superhuman. It’s a skill anyone can learn, even the most overactive brains.
It may not be science, but it’s pretty safe to say that not many people have “free time.” We live in a fast-paced, connected world where everyone is always “on,” with adults spending 11 hours a day with their gadgets. This can make trying to find the time and space to turn “off” seem sort of daunting. We’ve reached a point where finding time to relax is hard, the time is precious, and there are many more things we’d all love to do with it besides meditation. Who wants to give up their guilty pleasure TV shows in favor of sitting in silence for long stretches of time? Not many people.
Meditation—while still a commitment—doesn’t have to be a big one. Just ten minutes a day is beneficial for reducing stress and increasing mindfulness. Make it part of your day, just like brushing your teeth. It can be in the morning when you first wake up, in the afternoon, before bed, before a tough meeting, after a good date, really whenever you like. Meditation is so flexible, it’s easy to fit it into your ever-changing, always-busy schedule.
Unfortunately, meditation is a self-reflective, mindful practice that often gets lumped into new age trends. Health trends have been known to sweep hoards of people off their feet with “all the answers”. This excitement can encourage people to spend whatever it takes on a new fad in search of optimal health. Have you had a $12 cold pressed juice yet?
While this spell can enchant many, it can also turn some away, writing it off as a marketing ploy with no real effects. Sadly, many wonderful, time-tested practices of mindfulness fall victim to this sort of exploitation. Just as you don’t actually need to be wearing Lululemon to vinyasa flow, you don’t really need anything expensive to meditate. Forget incense, handmade Tibetan pillows, rare teas, gongs, or even building an add-on reflection room to your home. You don’t need to sign up for costly week-long retreats or collect a library of literature. Sure, you CAN do all these thing, but it’s not necessary. That’s beauty of meditation: it requires nothing but a small commitment from yourself—an investment with infinite returns.
The modern human brain is only two percent of our body weight, but it uses 20 percent of our resting energy. This is exhausting for your brain to be running at all times. Imagine if you exercised the rest of your body at the same pace as your brain? It’s not possible. At some point you would need to rest and recharge, otherwise, you’d experience some serious burnout. The same principle goes for your noodle. Aside from giving your mind a break from its daily grind, meditation and mindfulness have been proven to decrease chronic pain, anxiety/depression, cardiovascular disease, and insomnia.
Is meditation actually necessary? Maybe not, but if someone told you there was a skill you could learn that didn’t take much time, didn’t require any fancy tools, and could improve your health, relationships, and sleep … wouldn’t you try it?
The author of this post is an editorial contributor to Headspace. These are their views, experiences and results and theirs alone. This contributor was paid for their writing.