Mystery of Meditation - Photo-by-Joshua-Woroniecki-on-Unsplash

Debunked — The “Mystery” of Meditation

3 minutes to read
Uschi Heyd

Uschi Heyd

(Senior Yoga Teacher, Bachelor of Arts in Educational Psychology, Diploma in Yogic Studies and Teacher Training)

Beginner

If you wonder what you were doing in the past, look at your body;
to know what will happen to you in the future, look at your mind.
— Dalai Lama

Let’s dispel doubts

Forty years ago nobody talked about the importance of exercise for one’s physical and mental health. Today, this is a well-accepted fact.

Mindfulness and meditation practices fall into the same category and are quickly becoming known as mainstream and necessary tools for managing one’s well being.

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about meditation and mindfulness. It is not unusual to hear people say:

I can’t meditate, I have tried. It is simply not for me. 

I can’t sit on the floor. 

I can’t sit still. 

My mind is too busy.

I don’t have time.

Any one of the above might be enough to stop you from trying and hence miss out on the many benefits.[¹] If you identify with any of the above statements please read on.

I can’t sit on the floor

You have probably seen images in magazines of beautiful people sitting cross-legged, hands placed in a mudra and their eyes closed. 

They look to be at peace with themselves and the world – an image that might appear completely unattainable to you. As peaceful as such images might look, they can lead to incorrect assumptions.

Let me be clear here: You do NOT need to sit on the floor cross-legged to meditate. There is nothing wrong with meditating while sitting on a chair,  a park bench or even on the bus or a train.

There are, however, 3 things to be aware of. These are:

1. Sit in a way that allows your spine to maintain its natural curves
Why? – This way the body is most supported and experiences least strain on the back, shoulders and neck. Most importantly, the breath has space to flow freely.

2. Have your feet placed comfortably on the floor.
If the chair is too high, place your feet on some books or do the best you can in other situations. Why? – It helps to feel physically grounded and stabilises your posture.

3. Place your hands comfortable in your lap or on your thighs, in a way that allows the shoulders to remain upright.
Why? –  So there is minimal strain on your neck, shoulders and back.

I can’t sit still

If this is your mantra then even the thought of meditating can make you feel irritated and tense. However, it is a thought worth examining.

Here are some tips:

1. Do not make yourself sit still. To begin with, allow yourself to fidget. 

2. Be curious about the reactions in the body and gradually let the body settle. Start with only 2 – 5 minutes at a time. 

3. Drop the thought ‘I have to sit still’ and simply sit and watch with curiosity. Curiosity leads to new discoveries and softens long held beliefs about the way things are.

My mind is too busy

There is a misconception that in meditation we try to empty our mind of thoughts. It is important to understand that it is the nature of the mind to create thoughts and emotions. 

What we aim to achieve with meditative practices is to train our awareness to recognise the thoughts for what they are, products of the mind.

This allows us the freedom to choose which thoughts to ignore and which ones to nurture. Thus, little by little, we learn to direct the mind rather than being controlled by it.[²]

I don’t have time

Start with 5 minutes a day seated or walking meditation as your ‘formal’ practice. The formal practice is your training ground for learning to be more present in day to day activities and interactions. In short, you train yourself to ‘make time to smell the roses’.

Why is this important? We train ourselves to experience life as it unfolds rather than being caught up in our heads with worries, wishful thinking or regrets of the past. This opens us to new possibilities.

However, sometimes all of this is easier said than done, which is why practice makes perfect. To read more about similar topics and have good guidance around them, I would suggest that you join our healthy community and Subscribe to our Newsletter. That way, you will always be informed when a new article will be published.

Uschi Heyd is a mind-body practitioner, mentor, facilitator and educator. She has been recognised as a senior teacher with Yoga Australia and recently co-authored ‘Yoga for Health and Wellbeing Training for prisoners in NZ’. 

Uschi draws on knowledge and wisdom that she gained from 30 years of spiritual practice and academic and personal study in yoga, education, psychology & nutrition. She combines her love of yoga and psychology with her passion for education and creative expression, which can be seen in her new venture KindLiving (www.kindliving.co.nz). Uschi is based in Dunedin, NZ.

References

(1) Grossman P, Niemann L, Schmidt S, Walach H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosom Research, 57(1), 35-43. doi: 10.1016/S0022-3999(03)00573-7. PMID: 15256293.

(2) Schwarz, N. (2000). Emotion, cognition, and decision making. Cognition and Emotion, 14(4), 433–440. https://doi.org/10.1080/026999300402745

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