A few weeks ago I was teaching an online meditation class to a group of busy executives the morning before their conference and an excited, but apprehensive executive popped into my online session early. He said he was brand new to meditation, willing to give it a try and asked with a nervous chuckle “so are we going to sit crossed legged this whole time and hum OM?”
This is a very common question and often many folks think this is the only way to meditate. While this is certainly one way to meditate there are literally an infinite number of ways to enjoy this ancient practice and to reap the huge stress reducing benefits it offers.
And you don’t need to be a monk in order to reap the numerous medical, physical and emotional benefits of meditation. In fact you can close your office door at work/home for 10 minutes a day and start down the magnificent journey of increased awareness, focus, happiness and relaxation right now.
My favorite definition of meditation is from Levey, J. & Levey, M.’s book Mindfulness, Mediation and Mind Fitness. They define mediation as “classically referring to a broad spectrum of method, disciplines, and practices for training our minds and reducing our neurotic tendencies and misconceptions while cultivating or strengthening our capacity for living with great wisdom, compassion, patience, balance, mastery of attention and other virtuous qualities of mind.”
Let’s debunk some common myths around meditation!
- To meditate you must sit crossed legged on the floor. While a traditionalist may decide to meditate in this way it is not necessary. Here is why: if you are so uncomfortable on the floor that you can think of nothing other than your discomfort then you are being distracted by sitting on the floor. Instead make yourself comfortable. Sit in a chair and anchor your feet on the ground with your spine tall. The point is to find a comfortable position to meditate so that you can focus on your meditation and not your discomfort.
- You have to have a totally quiet mind in order to meditate successfully. This is not true. Now, as you work on your meditation practice you will find that month after month and year after year all that mental noise chatter will start to calm a bit. However, when you first start meditation you will notice just how many thoughts you have. Simply be curious and notice your thoughts. Observing your thoughts is a form of Mindfulness Meditation. Try this: notice a thought, put it on a cloud and watch the cloud float away. The next time a thought pops into your mind repeat putting it on a cloud to float away! And keep repeating. You are practicing mindfulness meditation as you observe your thoughts.
- You have to focus on nothing. Nope! You can focus on your breath. As simple as this: close your eyes and say in your mind “I inhale for 1, 2, 3, 4” as you inhale and say “I exhale for 1, 2, 3, 4” as you exhale. When your mind wanders pull it back to that count. Keep this up for 5 to 15 minutes and you have just meditated!
- You need to go somewhere special to meditate. Absolutely not as you can literally meditate anywhere. Now you can most certainly meditate in a special places and have fun setting up your relaxation space. However I have been known to meditate in a very crowded room right before I give a workshop. I will find a corner out of the way, close my eyes, scan my body as I take it through relaxation and then focus on my breath to prepare myself to speak. Basically meditate where you are most likely to do it and when you need to do it.
- Meditation is religious. No. While meditation was discovered from religious context in the east and one goal of mediation is spiritual enlightenment this ancient technology has other goals and benefits that have nothing to do with religion such as training the mind to focus on one thing. Simply focusing on your breath, otherwise known as breath meditation, has enormous health benefits, such as reducing stress, and no religious context what-so-ever.
- You have to sit in silence to meditate. No, again. You can listen to any number of free guided meditations on YouTube or Insight Timer to be guided to relaxation. You can also sit in silence and focus on your breath, the space between your eye brow when you close your eyes, or gaze at a candle. The key here is that you have an abundance of different ways to meditate.
- You have to meditate for an hour a day to reap the benefits. Even just 10 minutes a day of any kind of meditation will provide benefits to the mind, body and spirit. Check out the plethora of benefits from reducing negative emotions to being beneficial for heart disease as described by Mayo Clinic here.
Have you tried to meditate? Would you like to? Please feel free to share your tips for meditating or let us know what is holding you back if you desire to start a meditation practice.
Breathe and Work, PLLC offers an array of corporate yoga classes including a popular 10-week guided corporate meditation sessions, corporate online meditation workshops and one-on-one meditation and visualization sessions for employees and teams.
Contact us today to learn more!