Do I Really Have to Sit Like That?

Do I really have to sit like that? These days we are constantly stimulated – mentally, emotionally and physically. Not surprisingly, taking a break from this stimulation actually improves your health, your work, your relationships, and your life.

That is why meditation is becoming more and more popular. It is a great way to take a break, unplug, and reduce stress that builds up and causes disease.

Did you know that over 60% of all doctors’ visits are due to stress related complaints? Meditation is the perfect antidote for stress. And it is a great way to find out who you really are.

Meditation is a time-tested practice that benefits mind, body and spirit. Through inner exploration, meditation awakens creativity, healing, and transformation.

Quieting the mind, or meditation in general, can seem impossible to do especially for a beginner. The mind is used to wandering and being focused outward, and focus inward might not come easily at first. Through the practice of meditation, the nervous system grows used to turning inward.

Here are some misconceptions I hear all the time about meditation and the reason people are not so sure they can do it. And information to set you straight.

I can’t stop thinking.

That’s right, you can’t – it is nearly impossible to stop thinking by thinking about it.   The nature of the mind is to think, like the nature of your eye is to see.  Over time, as you practice meditation correctly however, you’ll find that you can easily access more and more subtle levels of thinking, and eventually, more and more silence.  The mind stops thinking on its own, for a moment or two. Thoughts will always be a part of your meditation.

I will have to work very hard to meditate correctly.

Meditation is something that anyone can learn.  I haven’t met one person who can’t do it. It does take the ability to sit relatively still, with your eyes closed or semi-closed, and the willingness to put your attention on a focus. Most people can do that. Some meditations have you focus on an area of your body, or a color, a candle flame, a sound, or a thought. You’ll need to spend a few minutes every day to practice turning your attention inward, but anyone can do it. Most people can do it easily the very first time.

I’ve  listened to CDs and read books, and I can’t do it.

As long as you can sit down and close your eyes, you can meditate. Most people have so many expectations about what they should be experiencing in meditation, that it can make it nearly impossible to sit easily without effort. I always suggest that people get professional instruction by someone who has had years of daily meditation experience. I also think it is helpful to have a seasoned meditator to practice with sometimes, so you’ll gain confidence that you can actually do it.

I’ll have to wear unusual clothing.

You don’t need to wear a special robe, hat, or love beads  You don’t need to chant out loud either. Though you can if you want to. But it doesn’t necessarily make you more of a meditator.  Meditation is a personal experience: you do it the way you want to by following the techniques that suit you and your lifestyle.  Always be kind to yourself, and stay with your own integrity. Just because some people insist you should look a certain way if you are really into meditation, heed your own inner wisdom, trust yourself and do what you want.

Meditation will make me too relaxed to get in the game.

Most people are used to functioning while being tense or stressed, and they feel it’s the only way to get something done. You know, Red Bull, caffeine, performance, competition, beat yourself until you get it right. In reality, over time, the effects of stress can lessen your ability to concentrate or make good decisions.  You won’t become lazy or too relaxed: you’ll be clearer, and operate in your life from a place of centeredness and balance. You’ll probably gain some focus, creativity and better concentration. With meditation, you’ll learn be more relaxed and you can do less and accomplish more. Nice!

Isn’t it dangerous? Won’t I leave my body or run into evil spirits?

I live in Sedona, and there is an emphasis on the experiences in meditation. But I look for the experiences in my life to show me whether meditation is working or safe. Some people get great insights and others love it when they lose a sense of where their body begins and ends.  But my experience over the past 20 years has been that meditation isn’t like that, at least the type of meditation that helps you to transcend the world of thought and form.  The real reason to meditate is to have a better life. There are so many experiences you can have in meditation: you’ll have thoughts (lots of them), get distracted by noises outside, feel uncomfortable, see colors, feel relaxed, feel restless, feel bliss, etc. But the real measure of how your meditation is working is by taking a look at your life. Are you happier, healthier, more relaxed? Are your relationships more fulfilling, are you making better choices?

I’ll have to change my religion, because Buddhists and Hindus know what’s up.

Meditation is a practice, not a religion. Many of the techniques come from an Eastern religion of philosophy, but meditation can be secular too. It is really about closing your eyes, sitting still, and reconnecting with who you really are. You can meditate if you are atheist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Quaker, Buddhist, Hindu, anything. Regardless of your background or beliefs you can meditate. It might even make you more connected with the religion you already practice.  Or it might strengthen your connection with your creator, whatever your belief is.

I am so busy, I don’t have the time in my day.

How long do you wait in line for a latte? How much time do you spend checking your email? Most of us have five minutes extra a day. It is totally worth taking this time out for a time in. I think of meditation as the perfect way to reduce stress, and it rejuvenates me.  If you meditate for a short time each day, you’ll receive more benefits than sitting in front of the TV or surfing the internet. It’s all about priorities, and your health and happiness.

It is for weirdos.

I used to be considered weird by my family, before they got married, had kids, got jobs, got stressed. I headed off to an ashram, lived in a monastery, made meditation my priority.  Now that their kids are teens, and they themeslves aren’t kids anymore, they realize that I might be onto something.  They ask me how I am so happy, why I look so good, and why I am so healthy. Yes, in our culture, it might just seem strange to see someone sitting up with their eyes closed, in silence, without their iPod in, for an extended period of time, but it really isn’t.  That being said, some people who meditate are definitely weird and have really unusual beliefs. But there are people like that everywhere.

I cannot sit like that.

Even though sitting in the lotus position, a traditional yoga posture for meditation; it’s not required for you to sit in any special way.  If crossing your legs is uncomfortable, it won’t help you to turn your attention inward. You can meditate while you are sitting down almost anywhere – as long as you are not driving. I teach people to sit in a chair and they can have their back supported, or not. It is best not to lie down (you’ll fall asleep and that is NOT meditation.)  Some people sit on cushions on the floor, others sit up against their headboards when they wake up in the morning. It is totally up to you. The most important thing is that you do it!

There are many different types of meditation. Some examples are following the breath, repeating a mantra out loud or silently, chanting, walking meditations, or gazing at a candle. Find out more here. Each individual has a unique experience with each one. You’ll find what works for you.

Just for a few seconds, notice the way the breath is flowing into and out of your body. There are many little things to notice about the way breath feels, and if you start paying attention to it, you can settle into meditation.

Anyone can learn to meditate. Don’t have any experience? Don’t worry. If you can think a thought, you can meditate, and you don’t have to change a thing – not your diet, your religion, your beliefs – nothing. You just have to have the desire to do it and then take a short time out every day. You’ll notice the benefits unfold naturally and effortlessly.

Sarah McLean director of Sedona Meditation Training can be reached at (928) 204-0067.

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