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Busting three common myths about meditation

Health and high performance coach Edwina Griffin from Energy Evolution reveals the benefits of meditating, its most common myths, and how to switch off the “monkey mind”.

I don’t know about you, but I find some days I just can’t ‘switch off’ my mind.

The ‘monkey mind’ – constant chatter in my head – just continues through the night unless I have something to distract me or slow it down. After all, our minds are meant to ‘think’ – that’s what the brain is programmed to do, isn’t it?!

I tend to go 100 miles an hour, so am certainly someone who needs tools to help me slow down the mind chatter and help me relax mentally and physically.

Research shows that both mindfulness and meditation can reduce stress, boost productivity, focus and strengthen relationships. They can also assist with managing depression, anxiety, addiction recovery and relapse prevention – and it has so many benefits, it’s worth incorporating into your daily routine.

Scientific studies of Indian yoga masters have shown that meditation can slow heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce the breathing rate, diminish the body’s oxygen consumption, reduce blood adrenaline levels, and change skin temperature.

Meditation can also assist with processing thoughts and emotions, and often results in insights during or after the meditation; when we stop the mind chatter, it creates the space for insights and creative ideas to be accessed; it enables emotions to flow through and it creates space for us to focus or refocus on what we want.

Providing the space for the thoughts and emotions to be processed in meditation means that they are no longer suppressed and they can be processed and released from your body and mind.

There are several misconceptions about meditation, so let’s dispel a few of the myths:

Myth #1: To meditate successfully, you must follow one technique

There are a range of different meditations and they all work, so choosing something that resonates with you and your view of the world when learning is an important starting point to ensure you have the motivation to stick with the practice. Some approaches include breath meditations, body relaxations, guided visualisations, connecting with guides, sound healings, pain management, mantra and chanting meditations. All approaches from structured, longer meditations to shorter meditations and mindfulness practices have benefit so try a few different techniques. Incorporate all that you can into your day and don’t think that if you can’t allocate 30 minutes a day to meditation that you won’t get any benefit. Two shorter meditations are certainly better for your mindset and health than nothing. When starting out, use music and/or burn essential oils to help you get into a relaxed state as you meditate.

Myth #2: If thoughts come into your meditation, you are doing it wrong

During a meditation you will often have many thoughts and emotions that come up. Thoughts aren’t good or bad so don’t fight the fact that thoughts come in, instead aim to allow and observe the thoughts and feel the emotions. Often we put our mental and emotional needs behind our busy life and schedule so we can become removed from our emotions which can be a recipe for depression and anxiety. Meditation provides an opportunity to reconnect with these untended parts of ourselves and to allow any thoughts and emotions we may have held down in the past, the opportunity to be expressed and have the potential to gain insights about the thoughts and emotions in the process.

Myth #3: A successful meditation means reaching the bliss state

The expectation of a perfect bliss state sets you up for disappointment. Setting a realistic goal for your meditation allows for many different experiences. It helps to know that no experience is wrong and you will (particularly when just starting meditation) get distracted, lose focus or even fall asleep. It’s about learning to accept rather than fight the experiences. Allow the various thoughts, emotions and sensations to come up, don’t resist them and just observe what is happening.

Sometimes your mental and emotional body needs to express and so a meditation with many thoughts and emotions may be just what you need on one day and other days you may sit in a space of nothingness and love, both experiences are as valuable as one another and the key is to allow and welcome it all. Mastering this compassion for self and others and sitting in the observer position without judgement is one of the goals and outcomes of regular meditation practice.
When learning meditation, be gentle with yourself and congratulate yourself for just turning up, regardless of what the experience is during the meditation. The discipline of regular practice is the first step and then enjoy being curious about the experiences and awakenings along the way!

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“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain