Though meditation has become increasingly popular and gained acceptance throughout the world, many people, including writers, still have misconceptions about meditation that stop them away from trying it out.
Yesterday, I asked a few of my writer friends “Do you meditate?”
All of them answered, “No.”
That’s a pity. Meditation can help to overcome many of the problems that writers face—procrastination, fear of failure, perfectionism, resistance, and writer’s block.
These are the five main reasons why my friends hadn’t tried meditation:
1. Meditation is alien
One of the commonest myths about meditation is that it is an exotic, esoteric, Eastern, Buddhist, New Age, ritualistic, or religious activity done by monks in a monastery or forest.
However, this is far from true. All kinds of ordinary and highly successful people—students, doctors, athletes, musicians, executives, even children—incorporate meditation practice in their daily lives. You don’t have to leave your home or quit your job to practice meditation—you can do it right now, right here.
2. Meditation is difficult to learn
You may believe that you need to attend a meditation retreat or take formal lessons from an experienced teacher to learn meditation because meditation is difficult to grasp. You may fear that if you try to do it on your own, you may not gain any benefit, or even worse, harm yourself and lose your sanity.
One of my friends said he hasn’t started meditation because he hasn’t been able to spare the time to attend a ten-day retreat. It’s unlikely that he will be able to take ten days off any time soon. Fortunately, he doesn’t need to. Specialized coaching is helpful but not absolutely essential to start meditating.
3. Meditation is difficult to do
On the contrary, meditation is remarkably easy to practice. You can start right now. All you have to do is to pay attention to your incoming and outgoing breath.
Here’s an ultra-short meditation exercise: Close your eyes and count five breaths. Now open your eyes. That’s it. You have just practiced mindfulness of breath, which is the most common and effective meditation technique.
Next, set your timer for five minutes and observe or count your breath until you hear the beep. Record your experience. Repeat daily.
4. You have to meditate in the cross-legged posture
This is another enduring and widespread myth. Meditation does not require any specific posture. You can be mindful of your incoming and outgoing breath in all postures—sitting, standing, walking and even lying down.
Similarly, you don’t have to go to a meditation centre or temple to meditate. Wherever you go, wherever you are, you have the wonderful capacity to be mindful, to be a witness to everything happening around you and within you. You can be mindful everywhere—at home, in the office, in the gym, or in your favorite café.
5. Meditation needs a lot of time
You may have heard that you need to meditate for long periods every day for several years before you can hope to get any benefit. This is linked to the concept of attending intensive meditation retreats or even going to the Himalayas for a few months or years.
It does sound fun but you don’t really have to sell your Ferrari unless you want to. You can gain a lot of benefit from your daily meditation practice right now without changing anything or going anywhere.
There are many other myths about meditation but these are the most common.
So let me ask you: “Do you meditate?”
If your answer is “No,” what’s stopping you?
Let us know in the comments below.
(21 August 2013)
Rohi Shetty is a medical doctor, Vipassana meditator, writer, editor, translator and blogger. His short stories and articles have been published online and in print. He blogs at http://rohishetty.com.