The Surprising Problem With Meditation

By Rohi Shetty

“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard that daily meditation practice is good for you. Innumerable research studies have proven beyond any doubt that daily meditation for even a few minutes can boost not only your mental, emotional, and physical health but also your creativity.

Easy does it!
Fortunately, meditation is surprisingly easy to learn and easy to do. You don’t have to go to a meditation center to learn how to meditate. You can practice it at home at your convenience, seated comfortably on your favorite chair (no need to sit in the lotus posture). You also don’t need to believe in any esoteric philosophy or wear beads or light incense. Not convinced?

Here’s a quickstart meditation lesson:
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.

If you want to continue, set your cell phone alarm for two minutes and note your natural incoming and outgoing breath until you hear the beep. Whenever your attention wanders, bring it back to the breath as soon as you notice. Repeat daily and gradually increase the duration of practice.

Honey-cake, anyone?
The benefits of meditation practice are immediate as well as long term. The Buddha compares mindfulness to honey-cake because it is “beneficial in the beginning, beneficial in the middle and beneficial in the end.” Like writing, the practice of meditation is its own reward if we surrender to the process. And it’s more fun than fun.

Why is sitting meditation a problem?
The problem with meditation, and it’s a pretty dangerous one, is the misconception that meditation has to be done sitting with eyes closed. Perhaps this is because most, if not all, pictures of meditation have stunning supermodels sitting serenely with eyes closed. Instant nirvana

However, we are already doing enough sitting throughout the day: while commuting, during meals, working in your cubicle, during office meetings (yawn!), and um… while watching TV or YouTube cat videos.

Sitting = Smoking!
We are sitting too much and moving too little. And all this sitting is making us sick and killing us.

In a recent interview with The Los Angeles Times, Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk, has summed up his findings about the adverse effects of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles in two sentences: “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.

For example, students who attend ten-day Vipassana courses in the tradition of S.N. Goenka are advised to do formal sitting meditation for two hours every day—one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. That doesn’t leave much time for exercise, especially if you have a full-time job.

Simple Solution
We need to change our opinion about meditation. Ajahn Chah, a revered Thai monk said, “People call sitting in a certain posture and doing some process ‘meditation’ but I call that ‘preparation’. Real meditation happens when the liking and disliking arise during the day—are you fooled by them, or can you see through them and abide free? This is real meditation—the rest is just preparation.”

So, if you have limited time, you don’t have to choose between exercise and meditation. Get off your meditation cushion and combine meditation practice with exercise. Start with walking meditation or mindful walking.

In the next article, we’ll learn four ways to practice walking meditation.

Join the conversation
Have you tried walking meditation?
Share your experiences in the comments below.

(28 September 2016)


Rohi Shetty has published nine Kindle books on Amazon. If you want a free review copy of his next book, The Ultimate Guide to Walking Meditation as well as admission to the companion course, send him an email at  with “Walking meditation” in the subject.

Bonus points if you send one or more questions about walking meditation.


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