Over the years of teaching meditation, I’ve become familiar with many of the fears that new meditators raise when considering a meditation practice. Meditation has become much more familiar in the public mind over the last couple of decades, and many of the stereotypical beliefs about meditation being a difficult practice that’s only for monks and recluses have now been well disabused. Now, there’s a general recognition that a meditation practice brings great benefits for a more relaxed, alert mind and body and a greater sense of well-being and self-awareness. Still, there are certain misconceptions about meditation that persist for some and these tend to rise up as fears.
It Takes Too Much Time
The most common concern potential meditators express is that they’re afraid they won’t have time to meditate. They think they’re too busy, and that finding even 20 minutes twice a day isn’t possible. This belief in a lack of time really stems from a misunderstanding of the value of meditation. In fact, we can always find 20 minutes for something we believe is important or valuable.
Also, meditators generally report that the time they spend meditating is more than made up for later in their day because they are mentally sharper, and more productive and efficient as a result. Once we recognize the value that comes from our daily meditation we simply schedule that time into our daily plan.
It’s Too Hard to Concentrate
Another frequent concern or fear regarding meditation is the perception that it requires a greater level of mental focus or concentration than we possess. Many people feel that their minds are just too scattered or too stressed to meditate. They think that they don’t have the ability to concentrate well enough to achieve the state of silent mind and therefore they won’t get the benefit of meditating.
In actuality, every engaged and responsible person in the modern world has a somewhat over stimulated and stressed mind. But this nature of the mind to move from one thought to another is in fact the very basis of meditation. We don’t eliminate the tendency of the mind to jump from one thought to another. That’s not possible anyway. Rather, we make use of that tendency in order to give the mind a taste of what it’s really searching for—an experience of inner quietness and completeness. That’s the technique of meditating. Having lots of thoughts doesn’t disqualify you from meditating. Having thoughts is really the only precondition for meditating.
It Will Make Me Soft
The third most common misconception is that meditation is for people without real problems and responsibilities. They are afraid that meditation will make them too soft or too nice and therefore less effective in dealing with difficult and challenging life situations. There’s the fear that in being relaxed and at peace, they will lose their edge and effectiveness. But it’s a misconception to think meditation is a retreat from life. In fact, meditation prepares us for dynamic activity. It prepares us for challenges with greater energy, clarity, and creative problem solving. We don’t meditate for the sake of quietness and peace. We meditate so that we are clearer, more intelligent, and more competent.
Once an individual begins meditating and experiences their inner nature and feels the benefits in their mind and body, all these concerns disappear.