Myth: “MEDITATION JUST DOESN’T WORK FOR ME.” OR: “I CAN’T MEDITATE.”
Truth: MEDITATION WORKS FOR EVERYONE AND EVERYONE CAN DO IT.
I hear it all the time: “I can’t meditate—it just doesn’t work for me.” Imagine if a baby who was just learning how to walk tried to take a step and fell down, then turned around and said, “Sorry, Mom and Dad—this walking thing just doesn’t work for me.” Silly, right? But meditation is like walking—it’s an activity we learn to do in very short spurts, then continue to practice and improve upon for the rest of our lives. Once you’ve mastered the basics of walking, you can go in any direction you’d like—you can run the fifty-yard dash in gym class, you can train for a 5k, you can become a marathoner. Or, like many people, you might just stick with basic walking. But the core mechanics involved in each of these activities is exactly the same: You put one foot in front of the other, and you move forward.
Meditation is just like that. You might just do three minutes a day; or work up to twenty. You might fall in love with it and decide to dig deep and do a retreat. But no matter where you find yourself currently, you are a meditator.
Myth: “THE REAL TYPE OF MEDITATION IS [X]—AND IF YOU DON’T DO [X], YOU’RE NOT REALLY MEDITATING.”
Truth: ANY TYPE OF MEDITATION IS “REAL”; NO ONE TYPE IS BETTER THAN ANOTHER.
When we start meditating, a common trap is to get caught in thinking we have to follow a specific type of meditation. When I got into meditation in the early nineties, people were very specific about it. I heard all kinds of dictums:
- You can’t be sitting on a chair—you have to sit on a cushion.
- Your legs need to be in this position.
- You have to have your right thumb on top and your left thumb on the bottom
- Your right heel must be in front.
- Your spine has to be right over your pelvis.
- You have to chant this or think about that.
All of these might be helpful suggestions to you—or not. To use meditation to reach your health goals, there are truly no absolutes of this kind. What works for you is what works for you. It doesn’t matter if you do a visualization or count your breaths, or simply take a moment to close your eyes and be still while riding on the bus—all of these are just tools, and all of them are forms of meditation. And that’s the ultimate goal of meditation: that, with practice, you will get to a level of comfort in which you can just tip back into that same relaxed, focused mental space on the drop of a dime, anytime you notice that you’re getting stressed. You become able to step out of the stress loop and remain cool, calm, and collected as often as you’d like.
Myth: “YOU HAVE TO MEDITATE FOR TWENTY MINUTES OR MORE, OR IT’S NOT WORTH IT.”
Truth: ANY AMOUNT OF MEDITATION CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN YOUR LIFE.
The length of time you spend meditating is absolutely secondary to frequency. If you have to struggle and force yourself to stay still for twenty minutes, you’re not going to get the health benefits that you would by simply sitting for five minutes and just paying attention to your breath. I would so much rather you meditate once a day for three minutes than once a week for twenty. Yes, that little time really does make a difference. One study found that as few as five minutes of meditation a day for four weeks significantly reduced participants’ measures of stress and anxiety and increased their perceived quality of life. Another study found that fifteen minutes of meditation a day reduced participants’ measures of stress by up to 36 percent. Not only does meditation not take a lot of time to be effective, but a new line of research also suggests that meditation actually changes our perception of time—making us feel as though we have more of it in our daily lives. Just a few minutes spent meditating can deepen and expand your experience of time itself. You will have fewer of those “Where did the day go?” moments.
You will gain a richness in your moment-to-moment existence.
Adapted excerpt from MEDITATE YOUR WEIGHT: A 21-Day Retreat to Optimize Your Metabolism and Feel Great. Copyright © 2016 by Tiffany Cruikshank. Published by Harmony Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.