Despite its remarkable potenti

Mind Enlightenment Need article by balvinder Kumar

Despite its remarkable potenti

Some common myths and misconceptions about mediation

Over the past decade, there has been tremendous growth in mindfulness meditation in many parts of the world, especially in the USA

Despite its remarkable potential to transform oneself

It has become a billion-dollar industry ($ 1.1 billion in 2017) in America, where the number of meditation practitioners has recently grown from 4% to 15%. Large numbers of CEOs and Fortune 500 companies have introduced it to their employees, primarily to increase productivity and reduce stress levels. Educational institutions, as well as hospitals and medical universities, have adopted mindfulness in a big way.

In hospitals or specialist clinics for pain therapy and stress reduction, this program has been officially taken up for their patients.

More than 1000 apps are currently available for teaching and practicing meditation. It’s clear from the above that meditation has become a widespread movement in the USA.

Though the corresponding figures are not available for India, it’s certain that a far smaller percentage of Indians are engaged regularly in meditation.

Isn’t that surprising? Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, way back in 1975, introduced Transcendental Meditation ™ in the USA, making it popular among a large population.

India is the land of origin of meditation practice. The oldest documented evidence of meditation practice is found on the Indian subcontinent, from approximately 5,000 to 3,500 BCE, where wall art shows people seated in meditative postures.

Many kinds of meditation practices began and developed in India. Unfortunately, the number of meditation practitioners in India has not grown to the extent that many countries are now witnessing.

The reasons why meditation practice is not becoming a widespread movement in India as it is in many other parts of the world are the beliefs and myths that are attached to it.

  • First, people are not convinced full-heartedly that just sitting silently can stop the movement of thoughts in their minds. 
  • Failed meditators around the world assumed and concluded that after a few minutes (or even days) of effort it’s not possible to disregard their thoughts. They don’t realize that managing one’s thoughts requires time and effort. Sitting for just a few minutes will not reduce the flow of thoughts into their mind.

Very often, people start learning or practicing meditation when they are mentally stressed or disturbed. At trying times, it’s undoubtedly more difficult to practice meditation.

Agitated, our “MONKEY MIND” is far more restless

It requires rigorous efforts to calm it. Many people in sheer frustration discontinue practicing meditation. Another related belief that people often harbor is that it takes years to get benefits or desired results from meditation.

On the contrary, studies have confirmed that within a few days, people start getting results. The mind starts feeling relaxed. We feel more focused and attentive after even two weeks of practice. Only when people think it would take months and even years to get desired results, they are obviously hesitant to go for meditation.

Time constraint is another excuse people often use to rationalize their reluctance. Without a doubt, we are all busy people, even if we actually have plenty of time available for meditation.

People don’t know how to manage their time effectively. Meditation even improves the skill of time management. Since with meditation, one becomes more focused on all matters, more spare time is freed up for productive use. More importantly, some people perceive meditation as a practice meant for spiritual people, who have little to no interest in worldly affairs.

Especially among older people, this belief is very prevalent. They feel once we start meditating, we will lose interest in our family, relationships, and society at large.

They often believe that meditation is meant for people like monks, living at high altitudes, having no interest in the outside world.

They are oblivious to the fact that mindfulness-based meditation can be practiced whenever we have time, even while traveling, walking, and simply relaxing. It’s not necessary to practice it during the early hours of the day. That notion of practicing meditation at dawn is no longer valid. Lastly, in India, a variety of meditation practices are currently in vogue. Many spiritual leaders are promoting their own “designer” meditation. Some of them are not mindfulness-based practices. 

For instance, practitioners may be required to “concentrate” on some object, or even on a point between their eyes (the trail, or third eye). Unfortunately, there are no studies or research to corroborate the benefits of practicing these newer approaches to meditation.

Despite that, hundreds of thousands of followers are regularly meditating along “New & Improved” lines. That’s why when followers don’t observe quick and easy results, they discontinue the practice. Hence, meditation as a whole is discredited.  Those who believe they have failed will obviously have second thoughts before they restart meditation.

A listing of meditation’s benefits on both physical and mental health, validated by research studies, would become voluminous.

Therefore, only certain critical areas are being touched upon here. When we meditate, we practice moment-to-moment awareness while observing whatever happens around us. It’s like any other physical exercise. The result is that our mind gradually becomes more focused and attentive.

As we become more aware, our meta-awareness (awareness of awareness) increases. We become non-reactive, responding appropriately to situations as the need arises.

We then start observing ourselves from a distance. It’s a big positive change that happens when we meditate. We begin to make more conscious choices and decisions because of increased self-awareness and attention to the present moment.

Once we begin to live mindfully and are attentive to whatever is happening around us, many pleasant changes in our mind and body start manifesting. Whatever may be our core purpose in life, we all want to live a healthy and happy one for the longest possible time. No one wants to die prematurely.

What is happening now is that more people are dying from lifestyle diseases. Research has shown that through the regular practice of meditation, we can slow down our aging process. Therefore, despite its enormous benefits, established through innumerable scientific studies, meditation is still underrated and not widely acceptable to the masses.   

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Balvinder kumar

I am retired IAS officer and writer of books and doing work for mind therapy.

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