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11 Misconceptions About Meditation

For more about how to get started with meditation, you may find this 1-page Google Doc helpful.

    1. You have to sit cross-legged.

    This is not true at all. Not only can you sit in a chair or even lie-down, you can also meditate while standing, walking, or even while performing activities in daily life.

    2. There is one style, method, or way to do it.

    Simply not true at all, there are many teachers & many methods.

    3. There is a goal, or something specific to achieve.

    There could be, but then again some teachers would say that if you have a goal in mind, you're potentially misguided. Either way, it is definitely not the case that there is some kind of finish line to cross at the end of a meditation.

    4. If you have thoughts, then you're doing it wrong.

    Even the most experienced teachers & practitioners have thoughts. You cannot stop your thoughts. As Allan Watts said, trying to stop your thoughts is like 'trying to smooth running water with a flat iron'.

    5. You have to do it for 10, 20, 40, etc., minutes per day.

    Simply not true at all, you can get started with ONE minute per day. Consistency > Length.

    6. You have to do it in a quiet place.

    Sure, this is helpful, and my preferred environment. However, sometimes I find beautiful moments of stillness meditating right in the middle of New York City, with very loud noises all around me.

    7. You have to close your eyes.

    Although most common, there are several teachers (Shinzen Young, Robert Peng, others) who teach various methods of meditating with eyes both open & closed. You do not always have to focus on the world within.

    8. You must remain completely still.

    While this is a healthy thing to practice sometimes, for some people, for some reasons, it is not wrong to move a little bit here and there, or to avoid pain, in all cases.

    9. You will experience a 'grand, rapturous, explosive' enlightenment.

    This is possible, but for most, it is not the case. In fact, 'enlightenment' is most likely different for everyone, and for some, including some Zen Masters, it is much more subtle.

    10. You're too green to teach it.

    Once you've had a bit of practice under your belt, you should teach it to others. In fact Shinzen Young points out that teaching meditation is an integral part of complete practice.

    11. You must always practice guided.

    You should probably have a teacher or guidance of some kind overall, but it is not the case that you must practice a guided meditation at all time.

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