Most people assume I started meditating when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The truth is, I’ve explored meditation and mindfulness practices my entire life, but never with consistency. My real entrée to a formal meditation practice came nine months prior to my diagnosis. I was a stressed out entrepreneur on the verge of burnout. I knew nothing in my outer circumstances were going to change and I was desperate for some peace. That is when I attended my first meditation training with Deepak Chopra and the Chopra Center. It was a game changer, partly because it was seven consistent days of structured meditation time (and as we know, consistency is key), but also because it helped to dispel some myths that I held around meditation. Sure enough, I came back from that retreat and was able to cultivate a practice that fit my lifestyle. And as I’ve shared so many times before, I’m convinced those nine months of a daily practice were the training ground for my body-mind-spirit to integrate and experience cancer as the transformational catalyst it was. But that’s another story for another time☺
I’m now fortunate to go into companies and work with team members, entrepreneurs, and executives who are looking for tangible tools to manage stress and bring more presence, productivity and positivity into their lives. While each engagement varies in its desired goals, outcomes, and programming, I find that busting through some of the key myths I had around meditation are where some of the biggest breakthroughs occur for people. But don’t take my word for it, check out this entertaining play-by-play from a newbie meditator I had the pleasure of working with and her first week of trying to meditate.
Here are the top three myths that were key to my own breakthrough and helped to pave the path to cultivating my own daily practice and now for so many of my clients.
Myth #1: I have too many thoughts to meditate – It’s the nature of the brain to have thoughts just as it’s the nature of the eyes to see. I know I sound like a broken record, but I can’t emphasize this enough. Meditation is not the practice of having NO thoughts. Meditation is the practice of having a thought and coming back to a point of focus (breath, body, mantra, etc.), gently, repeatedly, and without judgment. While it seems counter-intuitive, having lots of thoughts in meditation can be a sign of the body releasing stress. Our goal is to be aware of our thoughts and come back to the point of focus.
Myth #2: I REALLY don’t have time – When people think of meditation, they envision big chunks of time of sitting and doing nothing and then imagine all the things they could get done instead. But the truth is, you can start with just five minutes. The daily discipline is more important than the duration when we first start meditating. This was really the impetus of why I created my Gateway To Presence online program. The ultimate goal is to give you lots of options for meditation so that you can be more efficient with the time you have. I purposefully offer a 5-minute option everyday, so it feels doable for most people. If you are nervous about finding five minutes, find something you do every day, and add some mindful breathing to that (i.e., brushing your teeth, taking a shower, making coffee, commuting to work). You can also check out some of my five-minute meditations on Insight Timer.
Myth #3: I’m too stressed to meditate – Stress gets a bad wrap, but the truth is it is designed to save our lives. Stress activates our sympathetic nervous system which triggers the fight-or-flight response, providing the body with a burst of energy and rise in stress hormones so that it can respond to perceived dangers. The challenge is our bodies don’t necessarily know the difference between being in danger for our life and forgetting to hit save on a word document or getting into a disagreement with a co-worker. It is this unnecessary activation of fight-or-flight that does our body more harm than good. With meditation, our bodies shift into a state of restful awareness and the parasympathetic nervous system (or, rest and digest). Meditation can help to increase the flow of energy in our bodies, which contributes to improving our healing and optimal health. With meditation, we won’t become lazy or too relaxed, but we’ll be clearer, more creative, and better able to respond to high-demand situations with more focus, effectiveness, and compassion.
As always, remember to try to let go of expectations and be kind to yourself.