If you're a first-timer who is trying to tap into your inner truth by following an online video or class, chances are you're probably intimidated. The media today can be rather off-putting. If the idea of a svelte, tall, blonde woman in the trendiest of activewear sitting in a lotus yoga pose chanting, “om” scares you, we totally understand.
Unlike other wellness trends, mindfulness meditation has had the longest '15 Minutes of Fame' moment thanks to the practice's amazing health benefits. No doubt meditation has been around as a concept and as a mental and emotional exercise forever. However, it's important to remember that beginning the journey of reaching mindfulness isn't 'one size fits all'. Everybody is different, functions at a different level, breathes differently and reacts to a growth process in their own way.
The good news is that none of these images you see around you has much to do with mindfulness. Let’s get beyond the clichés and break down the truth about mindfulness and the health benefits surrounding it.
Misconceptions about mindfulness
1. Mindfulness is a quick fix
It’s not. It has enormous benefits. Self-awareness helps you be more focused, calm and balanced so your relationships, wellbeing and sense of clarity improve. It takes regular practice over a period of weeks to see these benefits.
2. Mindfulness means emptying your mind
Not true. The mind will always generate thoughts. Trying to change, suppress or resist thoughts is a huge source of distress. It’s rather about altering your relationship to thoughts so you can let them come and go like the weather. You develop a deeper, more authentic sense of self – an inner compass to steer through the challenges life brings, with greater clarity and kindness.
3. Mindfulness is for everyone
It’s not. Some people find it incredibly difficult to sit still. The pressure to do so can be counterproductive, making them feel like failures, especially if they lack confidence. Some people just don’t take to it and that’s fine.
4. Mindfulness is hippie nonsense
Not true. Scientific research shows that the brain changes shape according to how it’s used (1). Mindfulness intentionally exercises the brain in ways that alter the shape and functioning of key areas that improves mental and emotional wellbeing.
5. Mindfulness is new: it was invented in California in the 1970s
Not true. It goes back two thousand years, as one part of a tried and trusted eight-part road map for living a fulfilling life, cultivating wisdom, and using your energy well.
6. Mindfulness fixes everything
It’s doesn’t. You’ll feel clearer and better about yourself so you might be able to cope better with life’s challenges. It can also improve stress-related health problems. However, it’s not some global panacea which miraculously wipes away life’s ups and downs.
7. Mindfulness is easy
Not true. It takes self-discipline, perseverance and patience. The good thing is that, by developing these skills in your practice, these powerful resources transfer into other areas of your life.
8. Mindfulness is complicated
It’s not. Mindfulness is about being in the present – being connected, grounded and in touch, naturally. We find these moments spontaneously through music, doing something creative, playing sport and being with people we love. Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis means we find these delightful spaces more easily.
9. Mindfulness is therapy
Definitely not. It is, however, used in some courses which have become the modern 'face' of mindfulness, hence the misunderstanding. Mindfulness is about making the most of who you are, being comfortable in your own skin and successful on your own terms. If you do suffer from emotional or mental health issues, it's advisable to seek the professional help of a therapist and Doctor.
10. Mindfulness is passive
It’s not. Regular practice leaves you energised, relaxed and awake. You become more able to make sensible choices, wasting less energy in bad habits and patterns that don’t serve us.
So go on and try to keep these tips in mind the next time you sit for a meditation session. You might be surprised at how much more comfortable you become!
1. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2802367/