In his presentation for the Mindfulness & Meditation Summit, Dan Harris discussed Tackling the Myths, Misconceptions, and Self-Deceptions That Stop You from Meditating. Dan is the author of 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Really Works – A True Story. He wrote this book after exploring meditation following a panic attack on live TV. Dan also produced a series of free podcasts with leaders in mindfulness and an App, 10% Happier: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics.
This presentation was based on research that Dan undertook on a road trip with meditation teacher, Jeff Warren, for their new book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics.
Dan identified a number of barriers that people put up that stop them from meditating. We will explore some of them here (the names of the barriers have been changed for this post – the essence is the same):
1. My mind is too full
This is a myth based on an unfounded belief that you will never be able to clear your mind sufficiently for meditation. It assumes that you are different to everyone else who is attempting to meditate, but recognises the challenge of endless thoughts impacting your meditation (a situation experienced by everyone who meditates, even the most experienced meditators).
This is the belief that there is no spare time in your life for meditation. It assumes that your time allocation is immutable and that you have your priorities right. There are clearly special challenges for some individuals such as parents with young children who persist in destroying any routine that you attempt to develop. However, even in this situation, it is possible to grab some time here or there to do mindful walking, mindful eating and/or mindful breathing. It may mean that your meditation practice is initially broken into small chunks throughout the day. As Chade-Meng Tan suggests, one mindful breath a day will “start the ball rolling”.
Some people, especially those lacking in self-compassion, see time spent in meditation as being selfish and experience guilt if they allocate time for this activity. This is particularly true for people who suffer “empathetic distress”. Self-care really enables the carer to better provide for others and to sustain their effort on others’ behalf.
4.Don’t want to stand out
Some people create a barrier to meditation because they think that they will be seen as soft or weird – they are frightened to stand out as different. People in occupations such as the Police Service/Force, may fear that they will be called a “softie”. There is a lack of recognition that the capacity to be present in the moment, to deal with stressful situations with calm and clarity and to develop creativity are outcomes from meditation that enhance a police officer’s capabilty.
5.Fear of losing your “edge”
This baseless fear comes from observing the “laid-back” nature, persistent calmness, of some experienced meditators. As Dan Harris argues in his book, meditation helps to reduce stress while maintaining, and in fact, strengthening your “edge” – whatever that may be. This is why famous actresses such as Goldie Hawn, as well as leading CEOs and professional people, meditate on a daily basis.
6.Fear of what you might find “within”
This is a serious concern about exploring your inner landscape for fear of what might turn up in terms of anxieties, distrust, hatred, negative self-perception or any other negative emotion. Mindfulness experts would argue that i is better to surface these issues so that you can deal with them, rather than having them undermine you on a daily basis because they are hidden and potentially out-of-control.
7.I can’t maintain the habit of meditation
You need to build in some form of support system to enable you to sustain the practice of meditation. This could be a routine (starting small), joining a group who meditate regularly, working with a buddy, stimulating your interest and motivation through reading, practising with audio tapes/CDs or developing a meditation habit attached to some other thing that you do regularly such as boiling the jug for a cup of tea or coffee.
Meditation enables us to grow in mindfulness and to realise the attendant benefits. Persistence brings its own rewards as we deepen our meditation practice.
By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)