Meditation has grown exponentially over the past decade, especially in the west. There are more meditation books being published now than ever before, and every day new blogs are born offering free advice on how to meditate.
That’s great, in a way. But experienced meditators know that a lot of what is published online is not necessarily true. Many articles are published just for Facebook and Twitter shares. Some are published just to sell products. And many more articles are just plain wrong.
The trick is knowing which advice to take and which to ignore. One of the basics of learning meditation is that you know how to spot bad advice and that you ignore it.
Here are five pieces of bad advice that experiences meditators know to ignore.
- You don’t need to consider your health before meditating because meditation can never go wrong.
This is the single worst piece of advice that you will ever read about meditation. You should always consider your health before meditating. The reason is that, while meditation is perfectly safe for 99% of people, there are a few select people who react adversely to meditation.
Epileptics, for instance, should arguably never meditate. Meditation can cause increased hypersynchrony in the brain, which can lead to seizures. If you have ever had an epileptic experience, please contact your doctor before you start meditating. Likewise, those with a history of mental health complications should also contact healthcare professionals before beginning to meditate.
- You have to adopt the right posture in order to meditate
This is a classic piece of advice which is usually misinterpreted. The idea that you must adopt a certain sitting position before meditating is simply not true. You do not need to sit in lotus position to meditate. If you struggle to sit in lotus position, you can just as easily sit on your knees.
What matters is posture. You need to adopt proper posture and meditate in a position that will allow you to relax. But that position does not need to be lotus position or any of the other traditional Zen meditation positions. What matters is that you are comfortable, balanced, and have good posture.
- You should always be relaxed when meditating
Again, this is not entirely true. Most people do relax when meditating. But not everyone. People suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression, as well as people with general worries, will often feel less relaxed at first.
Meditation forces you to face your fears and anxiety. Meditation brings those fears and anxieties to the surface so that they can be released. However, in order to be released, they first have to be faced. That’s why you may sometimes feel less relaxed when meditating.
When I suffered from an acute reaction to extreme stress many years ago, meditation made me feel worse. It was quite a challenge to motivate myself to continue to meditate. I did continue, and eventually meditation began to cure me of my stress. Without meditation I may never have recovered. But it was vital that I go through the stress in order to overcome it. Relaxation is often a secondary stage in healing.
- You should try different styles
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this advice. However, the idea that you can freely practice any meditation technique you like is very naive. The Dalai Lama himself tells us that we must respect meditation and go at an easy pace. No one, for instance, should start meditating with an advanced technique like Nataraj (a dance meditation created by Osho).
Start with breathing meditation. Then down the line try another form of meditation, something simple like Zen walking. Then begin to advance in a progressive fashion. Don’t rush.
- Meditation ends at the end of your session
Many believe that meditation begins and ends in the designated time slot. In other words, if you’re meditating for 20 minutes then once the twenty minutes is up you’re done. In truth, what you don immediately after meditating is just as important as what you do while meditating.
At the end of your meditation sessions, you should take a further 10 minutes just to relax. That way you can smoothly transition back to your normal mental state. This period of time after meditating is important for allowing your mind to adjust.
To learn to meditate the right way, be sure to read our comprehensive guide to meditation, our premium ebook Welcome To Silence: A Practical Guide To Mindfulness And Meditation.