While most of the thousands of meditation practices and meditative science are derived from very ancient traditions, the art of meditation has enjoyed somewhat of a revival in recent years.
Wall Street, Fortune 500 and ASX 200 chief executives, along with popular celebrities and big hitters in the scientific community are "coming out" as avid meditators. The annual ‘Mindfulness Summit’ is supported and attended by top end CEO’s and political leaders.
Times Magazine recently featured a cover story on “The Mindfulness Revolution”, an account of the extent to which mindfulness meditation has re-entered modern life and the National Institutes of Health in the US predicts that by 2017 there may be more than 27 million American adults with a recent meditation experience.
Yet despite all the wonderful buzz, renewed interest and excellent research available there are still some firmly held misconceptions about what meditation and mindfulness actually are.
I find it useful when I start my courses or workshops to explain what meditation is not first. Once the preconceived ideas and misconceptions have been dispelled, then the student is in a much better position to explore meditation fully.
So here are the top misconceptions that I come across regularly:
Meditation is not a woo woo hippy activity for the few.
Meditation and mindfulness practices are used extensively in the medical and psychological arena for treatment of chronic pain, anxiety, depression and addiction. More recently and more widely it is also used in trauma and cardiac wards with amazing regenerative results, and therapeutically in palliative care and nursing homes.
Meditation has been a critical enabler in underprivileged schools around the world. It is a common practice in law enforcement in some progressive countries like Canada and is a key element of training in the professional sports arena. Canadian Police meditating before they start their shifts.
There is a plethora of empirical evidence, studies and research now that had followed and measured the different applications of meditation and the affects regular practice yields.
Meditation is not a religion… although most spiritual frameworks involve some form of meditation as part of the process of prayer, ritual or ceremony. The changes in brain activity and activation of the enteric nervous system enable feelings of deep connection, slipping out of time, acute awareness and bliss, which many people equate to a spiritual experience.
Meditation is not about denying you body. Your body is integral to the process, however certain meditation techniques allow you to temporarily lose your association with the body in deep states.
Meditation is not clearing the mind of all thought… if you try this you soon realise that you’re on a hiding to nothing. The mind is thought. What it is about is drawing-in the dissipated mind and calm the mind/body system. It is not simply about relaxation. In fact the hallmark of meditation is that you are acutely alert, monitoring and observing your inner environment throughout your practice.
So what is meditation…really?
When posture, breath and mental point of focus are combine effectively brainwave activity and the central nervous system become coherent and synchronised. This alters the state of consciousness to that of a witness of your internal environment – the still steady observer behind the breath and the body and the feelings. When we dwell in this state often some amazing things start to happen in our mind/body systems…we regenerate physically, we have a greater sense of wellbeing, greater empathy and connectedness.
The physical changes that start to take place with regular practice, interestingly all combine to enable deeper and deeper meditation. It’s a natural virtuous cycle, that is, the more you meditate the more your system becomes enabled to meditate.
Meditation is the technique through which mindfulness is nurtured and sustained.
So what is mindfulness then?
Mindfulness is the ability to experience day-to-day life from this viewpoint of the witness. It implies “an attitude of curiosity, openness and acceptance of, rather than reactivity to, whatever is happening. Non-reactivity doesn’t mean not responding, it just means that we don’t feel so compelled to react especially without choice and discernment.” (Meditation Association of Australia)
There are thousands of meditation practices from all around the world and many different traditions, and they generally fall into one of five categories.
- Concentration Meditation
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Reflective Meditation
- Creative Meditation
- Heart-Centered Meditation
All of them require presence, attention and intention and at the outset when you are learning you always start with building your ability to concentrate the mind and bring it into presence. This is key and it is absolutely possible to strengthen the power of your mind to be present and to concentrate, by regularly doing it, just like exercising the body!
About UFIT Clinic
We are a collection of professionals from a range of different disciplines, working together to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to the treatment of our clients.
Whilst all being experts in our own fields, we are humble enough to listen and learn, and work with each other to provide the best care for our patients. Staff professional development and further education is one of our guiding principals, and one which we are deeply committed to. Our services include; Physiotherapy, Structural Integration, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Performance Psychology, Nutrition and Podiatry & Foot Care.
About the Author
Dani Van De Velde | Meditation Teacher, UFIT Clinic
Book an appointment with Dani Van De Velde at the Singapore UFIT Clinic to learn how The Meditation Teacher can work with you individually or your company.