Meditation 101: What is Meditation? 6 Myths Set StraightPosted by Medicare Made Clear
(Part 2 of a 4-part series)
Meditation could be a useful tool for helping improve your health and wellness. But if you don’t know much about it, practicing meditation may seem intimidating or even a little odd.
There are many myths and misunderstandings about meditation. Before you decide whether or not to give it a try, you may want to get the facts. What you learn might surprise you.
Myth #1: You have to sit cross-legged on the floor to meditate.
Fact: There is no right or wrong position for meditation. You can meditate while seated on the floor, sitting in a chair, standing, walking or lying down. The main thing is to feel comfortable and steady. It’s best to keep a straight spine. Hold your body in a relaxed state with your shoulders aligned over your hips. Your hands may be folded in your lap, resting on your thighs, held over your heart or simply resting at your sides.
Myth #2: Meditation is “zoning out” to escape problems.
Fact: Meditation is actually a state of being fully aware. It is not a method for transcending reality, going into a trance or having an out-of-body experience. It’s the exact opposite. The purpose is to be completely “in” your body and to experience each moment. Your attention focused on being where you are and observing what’s going on in your body, your mind and your heart.
Myth #3: Meditation is difficult.
Fact: Meditation may be one of the simplest things you ever do. You are essentially learning to do nothing—to simply rest in ease. You don’t need to struggle or put out a lot of effort. You are not trying to make anything happen. There is no stress because there is nothing to fight against or resist. All you need to do is relax and remain alert. (We’ll talk more about how to meditate later in this series of articles.)
Myth #4: You can’t have any thoughts when you’re meditating.
Fact: Thoughts flow through your mind constantly. They come and go like waves on the sand. Trying to rid the mind of thoughts sounds a lot like effort—and meditation is supposed to be a state of effortless relaxation. Rather than fighting your thoughts during meditation, you learn to simply observe them. You watch them come in and go out, without pushing them away or holding on to them. At some point you will probably notice that your mind has taken over and you’ve been lost in thought for some time. At the point that you recognize this, you have returned to the present moment, and you begin again. With practice, you learn to put your attention on the space between your thoughts where it is quiet and peaceful.
Myth #5: You have to meditate for hours at a time.
Fact: Meditation is a little like exercise. It’s more important to be consistent than it is to do a lot all at once. Even 5 or 10 minutes of meditation a day may provide benefits. After practicing for a while, some people find that they want to meditate for longer periods. It’s an individual choice. In general, 20 to 30 minutes once or twice a day is common.
Myth #6: It takes years and years of meditation to get any benefits.
Fact: You could begin to experience benefits the very first time you meditate and in the first few days of daily practice. One study showed that meditating regularly for as little as 8 weeks helped people feel less anxiety and more calm. In addition, the study noted growth in areas of the brain associated with memory, self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Read more about the health benefits of meditation.
Meditation may be one of the easiest things you can do for your health. It’s free, you can do it anywhere and you don’t need any special equipment. Some people like to take a meditation class when they first start out to make sure they understand how to do it. Classes may be offered in local community centers, meditation centers or fitness centers, for example (these may have a fee). Check your local area.
Other articles in this series offer tips on how to meditate, explore the effects of meditation on the brain and more. Read other articles in this series.
For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.
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Medicare & You: Get the U.S. government’s official Medicare handbook.