Today, many people are turning to meditation to improve and enrich their lives. Yet, many people still think of meditation as a fad, an activity reserved for the mystics and monks. While that’s not true, there certainly are clichés and stereotypes that support this mystical notion about meditation.
I find myself annoyed when I come across these common clichés and stereotypes. When I go online to look for anything even remotely related to meditation, the clichés are unavoidable. I’m constantly trying to explain that meditation is very different than these stereotypes purport. Meditation is so much deeper and more practical than what many people have been led to believe.
Here’s a list I’ve curated of the most common meditation clichés:
#1 – Meditation is accomplished with crossed legs in yoga pants.
At some point, many meditators decided they had to look the part. Donned in yoga pants, a meditative hopeful would settle into a posture, close their eyes, and try hard to look serene. Most images of meditators involve a person sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, with their index curled and touching their thumb. And virtually every one of them is wearing yoga pants. The stereotype was set. According to the cliché, to meditate you need only look fit, serene, and calm, even if you feel the opposite.
At Sahaja, we persistently affirm this truth: to meditate, you need only to sit comfortably.
There are no yoga pants, formal postures, special hand placements, or forced expressions needed. Moreover, if a practitioner is struggling with Thoughtless Awareness, we may even recommend that they keep their eyes open. Meditation should really make you go deep inside yourself and make you peaceful from within, not make you the picture-perfect fitness model for a yoga shoot.
Being able to sit on the ground has its benefits, but it isn’t the holy grail for a meditation position. While Sahaja is flexible, sitting is ideal. It so much easier to be alert when you’re upright. You don’t have to be in a spa or on a massage table to meditate. Just sitting upright in a comfortable position will do the trick.
Which is why we thought we’d revolutionize the way we present images of real, normal people on Sahaja Online – plain, simple images of normal people who are practicing meditation. They aren’t dressed a certain way or showing off their serenity. They’re just real people who happen to be meditating.
Here at Sahaja Online, we believe that everything is about the outcomes that meditation can achieve, not about poses, attire, and outward expressions. But, if you still find yoga pants, yoga mats and cross-legged poses comfortable for your meditation and are using it, by all means, please continue to do so. All we’re against is some sort of a bias that not using these are deal breakers for a good meditative practice.
#2 – Meditation can be boiled down and accomplished in just a minute.
These days, there’s a wild craze about shortening meditations down to a few minutes and some even less. You’ve probably seen advertisements for 1-minute meditation for stress relief, someone says. There are also handy 2-minute, 3-minute and 5-minute meditations. Others are trying to dumb down true meditation, shortening it to make it ultra-convenient and requiring little effort.
These people are out to defy the law of nature that success can come without hard work, patience and perseverance. Some are trying to reduce meditation to a stress pill. At Sahaja, you’ll never find us trying to convince you that meditation is the easiest thing and you can get great benefits from just a few minutes of practice every day.
You can’t. If you’d rather practice those instant benefit meditations, you’re in the wrong place.
Meditation isn’t very hard but it does take hard work, discipline and a solid commitment after you learn the techniques involved. Meditation must become a part of your lifestyle to be effective. Meditation must also be accompanied with some collective or group meditation for it to be powerful.
Anything less than 15 minutes per meditation session is unlikely to produce any real benefit for the average person on a sustained basis. That tight timeframe seriously underestimates the kind of problems we ordinary human beings have. Our lives are incredibly complex and so are our problems. Tackling our complicated lives today requires daily practice, and likely even sessions twice a day to start.
There’s definite flexibility in that you can take your time to get to this routine in a gradual manner. They say new habits take about 3 months to stick. There’s room for missing the meditation on that odd day or doing it just once or when you have only 10 minutes on hand to meditate. But those should be more exceptions than the norm over time.
There isn’t such a thing as a “meditation shot” that can instantly relieve you. It’s neither realistic nor sustainable.
#3 – Mindfulness is the end-all-be-all.
At Sahaja, we respect and value mindfulness as a concept. Sahaja meditation itself provides mindfulness as a benefit, but it also beyond the concept. Merely being mindful isn’t why a practitioner should be using something as powerful as Sahaja.
Yet, these days, a lot of people seem to be calling mindfulness the end-all-be-all of meditation. A quick look at the meditation section on New York Times reveals that for many, meditation and mindfulness are synonymous. And while I may expect that definition from an underdeveloped quack, I did not expect such a statement from the NY Times.
From being a powerful tool for Self-discovery and higher purpose, we seemed to have dumbed down meditation, downgrading it to merely a tool for mindfulness.
The concept of meditation being applicable for many of our practical, day-to-day problems is great, but to say that all our solutions are primarily related to being mindful is an extremely narrow view.
The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Why are we so obsessed with mindfulness? One article purports to help readers be more mindful while watching fireworks. Seriously, NY Times?
We are innately mindful. Even before meditating, I’m pretty sure I was quite mindful about most things. I was hypersensitive and hyperaware of what my feelings were, how my actions would affect myself and others and very observant to everything going on around me. Why does some smart meditation instructor or blogger have to teach me to be all these through a made-up process and charge me for it?
Come to think of it, you may be a lot wiser and more mature than these people make you out to be. We all require some guidance and help with the deepest and most difficult self-improvement pursuits in our lives, but I’m quite sure most people don’t need advice on the best way to drive a car or manage their toddler. At least not from people who teach meditation.
Again, we’re very mindful about mindfulness (pun intended). We like what the concept is doing to get people to meditate more. We talk about introspection and being self-aware. too. But an obsession about anything isn’t good. Especially about something that’s limitless and can make you one with the universe.
We have a lot of other views about what meditation should or shouldn’t be. You can read these here.