“I don’t meditate. I shop at Giant, not Whole Foods.”
This statement was actually overheard during the writing of this blog. It was supplied, like a gift from the Universe, at the perfect time. Our #chronicwellness theme this week is perhaps one of the most misunderstood topics we’ll explore this year, so we’re just going to jump in and get straight to it, because trust us, this stuff is worth it.
Myth #1: Meditation is something New Age people do in between hugging trees and swapping recipes for kombucha.
Truth: That actually happens. Not gonna lie. BUT, that doesn’t mean those are the only people who do or should or can meditate.
Massage therapist and athletic trainer Stacy Ford runs into this myth a lot. “As a massage therapist, I talk with people daily about relaxing. There are stretches and self-massage techniques I show clients, but many need to de-stress. The looks I get when I ask them to consider meditation!”
A lot of people dismiss meditation as something only a certain type of person does. You know, the type with Bernie Sanders bumper stickers on their Prius. But according to Stacy, “There is a huge misconception about meditation. Many people have the vision of sitting cross-legged on a giant pillow with their hands on their knees and chanting ‘ohmmmm.’ They can’t get past the ridiculousness they would feel in such a position making an obscure sound,” she says.
“Then I ask if they pray, or daydream, or would like to find five minutes for only themselves. Sure they do. At least one of those is something most of us do every day, or strive for every day.”
And guess what? Those are all avenues to meditation.
Myth #2: There’s only one way to meditate, and it has something to do with a lotus. Not sure what, but there’s gotta be a lotus; it’s in all the posters.
Truth: Lotus position is one of an infinite number of ways to meditate.
“Meditation can take many forms,” explains massage therapist Lisa Franklin. “It can be a silent, contemplative practice while sitting in the lotus position. It can be chanting a special word or phrase over and over. It can be a moving meditation such as yoga, tai chi, or even walking with a purpose of being in the now.”
Lisa, who specializes in myofascial release (MFR), finds that she can achieve a meditative state when she does MFR on a client. She stresses the wide range of styles, postures, and options for meditation. “Meditation does not require you to sit like a pretzel (you can lay down or sit in a comfy chair). If you choose a solitary meditation practice, there are audio files you can purchase that guide you into a meditative state. Some of them are specific to things like stress reduction, weight loss, fear of flying, public speaking and much more. Others are more general and simply guide you through a meditation to get you to relax.”
Myth #3: Meditation is about emptying your mind and not thinking--there’s no way I can do that!
Truth: Life is busy, and our minds go a mile a minute. Thankfully, meditation does not require us to perfectly rid our minds of all thought. It simply asks us to be open to letting those thoughts go by without dwelling on them, so that we observe them come and go, without judgement. As we do so, the mind may start to quiet, and stillness may sneak up on you, just when you thought it never would.
Reiki and reflexology practitioner and teacher Tracy McGovern describes it this way: “The most important thing I ever learned about meditation is that it is NOT about emptying your mind--instead it’s about learning to let your mind do its thing without paying attention to the babble.”
Myth #4: Meditation sounds like a nice way to relax, but there’s no evidence it’s good for anything else.
Truth: Here’s the cool thing about meditation. Science gives it a big old thumbs up. And not just for relaxation (which would be a huge benefit even on its own). No, science takes it a step further to say that meditation promotes physical and emotional health.
“In the past 15+ years, meditation has been scientifically studied and the data is starting to roll in,” says Lisa Franklin. “The data shows measurable biological changes including possibility of meditation changing the brain and how it functions so that it supports healthier behavior, reduces stress hormone levels, reduces blood pressure, reduces symptoms of PTSD, reduces headaches and much more.”
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. A recent article in Psychology Today explores 20 scientifically-validated reasons meditation boosts your health, happiness, and success. Each of the reasons has a link after it to the supporting research,
So, it turns out meditation isn’t just something for yogis on mountaintops. Scientific research actually supports the fact that meditation is good for your mind and body, promoting more robust physical and emotional health. Who knew? The yogis on mountaintops for one, but we digress.
The point is, science has done what it always does if we give it time: dispelled misconceptions and supplied new knowledge. And knowledge is knowledge, whether you shop at Giant or Whole Foods.
This week we invite you to join us in saying yes to meditation--however it looks to you! Stay tuned for tips, fun facts, and inspiration--and don’t forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.