1. Meditation is uncomfortable and difficult, both mentally and physically.
It sure can be, depending on what you signed-up for. There are some programs out there that take a lot of rigor to do–ours is not one of them. You don't need to perform physical or mental acrobatics to meditate.
For busy professionals, you may find the techniques that promote a state of flow are most helpful, and here's why: 1) effortless to learn and practice, 2) relaxation happens quickly, 3) they offer deep insight on the ebb and flow of life and our lack of control over constant change. These insights in turn bring about a greater degree of acceptance and serve as a wonderful counterbalance to the working chaos so many professionals struggle with everyday.
Meditation techniques are not one-size-fits all, and neither is stress management. There are many ways to meditate and many ways to relieve stress. Your journey into stress management offers a lot of opportunity for exploration.
2. There's just no time.
That's like saying there's no time to eat candy, chocolate, or ice cream. If you never make time, you'll never have time. I know, I know, you're probably saying, that comment isn't even based in reality. Here's the good news. If you really only have 3 minutes a day to meditate–great, that's enough to get you started, and more than you did yesterday. In fact, 3 minutes a day for a year is 18 hours. Smells like progress!
But here's what's going to happen if you're really serious about meditation. You'll start to feel good. Then you'll ask, why am I enjoying this mental catnip for only 3 minutes and not the full 20? So 3 minutes turns into 5, and 5 into 10, and 10 in 20.
Everyone who starts out in meditation starts the same way. We all lament over the idea of how we'll ever fit this into our busy schedules. What you'll come to learn is that you have it backwards. Meditation will help you figure out your schedule and priorities, so you end up making it your #1 priority to help you figure out everything else. Why? Because in the stillness of the mind, we can solve a lot of things.
3. I don't have access to any space free from disruption or noise
A quiet space is great for meditation. However, one of the first lessons we learn in meditation is that we often have limited control of our environment. When we learn to accept things as they are, life just gets easier. As a result, meditators can meditate just about anywhere...airplanes, laundry mats, doctor's office, etc. However, I do appreciate that in the beginning, a quiet space does make a difference, especially as you're learning how to meditate. A conversation with family and co-workers about your goals may be helpful. And if not, maybe you can hijack your car, bathroom, or meeting room at the office as a meditation space.
4. If my company would make my workplace better, I wouldn't even need to meditate
Actually, you need to meditate because the nature of business isn't going to change anytime soon. Sorry. Work will continue to be crazy. The economy will continue to have ups and down. You'll continue to have role changes and new bosses. This will create stress. And yes, a lot of companies are making huge investments in employee engagement, health & wellness, etc. But here's the deal. Large institutions take time to change–they are slow to adjust their norms. You, on the other hand, can change today–and that's a powerful thing. Change sometimes works best when it's at a personal level rather than an organizational level (Julian Birkinshaw, Jordan Cohen, Making Time for Work That Matters).
5. It takes a long time to see the benefits
[Insert eye roll]. I too, wish meditation would deliver on all its promises as easy as Amazon Prime. We love instant gratification, and when we don't get it, we get frustrated. Not every facet of our collective, human experience can be reduced to an instant. At some point in our life, we have to seek meaningful connections with others and ourselves in order to grow. But, here's some good news to cheer you up. Many students see some pretty transformative changes rather quickly–like within weeks of starting a regular routine. And by transformative, I don't mean levitation.
6. The easiest way to meditate is through an app.
A partial answer to this myth can be found in myth #5 re: instant gratification.
Using guided meditations via smartphone apps may be a great way to get started–especially if you've really had no exposure to meditation. If you're making a long-term commitment to meditation practice, then this is probably not the most ideal solution.
The 2017 Stress in America Survey, administered by the American Psychological Association, cites that 1 in 5 Americans see technology and devices as a significant source of stress. And, that 43% of Americans identify as being "constant checkers" (e.g. always on their smart phones).
While our smartphones have made our lives easier in many ways–it comes at an incredibly disruptive price; via a never ending deluge of text messages, emails, push notifications, alerts, software updates, chats, calls, etc. The 2017 Stress in America study by the APA cites that 1 in 5 Americans view tech as a significant source of stress, and 43% identify as "constant checkers."
If you're looking to meditation for relaxation and personal growth, I don't know that using a meditation app on your smartphone is the best solution to help you find that balance.
And, this idea that relaxation can be "downloaded" just illustrates the impermanence of the solution and our obsession with what's trending. Meditation works best when it's treated as a habit, not a hobby or occasional interest or the latest shamwow.
Remember, meditation has been practiced for over two millennia without technology. The only thing you need to bring to your meditation practice is you.
7. Meditation is for hippies.
At one time, yes. Today, you'll find that many of the most successful people all have one thing in common–they meditate. Tim Ferris offered this discovery in his book, Tools of Titans. He says of the 200 high performers he's interviewed, about 80% practice meditation.
Science and research has brought meditation into the mainstream. And, we still have a long way to go to fully understand the connection between the mind and body. There have been many promising studies over the years, and universities like Harvard, Princeton, Georgetown, Columbia, and Emory have made significant commitments to integrate mind-body research into their academic and medical programs. The academic community is making these investments because there's more to be discovered...
So let's review the facts...
I'm picking up on a pattern here.
8. I read somewhere that there's no real benefit to meditation.
Me too. In fact, just about everything I've ever read has been contradicted by someone else. The information paradox we live in today is absolutely insane–especially in the science and research community. A scientific claim made this week will be contradicted next week. Take something as simple as chocolate for example. CNN recently published story on the medicinal history of chocolate over the last 500 years. And in that time, chocolate has been cited to alleviate everything from STDs to cancer. And guess what, much of that is now quackery, and we're still researching chocolate!
What makes this phenomenon even more challenging is that it often fuels ambivalent attitudes, and that really hurts our personal growth. We throw our hands up and say, "it's a wash." That's not good. What I do know is there are countless personal testimonies of its success from thousands of people all over the world. Meditation holds the title as the longest reigning personal development tool in human history. Doesn't that mean something? What does that tell us?
Socrates once said, "The only thing I know is that I know nothing," and I think those are words to live by; we should always be growing and learning. Information is fluid and changing. The only way you will know if meditation works for you is to try it. Period.
9. You can't learn meditation from a book.
Yes, you can, and many do. In fact, anytime I want to know something, I look it up in a book (or Google). Anything you could possibly want to know has been written about before.
However, I do think you are likely to stick with meditation when you have someone to guide you along the way. Plus, there's a wonderful community of meditators out there, and we like to socialize with and learn from each other. So getting involved will pay dividends over the course of your lifetime.
There are people who believe that meditation is a tradition passed from teacher to student, and that it can only be learned from a teacher (and sometimes through a ritual). I admire the desire for relationship and connectedness in the process (and I think they are important). However, if you can't afford to attend a meditation class, by all means, check out the books and other free resources to get you started.
10. Some techniques are better than others
Maybe, but not everyone responds the same to each technique. What's important is just starting the process to find what works for you. If you're basing that myth off some scientific research you read, then please see the answer to myth #8.
Meditation also has a lot of groupies–I love their passion. But, if you've ever belonged to a church, club, group, or association, then you're probably familiar with the rivalry that ensues as one group asserts their dominance over another. Meditation has a lot of strong followers who are passionate about their practice and the programs they follow. However, no matter how strong their opinions or research, that doesn't mean they are always right.
Meditation practice is incredibly personal. It's not one-size-fits all, and does require some exploration on your part.
11. It's against my religion or seems a little too woo woo.
If I had a dollar every time I saw someone walk-out of a meditation program because it 1) brought his/her values and beliefs into question, or 2) required someone to passively accept something (almost by slight of hand) he/she wasn't comfortable with...I'd be diving into a money vault like Scrooge McDuck (Hey, I'm a child of the 80s, and I do love some Ducktails!). If this is you, I hear you, and I'm sorry that you've had this experience.
Meditation does have a very deep social context in our history. It has been part of almost every major religion on the planet since the dawn of man. I am grateful for the wisdom of the ages, and I think it's absolutely worth acknowledging this heritage, but not at the expense of proselytizing people who don't want to be converted.
If you can breath, you can meditate. At its root, meditation doesn't require anything more than that–and there's nothing religious or woo woo about breathing. Dr. Herbert Benson gave us the scientific explanation 40 years ago of how and why meditation works in his book, The Relaxation Response. It's a simple, 2-step process, and it transcends all systems of belief.
However, some meditation programs do make it more than that, while also telling students they are secular at the same time–and you can't have both. Sadly, this lack of transparency and honesty plays out "bait and switch" style when students show up for sessions only to be confronted with esoterics and mysticism.
In the Meditation at Work program, we don't insert cultural or philosophical paradigms into our training. We leave that part up to you. You came to meditation with your own values and beliefs, and we invite you to make meditation your own–whatever that is for you.