5 Common Misconceptions about Meditation

5 Common Misconceptions about Meditation

After last week’s lengthy post, I was looking to create a more easy read for folks. When I initially started this draft, it was prior to the pandemic, so there are a few references to activities which one would partake in if we did not find ourselves currently in isolation from one another. I just wanted to make a note of that in case someone reading this finds it insensitive or ignorant for me to be talking about going to the club or going to a dentist appointment in light of the current global situation – I am aware of the current situation and respect the work being done to alleviate and overcome the virus.

Meditation is a way to alleviate stress, relax the mind and get more in touch with your wants, needs and emotions. A quick google search and you will find there are a TON of resources on the Internet about how to meditate properly. However, I think many people stop themselves from meditating before they have even started for a number of reasons, including simple misunderstandings associated with the practice itself. Today’s post is about identifying misconceptions commonly associated with meditation and to prove that you are fully capable and ready to embark on a daily meditation practice.

1. It requires a lot of time

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Let me ask you this

Are you on your lunch break at work right now on your phone? Are you grocery shopping? Did you just put your kid down for a nap? Are you sitting on your couch watching tv and you happened to come across this glorious blog? Are you waiting at your gate to board an airplane? Are you lying in bed? Are you at the club regretting wearing a dress, when you shoulda worn jeans (applies to men too, I am welcoming of all humans on this blog) with an over-priced drink in your hand cause you didn’t have time to down that last glass of cab sav like friggin’ grease lightning while pre-drinking with the girls, cause your Über arrived and Jen was taking FOREVER IN THE BATHROOM and now you’re just wishing you were home in bed cause you’re so over it?

yep yep yep

Then you have time to meditate. I just searched for the shortest meditation on InsightTimer – 60 seconds. You are the master of your own time management. Myself, I find it easiest when I am in bed – I try to meditate once when I wake up in the morning and once again when I am going to sleep. It’s not that you don’t have the time, it’s that you’re not creating and giving yourself the time. So give yourself some time to meditate, you deserve it!

2. There is a right way and a wrong way to meditate

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There is no right or wrong way to meditate (I mean … maybe if you were screaming while doing it, but maybe you find screaming relaxing? I have researched scream meditation for the sake of this blog and have yet to come across it, but I ought to take a page out of Grimes’ book – ANYWAYS I DIGRESS). Meditation is not a one size fits all practice. What works for one person, may not work for another person and so on and so forth.

Bottom line, you need to ask yourself if what you are doing is making you feel relaxed and feel present. If it’s not then mix it up – change the position you find yourself in – I prefer to be lying down, (Nobody puts baby in a comfortable seated upright position). Perhaps you’re really not feeling the session you’re listening to – turn it off and search for a new one – I can typically tell within the first 20 seconds of a meditation recording if I’m going to be able to stick with it. Change your environment to one which better suits your practice. When I’m comfortable in bed, that is when it works best for me. Sometimes I will also do a quick 5 minute meditation sitting at my desk at work throughout the day.

3. It’s hard

Garden gnomes think of nothing (I mean they aren’t real but that’s irrelevant), why can’t I?
Photo by dorota dylka on Unsplash

When I first started meditating, I was under the impression that when you meditate, you need to focus on thinking of nothing – like completely clear your mind, don’t think of anything, just sit there and just be. While this is partially true to some degree, anybody who has meditated will know, and for those of you who haven’t but want to pick up the practice, trying to think of nothing when you meditate is really hard, close to impossible, especially for someone just beginning to introduce meditation into their life.

Think of your mind and your thoughts like a little boy whom you’ve just told to sit still in his chair at the dinner table: He will probably wiggle around in his seat, get distracted, not eat his food, he might get up and pet the family cat (hell I am a grown ass woman and I still do that with my cat, I regret NOTHING).

Bottom line, your mind will behave in a very similar fashion: It will bounce around, wander off from the present moment, it will bounce to you needing to make a dentist appointment, it will bounce to the dinner reservations you have with a friend in the evening and deciding what to eat, it will bounce to telling you you should be washing the dishes, it will bounce to that sort of goofy thing you said earlier that day at work to your boss. This may come as a surprise to you but your distracted mind is a natural part of life – it occurs to all of us.

As with anything, this practice requires … well … practice. You probably won’t be used to sitting in stillness and allowing yourself the time and the space to practice, so yes, it might be slightly difficult when you first start to meditate, especially seeing as this is something new you are introducing to your mind and body – but it gets easier with time and practice. Engaging in a daily meditative practice is indulgent – most of us are go, go, go, go, go. Trust me – allowing yourself the time to slow down feels really good.

4. It’s boring

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Nowadays we live in a very “instant gratification” society, where if we don’t receive what we want RIGHT THIS MINUTE we move on quickly to the next thing which catches our attention. Social media is a very good example of this. We put out and in most cases we receive back (fairly quickly) the approval of others primarily through likes and positive feedback – it’s a quick and easy way to feed our egos.

So a practice such as meditation, which requires us to do the opposite, (it slows us down, and takes time to build in most cases), can be hard for some folks to not make it out like a snooze fest.

On the contrary, meditation is not boring at all. In fact it actually involves you taking an active role – noticing your breath, taking note of your surroundings (sight, smell, sound, touch, taste), gently nudging your mind to return to the present and to your breath. If such bouncing thoughts as the ones above pop into your head (and they surely will), the key is to acknowledge these thoughts, but let these thoughts come and go. Don’t force them to leave (that will make them stick around even longer) but at the same time be mindful they are present. This is at the core of meditation.

5. It’s a Woo Woo Practice

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I think one common misconception for people who do not practice meditation, is that it’s some sort of “hippy-dippy” hogwash – it involves crystals, shakras, burning incense, dancing around a fire, perhaps singing kumbaya. While I would definitely agree there are more spiritually inclined meditations available for people to enhance their practice, and that your overall vibrations can be increased with the use of crystals, and cleansing your environment with incense prior to a meditation may provide a more connective, clear practice, these aspects are not a requirement. You don’t have to partake in them. Currently I don’t burn incense or use crystals but I would love to learn more about crystals and their benefits, so in the future I might incorporate them into my practice.

Meditation can be as straightforward and simple as lying on the floor in silence, and observing your breath. I wouldn’t call that woo woo I would call that relaxation, I would call that improving your ability to live in the present moment. When our lives often feel so frantic and busy, and our minds jump from past to present to future, why wouldn’t we want a moment to slow down?

Meditation has actually been at the core of much scientific research. A recent study completed by Harvard researchers suggests that meditation may have the capacity to alter the brains of patients with depression for the better. Many meditation teachers on InsightTimer are respected hypnotherapists, psychologists, scientists, coaches, monks – highly intelligent people, creating meditations for you to practice with. While there certainly may be hippies and more spiritually inclined individuals who partake in meditation, they only make up a fraction of the meditation community as whole.

What are some meditation misconceptions you have heard? Share them in the comments below! Be sure to hit the follow button for new posts every day! Thanks for reading.

My Love Hate Relationship with InsightTimer

My Love Hate Relationship with InsightTimer

Note: I was trying to determine what sort of images/media would work within the post. 1 Queer Eye gif turned into several and now they have become one of the central themes in this post. I have no regrets, because yay positivity. Please enjoy all of them.

Last Saturday night, I lost my InsightTimer streak. I’d meditated for 40 straight days in a row.

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I know, it was a real bummer.

I’d spent the weekend at my parents’ house for Easter, and had been enjoying time with my brother who was in town from Calgary. The evening came and midnight rolled around on this particular day, I hadn’t meditated and my streak was lost. For those who would suggest this is non-essential travel in the time of COVID-19, it is, but I was glad to have him home, nonetheless. He’d told us he’d only had 3 people on his flight coming in, but I know that doesn’t justify his visit, especially in such a weird time we’re all living in. Technically, I probably shouldn’t even be going over to my parents’ house either, even if I am working remotely from home (a la, I don’t go anywhere) and live only 30 minutes away.

But I digress. Let’s get back to my streak.

At first, I was disappointed – I’ve taken pride in my consistent practice. Unfortunately since then, my meditation has been spotty – I’ve listened to music on the app to fall asleep but I haven’t consistently kept up with my morning or evening meditations before bed.

For folks reading this who aren’t familiar with InsightTimer, every time you meditate via the app, it logs however many minutes/hours you meditate. When you finish a meditation, the app will notify you that you have meditated for “15 minutes” and it will mark off that you have meditated on that particular day. It will show you the week and for every day you have meditated within the week, the day is filled in as white. Days you haven’t meditated show as black.

InsightTimer will also notify you when you have reached new milestones within your meditation practice on the app. 1 milestone is the equivalent of 10 consecutive days of meditation and/or 50 non-consecutive days of meditation. The app rewards people with different color stars depending on the number of milestones they complete. These stars are then displayed on user’s profiles within the app. 1 yellow star means 1 milestone has been reached, 1 red star means 5 milestones have been reached, and 1 green star means 25 milestones have been reached.

Within the last few days, I’ve had second thoughts about this whole process. Perhaps it took me losing my streak to realize this. When using an app which is supposed to bring me stillness, calm, mental rest, and mindfulness, do I really want to be motivated to continue meditating by a streak? Do I want to be motivated by little colored stars on my profile which demonstrates for all the world to see how frequently I meditate? Does it validate people’s opinions of my practice when they see such a line of stars on my profile?

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For most people, when it comes to being motivated, even more so when being motivated by a reward, it creates further drive to continue and partake in the activity. I emphasize ‘most’ because I don’t want to slap a generalization across the entire population. We are all different in what motivates us, but reward can play a big part in motivation, there’s no denying that. It’s like the proverbial donkey being dangled a carrot on a stick in front of it to continue walking.

I’m not calling you or I a donkey. Don’t get me wrong – some people are asses, but that’s not the point, and that’s not what I want you to take away from this.

If i’m going to meditate, my meditation shouldn’t be motivated by colored stars.

I should be motivated because I love to meditate, it makes my body and mind feel good.

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Hate is a very strong word, but I am disappointed that a popular, mindful app such as InsightTimer functions based off of a reward system. For many of you out there, a meditation app which instills this sort of motivation to meditate, might work for you.

Lindsay you’re acting like a sore loser – you meditated a lot but then you lost your streak because you forgot and a few days later you’re on your bloggity blog, getting all high and mighty about how it’s actually a dumb system.

I’m truly not trying to be a sore loser. I recognize many apps function this way, otherwise they’d probably lose a huge chunk of their users. Believe me, I too got caught up in the cycle of motivation by reward and in retrospect, I found myself quite frequently turning inwards and saying you have to meditate, you don’t want to drop your streak.

But Lindsay, there are A TON of apps out there which motivate you based off of rewards! If this one app and it’s reward system bothers you, shouldn’t all apps by extension offering such a reward system bother you too? Why does this one matter so much?

I recognize apps like FitBit are all about this – the more steps you take, the closer you are to that 10,000 step marker at which point your FitBit watch physically vibrates as part of the celebration. I think for the sake of physical health, motivation by reward can be a fantastic tool.

But when we move beyond the boundary from an app related to your physical health to an app related to your mental health, it crosses a line, especially for a gal who’s working on herself, and her mental health.

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I talked about this in a post on my Instagram, but to reiterate, it seems there’s been a significant amount of focus recently around how people are spending their time during the pandemic. We see emphasized messages of using this time for self-growth and personal development on social media and the comparisons start to roll in between what we see and what we are. I should point out now, that if you are using this time for self-growth or personal development, I commend you. This isn’t intended to be the part where I bash people who are using the time as a growth period. That being said, for many people, there’s an aspect of shame involved if they choose to not take this route, or they simply can’t bring themselves to use the time for such an avenue. I’d go so far as to suggest it’s a similar feeling of shame you might experience when you have a bad day of eating when you are trying to eat healthy, or miss a workout.

I’m training for a marathon. I’m learning to make loaves of bread out the wazoo. I’m cultivating bonzai trees in my bathtub.

I just want to sit on my couch, eat rice cakes and binge watch Queer Eye, but everyone else seems to be so proactive… maybe I should be doing the same.

I touched upon the idea that rather than people focusing their energy on HOW they are spending their time, people should actually be focusing on how the activity they spend their time on, makes them FEEL. Does it make you feel happy? Does it make you feel fulfilled? Does how you spend your time spark joy? If binge watching Queer Eye makes you feel good, then who the frick cares that Sally next door is training for her next 10k. You’re doing what makes you happy during this weird time. Sally’s doing what makes her happy during this weird time.

When you hone in on how you feel when spending time on a particular activity or task, you are becoming more in tune with your wants, needs, likes and dislikes. This is not only relevant during a pandemic – this is always relevant.

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On the flip side, if you continue to spend your time doing something which makes you feel miserable (case in point, sometimes I force myself to run when I hate running, but I do it for exercise – it only makes me hate running even more), you will begin to resent whatever it is you are doing and you will resent yourself for allowing yourself to continually be exposed to it (why did I decide to go for a run?!).

Girl, you lost your streak once. You make it sound as if you’re going to continually end up miserable.

Yes, but even the potential of feeling that way is why I do not wish to expose myself to such a rewards system. Meditating makes me feel at peace, calm, proud of my self-reflection. I don’t want it to turn into something which I associate with disappointment or failure. It’s not the app’s fault I felt this disappointment, it does what it does for the sake of keeping up it’s popularity. It’s the fact the system was in place to begin with (which I fed into), which evoked such an emotion.

If I start to base my meditation practice on motivation by reward and feel the same disappointment associated with the loss of my streak, I fear that feeling of disappointment will soon envelope my meditation practice as a whole. As a result I will become more disconnected from, and resent, my practice. One doesn’t have to look too hard to see, that is essentially already taking place – as I said above, I am experiencing a lack of consistency at the moment within my practice.

I am also working hard to be kinder towards myself, to develop a more gentle inner voice. In order for it to not become a one step forward, two steps back process, I need the tools I use to be free of any instance in which my inner voice can pick up and latch onto shame, disappointment, failure and then aim it back at me. Perhaps not always, but especially in these crucial, beginning stages where i’m trying to mold my inner voice into becoming a friend, not an enemy.

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Okay so this post was about the Love, Hate Relationship with the app. So where does the love come in?

On the flip-side, I will never stop extolling the virtues of an app with such a large database of quality meditations, teachers and recordings at your finger tips, and with no cost to you at all (if you so choose to not upgrade to the paid version of the app). Heck, last week’s post was all about female meditation teachers I think you should be listening to on InsightTimer. If it weren’t for InsightTimer, I wouldn’t have been exposed to such amazing, motivational, inspiring women. It is one of the better mindfulness apps out there (up there with Headspace and Calm) and for those reasons I will continue to use it. But on my own terms.

So Lindsay, what are you going to do now?

InsightTimer happens to have a feature within it’s settings where you can turn off the option to be rewarded stars if it’s not important to you and that’s what I intend to do.

The only motivating factor within my practice, should be me and me alone. End of story.

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5 Female Meditation Teachers You Should Be Listening To Right Now

5 Female Meditation Teachers You Should Be Listening To Right Now

Over 5000 meditation teachers use the app InsightTimer as a platform to publish and share their meditations, music and podcasts. While InsightTimer does a fantastic job of breaking down meditations depending on the category you’re looking to focus on (i.e. Meditation for Anxiety, Sleep, Relationships, Work), it can be overwhelming for someone who is new to the practice of meditation to wade through such a sea of recordings and teachers in order to find the diamond in the rock – a teacher or recording they truly click with.

Regardless of if you are new to the practice of meditation and don’t know where to start, or are a veteran meditator who’s looking for new teacher recommendations, today is all about my top 5 female meditation teachers who, in my opinion, you should be listening to right now on InsightTimer. These women are teachers whose recordings and meditations I find myself repeatedly returning to OR who’s messaging really resonates with me, what I’m looking for in order to fulfill my practice and my life. These teachers have also produced meditations of various lengths of time, making them appealing for meditation students of all skill levels. This list is in no particular order.

Melli O’Brien

Melli is an Australian mindfulness teacher, better known as Mrs. Mindfulness. She is the co-founder and a host of The Mindfulness Summit – the world’s largest mindfulness conference.

Why I Listen

I enjoy Melli and her meditations because of the casual, practical approach she takes in delivering her meditations. She is very down to earth in how she guides the listener and does a fantastic job of leaving out the “fluff” that I think is often falsely associated with meditation (the perception that it is a woo-woo practice). Melli is a great starting point for beginners to the practice of meditation, her shortest meditation being 4 minutes in length, and one which I have used when I’m needing a mental break but am strapped for time.

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Michelle Chalfant

Michelle is a licensed therapist and integrated life coach with over 25 years experience. Michelle offers listeners a fantastic mix of talks and meditation recordings and was one of the first teachers I listened to when I joined InsightTimer. She is best known for developing a transformative process known as The Adult Chair, which helps people to overcome false beliefs, and assists with getting to the root of their problems in order to get unstuck and live better lives.

Why I Listen

I enjoy Michelle and her recordings because they create a safe space for individuals to truly reflect inwards. Her recordings are a great option if you are wanting to dig deeper into the inner workings of your trauma, stress, and anxiety using The Adult Chair approach. Michelle also covers topics which many of us are not taught, such as building healthy relationships as adults and often features special guests on her podcast who provide even more information and insight to the listener, such as doctors, therapists, and other life coaches.

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Jennifer Piercy

If you were to visit the main page on InsightTimer for sleep meditations, you would see Jennifer’s Yoga Nidra for Sleep close to, if not, at the top of the list. There is a reason her meditation has been played a whopping 8.6 million times. Jennifer specializes in sleep and dream education, honoring tiredness and exhaustion as a space to explore and accept sleep and restore natural body rhythms.

Why I Listen

I enjoy Jennifer’s meditations for her ability to ease me into sleep. There are very few meditations I enjoy with no background music – it can be hard for a teacher to “carry” a meditation using just their voice and their guidance. However, Jennifer has the very special gift of lulling people to sleep using just her voice. On many occasions I’ve fallen asleep mid-way through listening to her meditation. There’s also a particular part in her sleep meditation where she guides you through different body parts to isolate and relax each one. No matter how tense or stressed I am going into the mediation, as soon as I hit that point, I am instantly relaxed. It’s the most soothing and peaceful way to end a long day.

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Pretty Spiritual Podcast

Besties Annie, Lindsay and Ella form the trifecta of Pretty Spiritual Podcast. They share their personal stories and spill the deets on how they incorporate their spiritual practices into the great big quirky, messy, lovable experience of being human.

Why I Listen

I’ve listened to Pretty Spiritual Podcast at work on several occasions and typically find myself laughing in my cubicle when I do (which might confuse my co-workers but if they find my methods of betterment entertaining, then so be it!). Their lighthearted yet open approach to sharing, creates nothing short of an authentic, humorous, relatable listening experience, one which leaves you saying to yourself me too girl, me too. Self-described as your spiritual besties, these women are the ones you want to have over for a Friday girl’s night, glass of vino in hand to just shoot the spiritual shit. Also one of the trio and I share a name and if name twinning with your faves isn’t enough to make your eyes sparkle like a Disney princess, I don’t know what does!

Vanessa Loder

Vanessa was another teacher I listened to when I first started using InsightTimer. She is a woman’s leadership expert, a writer and a motivational speaker, and helps others gain clarity on their life’s purpose.

Why I Listen

I enjoy Vanessa and her meditations because she uses great examples and analogies within her recordings which make it easier for the listener to follow along. For example, she compares a mind that wanders when practicing meditation to that of a puppy that’s ran off. If you wanted to get the puppy back, you wouldn’t get angry or yank on it’s leash as punishment, you would gently call it back into focus.

I also like Vanessa because I see parallels between how my life is progressing and how her life did progress and what she did to turn it around. She spent nearly 10 years following the traditional route of what she thought she should do – she got an MBA from Stanford, worked her butt off on Wall Street, and achieved what many of us would label as success. But in the midst of achieving the success she realized it hadn’t led her to happiness or fulfillment, and that she had in fact climbed the wrong ladder of success. She has since found her purpose and dedicates her professional life to helping others seek out their purpose as she once found hers.

Life, simply put, is too short to not be doing what you want to do. Seeing someone who has gone through that and turned themselves around makes me realize the importance of figuring out what I want to do from the get go, instead of spending time building a career which lines up with what I think I should be doing, but doesn’t provide me satisfaction, happiness or fulfillment in the long run.

Honorable Mentions

These are women whose content hasn’t been in my rotation quite as frequently as the above 5, but I like what they produce and still think they are worth mentioning to check them out.

  • Michelle Kerr
  • Lyndall Mitchell
  • Selena Lael
  • Joanna Jackett
  • Bethany Auriel-Hagan
  • Dina Proctor
  • Sharon Salzberg
  • Carmen Warrington

Do you have any favorite female meditation teachers? Let me know in the comments below!