In this article, we will be discussing some common preconceptions regarding mindfulness meditation in detail.
Preconceptions about Mindfulness Meditation
1. It’s Not Just Thinking:
Meditation is usually defined as a form of deep thinking, it is a kind of mental activity associated with taking a thought or a problem and intensely and deeply reflecting on it— mulling it over in one’s mind.
This kind of deliberate and deep thinking thought process is a very important mental activity, but it is not the kind of discipline that helps develop mindfulness. It is quite possible to ruminate or think over an idea without being genuinely mindful. Awareness and thinking are two very different mental functions.
Interestingly, the philosophy on which the mindfulness practice was founded does not use the term meditation. Buddhism often defined this practice as Bhavana, which is most accurately translated as “cultivation.” Bhavana does not mean intense thinking but, rather, it is the pure awareness and discipline that allows one to shape the mind in ways conducive to genuine happiness and well-being.
2. It’s Not Exotic
Meditation is not at all exotic, at least not in the way that we will study and practice it on Prokensho. Given its early associations with the Hindu monks and gurus, many in the Western world have come to regard mindfulness meditation practice as rather strange and foreign.
For some, the aura of exoticism exerts a compelling attraction. And that’s why they become interested in mindfulness meditation precisely because it seems to them mysterious, it smacks of the unusual, the mystical, and the esoteric.
Others, yet, might find the aura of exoticism repellent. So many of us have an ingrained tendency to view different meditative practices and beliefs with suspicion, if not outright fear.
The “other”— as many famous philosophers define people and things different from us— often threatens our sense of being, identity, and security; hence, we often tend to discount or disparage the other. Although meditation and yoga are rapidly becoming a part of our cultural mainstream, for many, mindfulness meditation still retains a sense of foreignness and otherness.
Those who are attracted to mindfulness meditation and those who are repulsed by it because of its exotic quality are both completely mistaken. Meditation, at least mindfulness meditation, is profoundly very ordinary; there is nothing over the top or extraordinary or even strange about it.
If you take up mindfulness meditation because you think it is very exotic or because you want to be pious and deepen your spirituality, your attraction to meditation may simply arise from the ego—the desire to appear other than you are.
3. It’s Not an Extraordinary Experience
As the attraction to its exotic trappings, some people often take up mindfulness meditation because they seek certain extraordinary experiences or altered states of consciousness.
Again, such materialistic or exotic motivations are totally fine at the beginning of the mindfulness meditation practice, but later in your mindfulness meditation, those exotic trappings will need to be eventually given up.
Mindfulness meditation is not about having unusual or transcendent experiences in one’s life. Strange, fascinating, and mysterious experiences may occur while you are meditating; because with meditation, it is possible to have any kind of experience imaginable.
But having particular kinds of experiences is not the primary goal of meditating. Rather, we are seeking to develop a way to relate to all our internal and external experiences, regardless of their quality or content without judgment.
4. It’s Not Easy or Fast
Today especially, many people become interested in mindfulness meditation because they are attracted to the possibility of reducing the day-to-day stress in their lives and becoming more relaxed people. Like beginning mindfulness meditation practice to serve one’s ego needs, starting a practice to simply relax and become calmer is perfectly fine.
Although greater serenity is indeed one of the results of continuous mindfulness meditation, tranquillity is often not realized early in the meditation practice. So, many people have disappointing experiences with their first encounters with the meditation practice. For the vast majority of practitioners, mindfulness meditation is not easy, and its benefits are not quickly realized.
5. It’s Not an Escape from Reality
Some people often consider mindfulness meditation to be an escape from harsh reality, but this is another common misconception about meditation. Given its bold intention to attend unflinchingly to all of our internal and external experiences without judgment, it is more precise to call mindfulness meditation an escape into reality.
From the perspective of mindfulness meditation, our lives as we ordinarily live them seem profoundly out of touch with what is authentic. Only a few people appear to live in accord with what seem to be sobering truths—that death will overtake us all, that the world is in constant change, that suffering is pervasive.
Instead, what seems to escape from reality include such activities as racing about in hot pursuit of trivial successes, materialistic possessions, and pleasures; working and amusing ourselves to death, and filling our minds with useless junk daily.
6. It’s Not Self-Centered
Just as mindfulness meditation has sometimes been criticized as an escapist, it has also been charged with being self-centered. The expression “navel-gazing” has entered the English language as a term to refer to both mindfulness meditation and egotism. In the view of some, both are forms of total self-absorption.
While the practice of mindfulness meditation no doubt begins with turning inward toward one’s own intimate experiences, the sharp distinction between self and world gradually begins to fade.
Mindfulness meditation practice reveals the intricate ways our lives are intertwined with one another. And as a consequence, mindfulness meditation begins to awaken our empathy and helps develop our natural sense of compassion.
In the Buddhist tradition, compassion and wisdom are often described as twin virtues, and both are cultivated by the continuous practice of mindfulness meditation. It’s not considered possible at all to have true wisdom and knowledge without genuine compassion, and vice versa.
So for one to be genuinely wise is to see things clearly—without any judgment and delusion. Wisdom thus means recognizing the interdependence of our life with the lives of others, and seeing our interdependence with others evokes our compassion. Thus, a meditation practice that produces only self-satisfaction is not a genuine mindfulness practice.
7. It’s Not a Success-or-Failure Practice
Conventional ideas of one’s success and failure may also need to be abandoned when one takes up mindfulness meditation. You’ll probably discover that you have a hard time figuring out what you need to do with your body, how to focus your attention, and what to do with your mind.
When one is unable to follow the guided instructions exactly as it is, one may be tempted and become eager to judge one’s effort as a total time waste and failure— but that would be a terrible mistake.
In mindfulness meditation practice, one only fails when they do not pay close attention, but even failing to pay close attention is not considered a “failure” if they realize and are aware of the fact that they’re not paying attention. Eventually, they’ll see that they cannot fail at mindfulness meditation if they do it. By the same token, they’ll see that they cannot succeed at it either.
Mindfulness meditation practice is an activity that is best approached with an openness of soul, mind, and sincerity of heart. If one can’t muster openness and genuine sincerity, that’s fine as well, because mindfulness meditation can teach you that as well. But you have to be patient and give it some time to work.
(Also Read: Finding A Focus for Attention with These 10 Mindfulness Meditation Quotes)
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