Misconception One: You Have to Make Yourself Meditate
Sometimes in our practice we think we have to meditate, and more is better. These thoughts only bring confusion into our sitting. It’s best not to try to force ourselves to meditate.
The alternative is to meditate when you can and when you want to, and for a length of time that feels right to you.
After periods of being on and off with meditation, you will naturally begin to notice that you feel better when you meditate and you will begin to feel drawn to it more and more regularly, and you will notice you start to desire to sit for longer because it feels good to you.
Misconception Two: The Goal of Meditation Is to Have a Spiritual Experience or to Get to a Certain State of Peace and Calm
Often people think that meditation practice should be about expanding the mind, having some type of ecstatic, euphoric, and mystical experience, or some profound flash of illumination. Although such experiences are possible, the more they are sought, the further away they become. The expectation for something to happen while meditating is another form of conceptual thinking of the mind.
Even if we don’t expect a great spiritual experience, sometimes we expect meditation to deliver us to a certain state of peace and calm, but that goal can be another form of control that the mind imposes. Instead of valuing one experience over another, meditation is about developing the ability to be present with life in all it’s moments, whether “pleasant” or “unpleasant,” with awareness and acceptance of “what is.”
Misconception Three: To Meditate is Good, Not Meditating is Bad
As you realize how incredibly beneficial meditation and mindfulness are in your life, you may begin to attach meaning to your practice with subtle undertones of right and wrong, good and bad, or even judging your worth and value based on what you do.
This is an easy trap to fall into again and again. When you find yourself attaching that kind of meaning to your meditation, keep in mind this wisdom from Stuart:
You could meditate every day and have the thought you’re a good cultivator… Don’t (attach to that thought).
You could miss your meditation every day and have the thought that you’re a bad cultivator… Don’t (attach to that thought).
Don’t contend, even with yourself. If you are bringing your mind to being at ease, you are on the path of cultivation.
Misconception Four: You Can Have a Good Sit or a Bad Sit
Applying Lao Zi’s term “wei wu wei,” active non-action to meditation means we should not measure our state of mind. There should be no concern about gauging the degree of your mindfulness. You cannot measure peace and harmony, you can only be in it.
Instead of trying to stop your thoughts, or get to another state, or be “good at” meditation and mindfulness, with regular practice of just sitting, you will find that the “meditation does you” rather than “you doing the meditation.” And you will naturally become calmer and clearer without needing to hold onto thoughts that value one experience over another.