secrets about meditation

As a meditation teacher, I’m suddenly becoming aware that there are many secrets about meditation that many people are currently unaware of.

It’s no surprise. Most people get their basic information about meditation from mainstream media, and mainstream media like to tell you tall tales without explaining the fine details, they miss out the vital facts you need to know about meditation.

In this article I am going to elucidate things for you. I am going to share the secrets about meditation that you need to know if you want to get the most out of your practice. Some of these may surprise you, but they are all one-hundred percent true.

The Secret Facts About Meditation You Need To Know

1: Why there are so many techniques

You may have noticed that there are a lot of different meditation techniques.

If you add up all the different methods from Buddhism, Hinduism, yoga, modern techniques and others, you’ll find that there are over a thousand different forms of meditation. Yet I frequently hear people saying that “Meditation is just sitting still focusing on your breath”.

Nope.

Not true.

There are very many different ways to meditate, including: mantras, chakras, meditating on different objects, various sounds, movement techniques…

There is a reason why there are so many different techniques. And that is because different methods give you different benefits. And what that means is this: If you want to get the most out of meditation, you need to use different techniques. If you only stick to one form of meditation you are going to miss out on the majority of benefits that meditation offers you.

2: Yes, there are risks of meditation

Here’s a secret about meditation that many people are alarmed to hear: There are some risks and potential side effects.

When I tell this to people, I get mixed reactions. Some people are surprised. Some people deny that meditation has risks (even though they are scientifically validated—see the previous link). And some people get outright angry about it.

It should be one of those pieces of basic information about meditation that everyone knows. You should know that there are risks involved before you start practising But so many people have no clue that meditation can (potentially) cause anxiety and depression and other issues. In fact, there are even stories of newcomers meditating for too long at retreats and dying (I am not 100% certain if those reports were true, but I have read this on more than one occasion).

Yes, meditation is a wonderful practice with an insane amount of benefits. But you should also know that there are some risks involved. It shouldn’t be a secret.

3: Meditation apps do not work

Here’s a fact that developers like Andy Pudicombe don’t want you to know: Meditation apps don’t work.

Headspace, Calm, Pacifica…they do not work. Yes, they are relaxing, but they do not offer the same benefits as a genuine meditation practise. You need to use the proper techniques if you want to get the most out of meditation.

There is a very specific reason why meditation apps don’t work. It’s because they cause your focus to be split. Usually when we meditate, we focus on one thing (such as the breath). But when we use a meditation app there is also the instructor’s voice. It is impossible to focus on one thing if you are also focusing on the voice of the meditation teacher in the app. It is logically impossible to focus on your breath 100% while also listening to the instructor. And that is why meditation apps don’t work, no matter how much money they make.

Meditation apps only exist as a way to monetise a practice that should be free.

4: Yes, you can meditate the wrong way

Another comment I hear very often is “You cannot meditate incorrectly. It’s just focusing on your breathing.”

I actually don’t even understand this comment. If you couldn’t meditate the wrong way, why did Buddha spend so much time teaching monks how to meditate correctly? Why are there in-depth instructions in the sutras? If you couldn’t meditate the wrong way, there would be no need for meditation teachers or instructions.

Yes, you can meditate the wrong way. There are mistakes you can make (like forcing your breath, being judgmental about the process, meditating with bad posture and so on).

In the early 2000s, the Dalai Lama himself said that “Meditation must be learnt correctly. Otherwise, it could do more harm than good”.

It is entirely possible to meditate wrongly. And that is why you need to learn to meditate correctly.

5: Meditation does nothing yet is essential

Hear me out on this one. Meditation does nothing, and yet it is perhaps the most valuable thing you could possibly do.

Meditation does not do anything. It simply allows your mind to reset to the place where it naturally would be if only it weren’t for all the stress and pressure we are put under.

Meditation calms negative thoughts and anxiety, but only because it reduces the effect that society has on us.

In essence, meditation makes our minds work the way they naturally should work. It doesn’t add anything. Rather, it removes many negatives that we are forced to endure. Essentially, it is like pushing the reset button on your mind.

6: Meditation predates Buddhism

The masses believe that meditation is a Buddhist concept. In actual fact, meditation predates Buddhism. Many of my meditation students are surprised when I tell them this, because it is generally agreed that Buddha created the practice.

Meditation was first mentioned in the Hindu classic text the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna explains to Prince Arjuna his warrior duty and lays down the groundwork of meditation and yoga. [source]

The reason most people consider meditation to be Buddhist is that Buddha created most of the methods that are used today, like Anapanasati, Vipassana, and Samatha. Without doubt, Buddha is the single most important influencer that meditation has ever seen. But the actual practice predates the Buddha.

7: No, “Mini Meditations” Do Not Work

It was bound to happen. In the 21st Century when everyone wants the quick and easy solution to everything, someone was bound to come up with “Mini Meditations”. You can find them on most apps. They exist for marketing reasons, because app developers want to tell you that you can get the benefits of meditation in just a few minutes.

Do not believe it.

Meditation should take a minimum of fifteen minutes, usually twenty minutes, and often more. After reading hundreds of research papers on meditation, I’ve observed that the majority of benefits require at least fifteen minutes. That’s how long meditation should take.

If your meditation app tells you that a three-minute meditation will do wonders, don’t believe it. It’s marketing, not truth. As someone who is deeply passionate about proper meditation, I find it disturbing how meditation is being twisted from its roots into a bunch of commercial products that don’t work.

8: You can meditate on absolutely anything

The vast majority of practitioners focus on mindful breathing. Some people know about the popular meditation objects like candles, crystals, and singing bowls. But the truth is, you can meditate on anything. Buddha even meditated on decaying corpses in his Samatha practice.

The reason you can meditate on anything is that everything is still when you focus on it. Go ahead and pick some random object in the room around you (except a TV, video game, or other screen with flashing images). When you meditate on the object, notice how still it is. When we focus on the small details, we can see stillness in all things, and that is why you can meditate on anything.

The reason why some meditation objects are better than others is because they help to reduce distractions. When you close your eyes and focus on breathing you eliminate visual distractions. When you meditate on a candle you dim the room (again cutting out visual distractions). So, as you can see, the key is to reduce external distractions. The actual meditation object, however, could be anything (for instance, I meditate on my cat’s purr every morning during our mammoth twenty-minute snuggle session).

9: Everyone in the world meditates even if they don’t realise it

Everyone meditates. They might not do the traditional methods like Vipassana or Dhyana, but they do meditate. Even animals meditate. These informal meditations happen when the mind needs rest. Some people do it by staring up at the sky for five minutes to quiet the mind. Some people do it by closing their eyes and listening to music. Some people do it during their workouts by focusing on the movement in the body. But everyone meditates.

Meditation is the most natural thing in the world. It is simply the mind taking a break by focusing on something relaxing. And when you realise that, you realise that everyone meditates, even animals.

I hope this article and the basic information on meditation that I’ve provided helps to iron-out some of the misconceptions about the practice. To get the most out of meditation, you need to learn it properly.

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About Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.

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