Meditation Myth — Is there is a “real” meditation?

January 26, 2009

I came across a list of meditation myths on the web. Funny thing is some myths on that list are not myths to me, they are truths. It all depends on how you define “meditation”. There are hundreds of kinds of meditations. The question is, can you say that one meditation is “real” or “true” meditation? The person who created the list I read apparently thought so, because the term “real meditation” was used. I’m quite sure I’ve use that type of language myself — in fact I remember saying something about “true meditation” on a podcast. And yet, I feel it can be really misleading to say one meditation style is real or true.

Anytime anyone makes a generalization about meditation, they are referring to a particular style of meditation. It’s not like there’s a real meditation and the rest are somehow false. The person who wrote that list comes from a particular tradition. Within the understanding of that tradition, it makes sense to speak of real meditation. If you want to learn meditation within a tradition, then knowing what that tradition defines as right or real meditation will be important to you. That particular list of myths will have value for you. But if you are not so concerned about tradition, but more concerned about what works for you regardless of its origins, then you would approach a list of myths in a whole different way. You would look at it so see what made sense and what is useful for you.

It’s only through some reference to tradition that you could say a meditation style was real. Either you are saying the tradition is somehow an authority or that you yourself are the authority on what is real meditation. Sometimes people feel that a meditation that comes from a long tradition is more real and true than a contemporary form of meditation. It makes sense that something that has been tested through time may be trustworthy. But no matter how long a tradition has been along, you are ultimately relying on someone else’s interpretation of that tradition. Who is to say that the person teaching you now understands what was meant when the tradition was started centuries ago?

Everything a teacher says is coming from his or her understanding. The bottom line is that there are really no absolutes in meditation. To me, the bottom line is that what’s real and true is what you find to be real and true in your own experience. What a book or a teacher says can only be a catalyst for your own self-discovery.

Meditating in the London tubes

January 22, 2009

Today Mike MudIsland Mike let me know that he’d blogged about our podcast. The post was so much fun to read that I thought I’d link to it for you to read (read the post). He writes colorfully and with a great sense of humor about listening to the podcasts on his daily London commute.

Everyday I hear from people about their experiences with the podcast. It’s so fulfilling to be connected through meditation with so many people all over the world. I love hearing about the many ways and places people enjoy the meditations. Chances are most people are simply sitting or lying down with eyes closed while listening, but I’ve heard from people listening while exercising, walking, traveling, watching a pond and more ways than I can remember.

I can’t tell you how fulfilling it is for Richard and I to hear from all of you. Sometimes your stories are so heart-warming. Often what you share is so full of wisdom and the enthusiasm of your own inner discoveries. What an adventure this podcast has been! Thank you everyone who is taking this journey with me. And thanks to the techies who have created this incredible thing called the internet and all the software that allows us to meet in this way across the world.

You don’t have to sit yoga style to meditate!

January 15, 2009

I just spent at least an hour on the web searching for the right picture for our Online Meditation Course. Currently we have an image of someone sitting in lotus. That picture made someone wonder if she had to sit in yoga posture to meditate. The answer is absolutely not! You can have deep, relaxing meditations and even very profound experiences sitting comfortably in a chair (or on the floor or a bed or sometimes even lying down…). Seemed like it would help to find an image that sends that message.

Searching the web, I hoped to find a picture with someone just sitting comfortably meditating. I went to all my favorite photo sites and it seemed like every single image of a person meditating was always in lotus, or at least cross-legged, and often with the hands held in some sort of special way. While different postures and hand positions do have different effects, they are not really important for most aspiring meditators. Many people can’t even sit cross-legged comfortably for any length of time, and even fewer can sit in lotus.

As for what we recommend about posture — usually meditation is best sitting up with the spine fairly erect. I say “fairly” because the most important thing is to be comfortable. When you are comfortable, you can relax completely. Sitting up fairly straight helps the mind to be alert. If you lie down (which you can do for some kinds of meditations) your mind will not be as alert and you may tend to fall asleep. Most meditation styles are not suited to the lying down position, although many guided meditations will be. But if you can’t sit up for some reason, better to meditate lying down than not at all.

We hear from people who are using our podcast meditations in all sorts of ways — sitting, lying down, walking, exercising, gazing at a lake — and people are getting benefits and having profound experiences in all these ways. Ultimately posture is up to you and will depend on what you are using the meditations for and how you are using them. So often when I hear from someone about their experiences, I remember that these meditations are your meditations. It’s your journey and your process and your truth that counts.

We do recommend sitting up to meditate for our Online Course. The course is a more structured, systematic process aimed at helping people learn to meditate on their own. The sitting posture helps facilitate mastering the fundamentals of meditation. But it is not necessary to be able to assume a pretzel like position to do it. Like our podcast meditations, ease and naturalness are essential. After all, meditation is all about being natural and being at ease!

Body Movements in Meditation

January 9, 2009

I’ve had a lot of questions about spontaneous body movements in meditation. People report shaking, the head moving, twitches and all sorts of other body movements. When these movements occur, it can be surprising and sometimes people feel concerned about them or want to know if they have any significance.

Regardless of what kind of movements you have and what you are experiencing before they happen and as they are occurring, body movements that come up in meditation are the primarily the result of two things: 1) release of tension from the deep relaxation of meditation; and 2) increased flow of energy in your body’s “energy field” (or “aura”) which starts to move “blocks”. In a sense these could be thought of as the same thing, but each explanation has a value in understanding your experience.

  1. Release of tension. This is quite obvious. When the body becomes deeply relaxed in meditation, muscles start to relax. Usually this would be felt as twitches and small movements such as your thumb jumping, but it could also be a larger movement — your head might suddenly turn.
  2. Increased flow of energy in the energy field moving through blocks. This is a more esoteric explanation, but you may actually feel the movement as being associated with “energy” (see some of the comments on the Sensing Energy during Meditation post). In this case, deep meditation is opening up some energy pathways and as more energy starts to flow it can hit up against blocks. As the energy dissolves the blocks, the body may spontaneously shake or twist and turn since everything that happens in our energy field is reflected in the body. (Read about the Human Energy Field.)

The question then is, what should I do about this? There’s really nothing you need to do unless the movements are too strong or disturbing you in some way. If that’s the case, you can simply open your eyes. This will help you to come out of the deep state you are in and the movements will naturally subside. Take it easy and come out of meditation slowly.

If the movements don’t disturb you, just let them happen without trying to manipulate them in any way. It’s better to not get involved with the movements, trying to make them happen or continue. Just let them happen spontaneously on their own, not resisting them and not getting involved with them. In a sense, you can treat them like thoughts in meditation.

Note: Of course, if you have unusual movements happening outside of meditation or have any other symptoms of concern, it’s always advisable to consult a health care provider to make sure there isn’t a medical condition you need to tend to.

Related post: Sensing Energy during Meditation

New Online Meditation Course

January 6, 2009

Many people are happily meditating with our podcast and we hear from so many of you about the wonderful changes happening in your lives. It’s amazing that the experience of meditation gets transmitted in this way on the web and we’ve been inspired to find more ways to bring meditation into peoples’ lives.

We’ve created on Online Meditation Course for those who want a simple, yet effective way to learn meditation online. Not everyone can find or attend a local meditation course. Not everyone gets the hoped for results simply listening to our podcasts and reading the information on our website. Some want more structure and support. So we created a course that distills the essence of the principles of our meditations. Through a systematic sequence of meditations and written materials people can master the basics of meditation. We’ll also be offering very personal support through four email consultations which are part of the course. It’s exciting to see how our work evolves as we connect with people through the internet. Everything that we learned in teaching people in person is reflected in the course.

The course isn’t just for beginners. It’s also for anyone who is already meditating but not satisfied with their practice. Even those who are enjoying our podcasts could benefit from the course if they want to be able to meditate on their own, as could anyone who has struggled in any way with our meditations. 

We know some of you will have questions about the course. Please feel free to ask, either in the comments on this post or on our Online Meditation Course page.

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