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.


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

  1. HealingMindN on January 26th, 2009 4:33 pm

    Besides tradition, there are different levels of discipline in meditation. With increasing levels of discipline, we have greater levels of focus. For example, in simple mindfulness meditation, we focus on something simple like our breathing pattern. In Kuji Kuri Meditation (a form of qigong meditation), we focus on a symbol, a tastes, an aroma, a colour, a texture, a flow of energy through an energy vessel, and a disciplined breathing pattern. With increasing levels of discipline, we have increasing levels of difficulty. We do all of this with a specific purpose in mind: To use that discipline in the physical world.

  2. Mary on January 27th, 2009 10:25 am

    Thanks for adding this perspective, HealingMindN. Many systems do have a progression from beginning to more advanced meditations. There is a progression of meditations on this website with some teaching the more fundamental skills of meditation and others being more focused on specific results. What’s different from what you are describing is that the progression doesn’t have to do with the increasing levels of discipline you write of.

    Discipline doesn’t play much of a role in the style of meditation I am engaged in. Although some of the meditations I teach involve a focus, it is a very relaxed kind of focus. My style of meditation involves a letting go of effort and learning to operate in a more relaxed state.

  3. magsmadison on January 27th, 2009 7:51 pm

    I think the thing that’s so great about meditation is how inclusive and flexible it is. You can do it however it works for you, wherever and with whomever you choose. That’s just calming in and of itself.

  4. Dan on March 6th, 2010 1:11 pm

    Jiddu Krishnamurti explains real meditation perfectly. There are videos on youtube of K in discussion with Dr. Allan Anderson that go deeply into the question of what meditation actually is and why the orthodox methods are not actually real meditation. I recommend them highly.

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