Do our meditations contain “mixed messages”? (How to listen to our meditations!)

June 30, 2014

I just responded to an email with a great question — in fact, I’m surprised I’ve never gotten this question before. It’s an opportunity to remind everyone how to listen to our guided meditations. Here’s the Q&A —

Q: I like the app (Simply Being) but what the guide is saying there is somewhat confusing : on one hand it’s “open awareness to whatever is happening right now” and on the other hand “easy, there is nothing to do”. These are 180 degrees different states of mind, as far as I interpret it.

A: Great question! The words are meant to help you experience a relaxed, meditative state. It is impossible to do that through precise instructions, so the instructions can seem like mixed messages or a paradox if they are taken too literally. The phrases are really just gentle prompts to allow the mind to do what it can naturally do — let go. “Open awareness to whatever is happening right now” is not so much an instruction as a description of a natural state. If there isn’t openness — if you notice resistance to what is happening or some attempt to change it, you can let that go. The phrase “easy, there is nothing to do” is to encourage that letting go. (Resistance to and manipulation of what is naturally happening involves effort, “doing”.)

You can just listen easily to the meditation, not trying to make sense of all the words. That’s why we say in the instructions, “just let the words wash over you”.

For those of you who do not have our apps — I am copying our How to Listen instructions below. These instructions apply to all of our meditations, whether they are on an app, a CD or in the podcast.

“Listen easily to the guided meditations, allowing the words to ‘wash over you’. You don’t need to understand, or even hear, all the words. The words and phrases aren’t instructions that are meant to be followed precisely. They are just gentle prompts to the mind.”


14 Responses to “Do our meditations contain “mixed messages”? (How to listen to our meditations!)”

  1. Miguel on July 28th, 2014 12:33 pm

    To get down to deep meditation can you do it in 30 minutes or you need more time

  2. Mary on July 28th, 2014 2:23 pm

    Miguel, this is one of those “it depends” answers — it depends on the person in general and how clear and rested they are to begin with on a particular day, as well as on the meditation style. It’s possible to go deep very quickly, and it can take longer. There’s no simple answer to this — “it all depends”!

  3. Cerise on July 31st, 2014 9:00 am

    Do you know when you will have the streatching CD available. I’m 55 years old with the flexibility of a 70 year old. We have had a family trauma., which emotionally and physically left me paralyzed. I’m ready to take back my life and thought the stretching ( even though I can’t get down on the floor yet) would help. I’m also new to meditation and looking forward to this journey.

  4. Mary on July 31st, 2014 10:20 am

    Cerise, the stretching DVD should be available again in late August or early September. We are sorry about the inconvenience. Great that you are getting into stretching and meditation. We have over 45 free guided meditations on our Listen to Our Podcast page — enjoy!

  5. philip on August 7th, 2014 9:01 am

    i am unbearably self conscious to the level of it being a major sympton of my mental illness (schizoaffective disorder) and am also interested in meditation to hopefully ease my anxiety and help me feel more natural (more within my own body) while doing things as mundane as walking down the street. what i don’t understand is, that it seems, from other people’s description of the goals and implementation of meditation, that it is supposed to make you feel more self conscious. can you please explain.

  6. Mary on August 7th, 2014 2:40 pm

    Philip, this is a great question! It does seem that meditation might be helpful for you as it can help a great deal with anxiety. It would be important, though, to check with your doctor or psychotherapist to get a professional opinion as to whether it would be of benefit with your condition.

    As for people saying meditation makes you more “self conscious” — I don’t think they are using the term in the way you are. If I understand your meaning, self conscious has to do with being very uncomfortable around people, especially with regard to how you think you appear to them. When someone says meditation makes you more self conscious, this would mean more self aware, that is more aware of your feelings and thought patterns.

    Hope this helps.

  7. jan on September 14th, 2014 10:36 pm

    Is breathing better through nose or mouth? I always feel like having not enough air breathing just through nose. Thank you.

  8. Mary on September 15th, 2014 9:55 am

    jan, if you are having trouble breathing, we recommend you see a health care provider and check it out. That feeling could have many causes.

  9. Giovanni Dienstmann on December 23rd, 2014 4:09 am

    The old dilemma of effort x effortlessness (and one I had for long as well).

    Our true being is effortless choiceless awareness. So we actually don’t need to “do” anything to “be”.

    On the other hand, the mind is habituated to vicious circles of attention, attachment and distraction – which leads to suffering. To break free from these, an effort is required – the effort to focus our attention more neutrally in the present moment, rather than on mind’s ghosts.

  10. Mary on December 26th, 2014 2:58 pm

    Giovanni, I would call it more an “intention” that an effort. Having the intention is enough…

  11. kathleen on March 30th, 2015 4:14 pm

    I found your wonderful website quite by chance. I love it! You see, I have a long history of using meditation to create a mindful way to overcome adversity by improving a strength en ones’ abilities in cognitive development by the practice of consciousness raising. Please do visit my website I am the change I I was a political prisoner or a prisoner of conscience under Soviet rule and I explain how the thoughts which created my ability to withstand persecution.

  12. Mary on March 31st, 2015 11:55 am

    Kathleen, wishing you all the best with your website and new book.

  13. Mike on April 19th, 2015 8:25 pm

    I am brand new at meditation and wonder if anyone else is having problems “hearing” the person directiing? Might be old old ears but even with a good set of headphnnes I miss much of what is said.

  14. Mary on April 20th, 2015 8:27 am

    Mike, we are sorry you are having trouble hearing the voice direction. We’re not sure what to suggest, except that you might hear it better with one of our apps because you can adjust the voice volume relative to the music or background sound. We have a two free apps — Take a Break! and iSleep Easy (both by developer, Meditation Oasis). If you have a smartphone or tablet, try downloading one of those and see if it is better for you.

    Also — it’s not important to catch every word as the directions are just suggestions to be followed without straining. But if you are missing a large proportion of words, that would be a problem.

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