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You’re Not Bad at Meditation: 5 Meditation Myths & What to Do Instead

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A comprehensive meditation guide for the restless, neurodivergent, and meditation-averse.

Meditation doesn’t work for me.


My mind is just too busy.


It just makes me feel worse.


As a recovery and mindfulness coach, I hear it all the time. As a neurodivergent, over-intellectualizing basket case, I deeply relate.


I felt this way for a long time — like my mind just wasn’t tuned to the same frequency as everyone else’s, and when I closed my eyes, there was only darkness: terrifying and unfathomable. Or else there were random, overlapping sound bites of grocery lists, mundane concerns, and vaguely unpleasant recent memories.


There followed a decade-long foray into the deepest depths of the mind that ultimately led to one conclusion: so much of what we think we know about physical and mental health is woefully wrong.


In a modern discourse where originality is prioritized over validity, the most popular ideas don’t always align with the truth. In fact, they rarely do.


And because no wellness practice has received as much attention as meditation, there’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there.


I first tell my clients that recovery is not something we gain but what’s left when we lose all the garbage.


Meditation — a core tenet of most recovery programs, from 12-step to Buddhist asceticism — functions similarly.


You don’t need more information. You need curated information. And it’s my job as a coach to provide it to you. So here are five prevalent myths about meditation—and what we can learn from each.

1. You Do Not Have to Quiet Your Mind 

Bad habits thrive in secrecy.


They depend upon our mindlessness to take over since subconscious patterns of behavior reign when attention is dormant. 


As a result, many of the people I work with—those with bad habits or addictions—struggle with mindfulness. 


Unfortunately, recovery depends almost entirely upon one’s ability to inhabit the present moment, and mindfulness is one of the primary catalysts for habit change.


But my clients insist I’m not good at meditation.


They can’t restrain the monkey mind, or they can’t stop thinking about dinner, or their legs hurt, or the position is too uncomfortable. 


Besides, they tell me, what’s the point of sitting in silence for twenty minutes? And who is capable of emptying their mind anyway?


No one.


The answer is no one. 


Because that’s not the point—besides, I dread imagining what such a person would look like. 


The notion that one has to “quiet the mind” to benefit from meditation is a relatively new addition to the canon of problematic New Age appropriations of ancient philosophies from the global South. 


There is little mention of “quieting the mind” in the Vedas, which boast the first mention of meditation, or in any of the canonical first texts of Eastern spirituality.


That’s because the goal of meditation is not to quiet the mind but to observe it. 


The nature of the mind is to make noise. That’s just what the mind does—that’s the entire point. Quieting it is neither possible nor desirable. 


Think of it as a child throwing a tantrum. 


You can try to silence the child, though I humbly suggest the futility of that particular method, however tempting. Because really, there isn’t much you can do for a screaming child but act as an empathic witness. 


What the child—and the mind—wants is to get her way. What she needs is to be heard.


The term quieting the mind implies effort, force, a conflict: the mind is on the offensive, and we’re on defense.


But effort is just resistance, and resistance is antithetical to mindfulness. When we set out to “quiet the mind,” the mind will, in turn, attempt to make as much noise as possible—like a teenager this time.


But the mind is just doing what it knows to do. It has good intentions, so why punish it? The evolutionary function of the mind is to mitigate the sheer volume of information by providing its sometimes invaluable, mostly useless input on everything.


It has fundamentally good intentions. It wants to help us survive and thrive.


Unfortunately, we’ve failed to give it the training we provide our bodies, so the mind, naturally, runs riot. But we cannot blame the mind for our mistake—nor can we bully it into submission.


To meditate with ease, we must renegotiate our relationship with the mind. We must remember that the mind, though ours, is not us. The mind has a will of its own, and no amount of effort will prevent it from having weird erotic dreams or singing Cher songs on repeat.


We should be thankful for this since it relieves us of the responsibility of managing the mind.


If you watch your thoughts long enough — if you allow what comes to come and what goes to go — you’ll notice that your mind does not, in fact, belong to you. It acts of its own accord. And all you can do is sit and observe — which is how you know that you aren’t the mind. An eye, after all, cannot see itself.

quotation marks

It doesn’t matter how, when, or how much you meditate. What matters is only that you find time in your day to notice what is happening around you, this unique, unprecedented view of the universe which no one else will ever see but you.

Meditation Myths and What to Do Instead

2. There Are Rules

When I say “meditation,” what comes to mind? 


Maybe you think of troublesome, unfathomable silence — or boredom. 


Maybe you recall, with a grimace, folding your legs into awkward geometric shapes. Maybe you think of expensive satin meditation pillows, incense, and Andean pan pipes.


Meditation carries some oddly specific and often inaccurate connotations in Western discourse on the subject. Profound spiritual practices rarely translate when appropriated, and most Westerners lack the appropriate context to discern truth from New Age fiction.


Most of us think of meditation as something that requires a specific position (lotus), environment (silent, dark), and state of mind (peaceful and empty).


As a result, we chastise ourselves when unable to meet this imaginary standard—or else we abandon the practice altogether. 


After all, we’ll never be the barefoot, patchouli-scented granola muncher who meditates three hours a day and levitates every so often. We’ll never be able to walk across a path of hot coals or respond to insults with compassion.


Thankfully, most of our wild ideas about meditation come from a handful of 19th and 20th-century thinkers who wanted to add their own zany spin to an ancient spiritual practice.


Meditation is a broad and lawless discipline. There are many different types of formal meditation and innumerable informal variations. Meditation can be whatever we want it to be.


We only resent meditation because we think we aren’t good at it when in reality, we’ve simply misunderstood the rules of the game—or because we’ve assumed there are any rules at all.


The point is not to become an expert at sitting still in lotus position or swallowing fire, or living in a cave without food. The point is to practice open awareness when presented with few distractions—so we can deploy it when presented with plenty.


We are liable to get the journey confused with the destination, to confuse becoming a zen expert with living a mindful and fulfilling life. 


But we would do well to remember that seated meditation is just the rehearsal—and life is the performance.


Besides, the entire purpose of the practice is to limit ourselves to existing in the present moment. One cannot “master” the present moment, nor should one try. There is no need to become an expert to enjoy the benefits meditation offers. One has simply to show up and pay attention.


It doesn’t matter how, when, or how much you meditate. What matters is only that you find time in your day to notice what is happening around you, this unique, unprecedented view of the universe which no one else will ever see but you. 


So look closely; take it all in. 


That’s meditation.


3. You Have to Have an Intention

Many meditation teachers ask their students to set an intention. 


Examples may include: surrendering completely, communing with my Higher Power, and forgiving my enemies.


No pressure.


While intentions can be valuable anchors, they can also create confusion around the purpose of meditation—or lead us to believe that there is a purpose at all.


I hear people say—in yoga classes, client sessions, retreats, and public transportation—that they meditate to find happiness, introduce order into their lives, or meet God. And there are meditations for all those purposes—focus, awareness, transcendence, astral projection, etc. And because the term “meditation” broadly means “inward reflection,” it can refer to just about anything.


But when we set goals for our meditations as we do in our work, we risk slipping noiselessly out of the present moment. 


We create expectations around our meditation practice, and you know what they say about expectations…


There is no ultimate objective in meditation. There is only the here, and now we hope to experience at this very moment.


Meditating one hour a day does not bestow one with the miraculous ability to forgive every transgression—but it does empower us with the awareness we need to become someone who might.


When we meditate to “do” or “get” something, we are challenging the very first foundations of meditation and what it does (and doesn’t) promise. 


The goal should never be to “make” anything happen since we are after acceptance.


The goal, ultimately, is to become aware of one’s thoughts, behaviors, surroundings, and experiences. That’s it. There is nothing to do or have—only everything to notice.


The purpose isn’t to make magic happen—it’s to notice the magic already there.


4. Meditation Tames the Ego 

Somehow, we’ve all come to believe that enlightenment comes from the destruction of the ego.


Thibault wrote: “the ego isn’t a real thing; it’s just the unexamined mind.”


As a result, we meditate to do just that: destroy the ego. 


But how did the ego get such a bad reputation to begin with? Where did we get the idea that it deserves to be destroyed? And how did we come to believe that we have the power to “get rid” of it anyway?


The short answer: Freud and Puritanical norms, but that’s an essay for another day.


The ego is a crucial component of a fully functioning human organism. We need our egos to make sense of experience, interpret the world around us, maintain boundaries…The list goes on. 


The problem is not with the ego but with our relationship to it. Back to the parenting metaphor: the ego is like a child—thoughtless, impulsive. It misbehaves only when we neglect it. It depends upon our mindlessness to entertain its drama. But we do not kill our children when they misbehave. We give them “the look,” and we teach them—with vigilance—to behave differently. So it is with ego.


When we meditate, we give the ego the attention it craves. When we pay attention to it, it miraculously ceases to disturb us. It doesn’t die or disappear. It simply gets a little quieter and less intrusive.


Busy minds are akin to dirty rooms. We don’t toss our dirty clothes and stray cups to make space. We clean up and put everything back in its rightful place. So it is with the mind.

Meditation Myths and What to Do Instead

5. Meditation is Enjoyable

Many of the protests I hear surrounding meditation have to do with the experience itself.


It’s uncomfortable. 


I don’t enjoy it.


I don’t have any revelations.


For reasons unfathomable, we conflate mindfulness with joy.


My clients nearly always expect to feel a great peace come over them when they meditate, to commune with nature or the universe.


Of course, when it doesn’t happen, they’re gutted. They blame themselves. They swear off the stuff forever.


But why should we expect meditation to make us happier? Why should we expect anything of it at all?


We expend tremendous time, energy, and resources to repress our unpleasant thoughts. Naturally, when we meditate, those thoughts will emerge. It’s hardly a pleasant experience, but it sure is necessary.


Again, meditation has no purpose other than to facilitate clarity. It is neither a positive nor negative experience—it is the alchemizing of intensity into neutrality. 


Joy, relaxation, implacability—those are just byproducts of awareness. Meditation promises us no gifts. It simply allows us to enjoy the ones we’ve already been given.


Before You Go 

Meditation is neither a skill nor an art — it is an experience.


It requires neither that you enjoy it nor that you improve it — only that you attend.


And your mind, wild, unruly thing though it may be, doesn’t need to be changed — it wants only to be seen.


If you are interested in embracing the present moment and finding freedom from compulsive habits or addictions, consider booking a session with a qualified mindfulness coach.


Each client receives a free copy of my eBook, Forgiveness Will Free You, and a free curated folder of resources—including eBooks, PDF files, and more. 


And if not, feel free to reach out to me anyway! I love nothing more than to share what I’ve learned.

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