Do You Make These Six Common Mistakes When Meditating?

iStock_000005213985Small2 I remember the first time I tried to meditate and thought, “This is so not what I thought it would be!"

I had a very clear image in my mind of what meditating was supposed to be—and what it wasn’t. And what I instead discovered is that my preconceived notions actually kept me from experiencing the true benefits of meditation.

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering why meditating isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, perhaps you have some of the same misconceptions that I initially had.

To make sure we are reaping the true benefits of meditation, we first need to understand some of the most common mistakes people make when starting a meditation practice.

1. Trying to stop our thoughts

I was under the impression that when people meditate they have no thoughts. When I tried to do this, I failed miserably.

When we attempt to stop our thoughts during meditation we are making meditation way more difficult than it needs to be. Meditating is not about not thinking. It is about observing our thoughts without getting carried away by them.

The more often we can practice observing our thoughts as if we are watching cars pass by, the more we strengthen our ability to do this throughout the day.

2. Assuming one must sit cross-legged on a cushion

I had a picture in my mind that the only way to properly meditate was to sit on a fancy cushion with incense burning nearby. Given I have neither of those things (and wasn’t planning to buy them anytime soon), meditation seemed to be an undoable act.

Then, I tried something crazy. I sat on my couch in the middle of my studio and practiced my meditation.

The benefits of meditation are not found on a cushion. They can be found anywhere we choose to close our eyes, bring our awareness to our breath, and watch our thoughts pass us by.

3. Only meditating in a quiet place

Along with assuming I had to sit on a cushion to meditate, I also believed that it could only be done in a quiet place. If I wasn’t able to make time for meditation while at home, I didn’t get my meditation in for the day. So I started meditating in other places.

When we quiet our mind, we do not need to be in a quiet place to meditate. We can even use the sounds around us to bring us deeper into our awareness. 

4. Blocking off a minimum of 30 minutes each day to meditate

When I started meditating, I thought that the only way I’d see benefits is if I did it for at least 30 minutes a day. Not that there is anything wrong with meditating for more than 30 minutes in one sitting—this can actually be very beneficial.

The problem can arise when we assume that anything less isn’t worthwhile, and we miss an opportunity to use the 5 minutes we do have to center ourselves and cultivate our meditation practice.

5. Expecting an outcome

My first experience meditating left me saying, “That’s it?” As if something incredible was supposed to happen once I opened my eyes.

When we meditate, it’s not about reaching any particular outcome—like feeling rejuvenated or shifting our entire perspective on something. While these things may occur, going into meditation with an expectation of a particular outcome will simply defeat the purpose.

Meditation isn’t about “doing” or “achieving”—it’s about “being” and “observing.” [Tweet that!]

6. Only using silent meditation

For someone like me whose mind tends to go a mile a minute, sitting in silence was probably one of the most painful things I ever tried to do.

Once I discovered the ease of using a guided meditation app on my phone, I turned a whole new corner with meditation.

Guided meditations can be just what we need to observe our thoughts and experience some stillness.

Meditation can sometimes have a bad rap. Mainly this is because some of us have preconceived notions about how it’s “supposed” to be done which actually keep us from truly experiencing the benefits that meditation has to offer.

See what happens if we let go of some of these expectations and instead let meditation be exactly what it is intended to be—a chance to bring awareness to our breath, observe our thoughts, and create space to experience a little more inner peace in the moment.

What is your favorite mediation tip or trick? Share in the comments below and help others discover new ways to experience the benefits of meditating.