Tag Archives: balance

Three Misconceptions about Meditation

Guided Meditation and Relaxation

Three Misconceptions about Meditation that Prevent People from Starting a Practice

By now, you’ve probably heard about the incredible emotional, physical, and mental benefits of a regular meditation practice.  On the emotional front, it reduces anxiety, depression, and stress; increases compassion, social connection, and self-awareness; and improves mood.  On the physical front, it improves immune function, lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, and helps curtail unhealthy habits such as smoking and overeating.  As for the mental front, meditation improves creative thinking, concentration, multitasking, and memory.

Pretty amazing stuff, right?  Reading this list of benefits, you might think, “Why the heck isn’t everyone doing this?!”  In my experience as a psychologist and meditation advocate, there are three main misconceptions about it that prevent folks from starting a practice.  The misconceptions- which I hear frequently- go like this:

1.  “I could never meditate:  I can’t clear my mind.”

Many folks hold the misconception that meditation means wrestling with the brain in an effort to make it completely thought-free.  No wonder they don’t want to give it a try!  When someone shares this misconception, I explain that it is not about “mind-clearing,” but rather about simply noticing one’s experience (including thoughts, feelings, and sensations) in the here-and-now without judgment.  It is not a process of “pushing thoughts out,” but of simply noticing thoughts and allowing them to pass.  It’s about taking a break from the outside world and noticing what’s happening inside.  It is through this peaceful, non-judgmental process that stress is relieved and mood is improved.

2.  “There’s no way that I could meditate:  I can’t sit still.”

Many folks also hold the mistaken assumption that meditation must mean sitting perfectly still, cross-legged, on a cushion, in a quiet space, with incense burning and a statue of the Buddha overseeing the process.  While this would be wonderful, it is not necessary!  Meditation absolutely does not have to involve sitting still.  Walking meditation is a wonderful way to non-judgmentally experience the here-and-now (thoughts, feelings, and sensations) while in motion.  If you are concerned about the “sitting still factor,” I encourage you to try a walking meditation, running meditation, weight-training meditation, or general work-out meditation.  There are many apps and digital downloads available to guide you through the process.  I’d be honored if you tried my apps or album, which include a walking meditation as well as a progressive muscle relaxation exercise.

3.  “Meditation sounds great, but I just don’t have the time.”

Before I began my meditation practice, this was the misconception that kept me from getting started.  With my busy life, I just couldn’t imagine adding “one more thing” to my plate of responsibilities and activities.  However, I have learned that it can happen in small chunks almost anytime and anywhere.  While I love practicing meditation in my quiet space at home, I have done five minute to hour-long meditations on the subway, in-between patients at work, during my walks and workouts, and sitting in the car waiting for my kids’ activities to end.

Meditation for Beginners

Would you like to give a short meditation a try?  Below is my Four S’s Meditation, a short meditation that you can do anytime and anywhere:

First, close your eyes and take five to ten deep, calming breaths.

Next, take a few minutes to notice sounds, sensations, smells, and sights around you. Silently say to yourself:

I hear _______”  Simply notice the sounds around you.
I feel _______”  Simply notice any sensations in your body.
I smell ______”  Simply notice any smells in the air.
I see ________”  Open your eyes and really notice what you see around you.

Repeat as many times as you’d like, for five to twenty minutes. Finish with five to ten more deep, calming breaths.

Meditation has given me such a sense of peace that I truly look forward to it each day- and creatively find time to make it happen.  Once you start experiencing the benefits of meditation, I hope that you will too!

Take care,



Achieve Wellness by Doing Less

wellness and balanceAchieve Wellness by Doing Less

I recently had a session with “Kate,” a new mother, wife, and ICU nurse.  Kate expressed a feeling that people share with me frequently:  “I feel like I’m not doing enough.”  Kate shared feelings of guilt for “not working enough” (she works 24 hours per week in the ICU), “not losing the baby weight,” (her son is 10 weeks old), “not working out enough,” and “not cooking nice meals like I used to.”  To provide some context, Kate’s baby has feeding difficulties, has her up three or four times per night, and wants to be carried all day long.  Kate is exhausted and overwhelmed, juggling the responsibilities of parenting with the pressures of ICU nursing (and doing an amazing job, by the way), but she still she feels guilty for not doing “more.”

Unfortunately, I hear this message from my patients almost everyday:  that they’re not doing “enough.”  Not working enough, not cooking enough, not exercising enough, not making enough money, not enrolling their kids in enough activities, not spending enough time with their kids, not keeping the house clean enough, etc., etc., etc.  We live in a culture that subtly says, “Do it all and do it all perfectly!” “Achieve, achieve, achieve!” and “Do more, do more, do more!”  Well, I’m here with a completely different message:  DO LESS.  If your body is exhausted or hurting, listen to it.  Give yourself permission to skip the work out and simply rest.  If it’s time to make dinner and you feel tired and overwhelmed, give yourself permission to order take-out:  and enjoy every bite. If you need a break from your children, don’t try to push through another craft:  give yourself permission to put them in front of a video while you take a relaxing bath, do a meditation, or call a friend.  If going for that promotion will bring added stress to you and your household system, give yourself permission to take yourself out of the running.  When you make conscious choices to take care of yourself (through rest, relaxation, connecting with others, and “doing less”), you’re bringing balance to your family system; promoting your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health; and modeling healthy behavior for your loved ones!

I’m working hard to help Kate be more gentle and compassionate with herself.  Specifically, we’re working to replace her culturally-based “do more” mentality with conscious choices that promote health, harmony, and balance.  Each time she is faced with a decision, she asks herself this question:  “What choice will lead to greater balance, peace, harmony, and health for me and my family?”  If you struggle with that nagging feeling of pressure to do more (as I do sometimes), I hope you’ll consider using this question as a guide too.

Take care,