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Peace of Mind: Meditation Myths Debunked

Deepak Chopra calls meditation “a vital way to purify and quiet the mind, thus rejuvenating the body.” The Mayo Clinic calls it a “simple, fast way to reduce stress.” And Ringo Starr describes it this way: “At the end of the day, I can end up just totally wacky, because I’ve made mountains of molehills. With meditation, I can keep them as molehills.”

There’s tons of evidence that meditation can improve emotional, mental, and physical well-being. But misconceptions can keep some people from giving it a try. Read on to learn some of the myths of meditation—and what it is really.

Myth 1: Meditation is hard to learn.
It can feel daunting to try something new. But learning to meditate is actually very simple, says Therese Sorrentino, LMFT (, who teaches all her clients to meditate. She recommends the book Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris, host of the Ten Percent Happier podcast. “It’s an easy and enjoyable read.”

There are many different ways to meditate. The goal is to find [a technique] that works for you. “Embrace the learning process and don’t judge yourself for any perceived ‘mistakes,’” says Christine Fairchild, vice president of Serenity Spa | Soul Yoga ( “It’s about cultivating a practice that suits your individual needs.”

Myth 2: Meditation takes a lot of time.
“You can meditate five minutes a day and still benefit from it,” Sorrentino says. Consistency is key, explains Jack Wheeler, manager of Westpark Yoga & Movement ( Just like learning to play an instrument, it’s important to practice regularly. “As a beginner, your ‘goal’ should be to meditate consistently, even if it’s just a few minutes per day,” he says.

But don’t give up if you don’t experience immediate results. “Sometimes nothing will happen, and you’ll sit uncomfortably for 20 minutes before thinking, ‘OK, this is weird. I’m done.’ And that’s OK.”

Myth 3: Meditation is a religious practice.
A common misconception is that meditation is a “strange ‘woo-woo’ practice,” says Michelle Dossett, MD, PhD, MPH, and associate professor at UC Davis, and medical director of its Integrative Medicine Clinic ( In actuality, “meditation can be practiced in a secular context or in the context of a faith tradition. Historically, most people came to meditation as part of a spiritual practice. However, these days, people come to meditation with a variety of goals in mind,” she says.

Think of it as “exercise for your mind or bicep curls for your brain,” adds Sorrentino.

Myth 4: Meditation must be practiced in silence.
Life is busy—and often noisy. While a peaceful environment can be helpful when learning to meditate, you can meditate anywhere—even a noisy office or crowded airport.

Some forms of meditation intentionally incorporate sound. Sound therapy uses instruments and tools, such as gongs, drums, and tuning forks, to induce a state of deep relaxation.

“There are many ways to meditate,” explains Christi Cervetti, founder of Sounds Like a Dream (, which offers sound therapy and other forms of meditation. “In breath-focused meditation, the practice is to constantly return your attention to the present moment by noticing your breath; in sound meditation, the practice is to constantly return your attention to experiencing the present-moment sounds around you.”

Myth 5: The goal of meditation is to clear your mind.
The goal of meditation isn’t a blank mind, but rather “intentionally moving into a state of consciousness where we can observe our own thoughts,” Cervetti explains. “As we get familiar with our thoughts in this new way, we discover we can become less overwhelmed and less bound by an overthinking, anxious mind.”

“Mind wandering is normal and does not mean you are a meditation failure,” adds Dossett.


“Modern science has verified significant health benefits” of meditation, including “greater physical and mental health, a reduction in the physiological stress response, improved concentration, a greater sense of peace and calmness, development of intuition, greater creativity and insight, and a greater sense of connection,” says Dossett.

Some research even suggests it can help manage the symptoms of many chronic conditions, including anxiety, asthma, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, and tension headaches.


Ready to give meditation a try? Guided meditation—either with a recording or an instructor—can be especially helpful for beginners.

“Guided meditation involves an instructor leading participants through a series of visualizations or affirmations to achieve a specific mental or emotional state,” Fairchild explains. “It is an excellent option for beginners or those seeking a structured mediation experience.”

Mindful breathing is another simple method of meditation:
1. Sit upright, either in a chair or on the floor, whatever is most comfortable.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Breathe naturally.
4. Notice your body and any sensations you feel. Relax areas of tension.
5. Feel the natural rhythm your breath as you inhale and exhale.
6. When your mind wanders, softly say the word “wandering” to acknowledge it, and then return your focus to your breath.
7. Gently open your eyes.

Start with just five minutes and gradually work up to longer periods of time.
“There are many effective practices out there, but different practices work for different people,” says Dossett. “Don’t give up on meditation if the first or second thing you try doesn’t work.”
“It took me several years of sporadic attempts before I discovered sound meditation worked for me,” recalls Cervetti. “It may very well be that you just haven’t come across the best type of meditation for you yet.”

by Jennifer Maragoni

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