What People Get Wrong about Meditation

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Hello my dear happiness nerds, welcome back!

Following up on my two posts on what’s special about the present moment and how it can help lead a happier life (you find them here and here) I wanted to share a little insight from my favorite meditation app. It’s called Waking Up and its creator is the US American philosopher, neuroscientist, and long-time meditator Sam Harris. He and his team recently introduced the “moment” feature, which reminds you a few times per day (or once or never if you so choose) with a short message from Sam to be mindful, grateful, kind, self-compassionate, and so on. It’s my favorite feature of the app, because I can listen to the “moment” whenever it’s convenient, I get great insights in a concise format, and I become more mindful in my everyday life. You can get the app for free and unlock all paid content for free, too, if you can’t afford it—a pretty good indicator that Sam didn’t just join the meditation hype to make some money.

Ok, enough about the app, let’s get rid of a misconception many people have about meditation:

“Meditation is the practice of breaking one’s identification with thought and allowing experience—whether pleasant or unpleasant—to simply be as it is. So, meditation is not something you’re doing, really; it’s something you’re ceasing to do. You’re ceasing to be distracted by thought. Therefore, real meditation is not a form of inwardness. It’s a form of openness. You’re simply open to the world and granting it your full attention. Right now, pick up your head, brighten your gaze, and simply look at the world as if this was the first moment of creation—because it is!”

– Sam Harris, a “moment” from the Waking Up meditation app

What he said about meditation also applies to being mindful in general; some would even say that being mindful, even if just for a second, is a form of meditation. A sentiment I can get behind and which gets rid of another common misconception about meditation: That it has to be something like sitting in the lotus position for half an hour with your eyes closed and incense sticks glimmering in the background. It can be. But it doesn’t have to.  

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the quote above. Do you agree? Did it give you a light-bulb moment like it did for me? Does it even matter?

Much love as always


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41 thoughts on “What People Get Wrong about Meditation

  1. Hey Thomas,

    great piece, because I think so many people still think that you can only meditate with a gong and incense sticks. But, as you say, it’s a much more everyday experience – the act of just being, and taking a break from being distracted by our thoughts.

    In my day job, as a writer for a wellness website, I recently told a story about the golfer Walter Hagen. Hagen was a champion at the start of the 20th century, famous for his saying: “Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way”

    I thought it described almost perfectly how we can make our lives more mindful, because what Hagen was saying is: ‘Take time to appreciate your surroundings and don’t get too caught up in your thoughts. And, if you can do that, the chances are that you’ll feel better.’

    For me, it sure beats sitting cross legged and chanting!

    Hope to read more from you soon!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Mr!

      Thank you for your cool comment! Love the story about Walter Hagen – where can I read it? I like to do both: Practice while sitting/lying/walking (slowly) for extended periods to train my mindfulness muscle and just zooming out in everyday life to take a brief moment of presence. But if I had to choose, I’d go with the latter 🙂

      Best wishes to you and looking forward to checking out your new writing.


      1. Hey Thomas,

        thanks for your reply to my comment, and also for supporting my blog!

        As for Walter Hagen – he seems to have been naturally blessed with self-confidence, lucky thing!

        Here’s a piece – a bit ‘golfy’ about his life and career: https://golfcollege.edu/legacy-sir-walter-hagen/

        And here’s some of his best bon mots (bons mots?) https://www.successories.com/iquote/author/12796/walter-hagen-quotes/1

        Happy reading! And even happier writing!

        mr s/f

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, nice post. When I try to practice meditation I usually tend to cry, every time. Buddhists in Second Life (I don’t know many in real life) told me it’s quite normal and I agree, tears may mean pain going out. However I find it so powerful and shocking that I rarely meditate…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey dreamer,
      thanks for reading and sharing your experience! Yeah, I can imagine that it feels overwhelming and makes you meditate less often. What kind of cry is it? Do you feel good or bad afterwards? If you want to train your mindfulness skills but not go so deep that you have to cry, you might try meditating just for a minute with eyes open or in public.
      Wish you the best

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Thomas for your like, reply and hints. My crying during meditation is something deep, silent, making me breathe and pulse intensely. I usually feel shocked later, but maybe better, like after a session with a therapist. I never meditate with eyes close and as crying happens when I am alone, I did it in public: there I just feel moved and nature (sea, tress, birds, fishes, a river or a lake) is pampering me somehow. The bad is many people don’t understand what I am doing, so if there’s someone around, they come close, or bother, make noise, even fearing I was sick or dead, sometimes trying to approach me for sex(!). Last summer I was at sea and I was amazed as after meditating I noticed someone on the beach (females, especially) imitating me. However I think (and I read also about) crying means I get in touch with my real self, and to me it’s proving the authenticity of teachings by Buddha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see, you’ve already tried different things, really good. Yeah, I aslo think it could mean that you get in touch with your true self. I think many people would have stopped because of the crying and the shock, so respect that you keep going and you try to change the situation to make it work better for you. It sounds like your’re in psychotherapy, too, which is great. Everybody should have it, but especially somebody with a seemingly deep wound or sensitivity like you. That people would approach you for sex is really fucked up – I hope it won’t happen to you again. Wish you all the best and hope to read from you again soon 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I just put the app on my phone. So glad I read your post! And yes, I believe meditating can happen many places besides in the lotus position. I meditate best sometimes when I’m walking by myself, or in child’s pose!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cool, I hope you’ll find it useful! 🙂 I’d recommend a few of the short “Theory” bits in combination with the basic 28-day course. The app has a lot more content later on, but this should make for a simple start.

      Ah, I find walking also great for meditation! But I haven’t tried the child’s pose yet. I’ll give it a try this evening 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey hey, welcome back! 🙂 Missed you, too – where have you been? How’s your blog going – you changed the format, right? In any case, happy holidays and hope to read from you soon! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I’m doing it a lil bit more like I want it to be, it’s different but same concept 🙂 I’m in Spain now, waiting for this all crappy situation to be gone.. hope you are doing great! happy holidays to you too!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Cool, I’m happy you’re still in the game 🙂 I’ve checked out a little bit of your new setup and I really like it! But I have to take a deeper look soon 🙂 Have a great time in Spain and yes, hopefully things are getting better quickly.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve written a post on happiness as well. For me meditation does not lead to a sense of happiness or even calm but I do it every day. My happiness comes by more mechanical means, of positive thoughts, exercise and sleep.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice post Thomas. With regard to the quote i would like to share that, even if you are distracted by thoughts it does not matter as long as you are aware that you are distracted. That way you are not trying to fit into a particular state or frame but are open to everything that is happening. Namaste

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Vidushi
      Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I think that is a big part of it, an important concentration practice. Yet, there are so many useful ways of meditating in my experience, which all give unique insights into the mind or other benefits.

      Best wishes

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great insight Thomas and indeed this discovery in meditation,letting go has always enable me to leave in the present regardless of life pressures.
    Keep up the good work and God’s blessings upon all your endeavours.

    Liked by 1 person

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