3 myths about meditation that teacher Aditi Shah wants to demystify

April 30, 2023 0 Comments

“], “filter”: { “nextExceptions”: “img, blockquote, div”, “nextContainsExceptions”: “img, blockquote, a.btn, ao-button”} }”>

Going out the door? Read this article about the new Outside+ app now available on member iOS devices! >”,”name”:”in-content-cta”,”type”:”link”}}”>Download the app.

Peloton fans probably know Aditi Shah as one of the fitness platform’s experts on all things meditation. But Shah wasn’t always thrilled with the concept of meditation—in fact, it took her years to connect to it on her own terms.

“I was taught to meditate as a child,” says Shah. “But it was a special kind of meditation that I couldn’t do; it was more of a “clear your brain” meditation. I don’t know if I really got it; I climbed trees barefoot and couldn’t sit still, and I didn’t like the slow meditation practice. And the breath did not resonate with me then.”

Years later, after graduating from college, Shah found herself searching for grounding and guidance. “Like everyone after college,” she says, laughing. Yoga quickly became a regular part of her daily life. But she was hesitant to return to meditation.

“It was interesting to me, but also a little intimidating because of my previous experience,” she says. “It made me feel like a failure, like, ‘Oh, I can’t do this.’

But as Shah continued to explore meditation, she realized that it wasn’t necessarily about turning off her inner monologue, and that there were many other approaches and philosophies to meditation that worked for her. Whether it was tuning in to the quality of her breath or practicing self-compassion when her mind wandered, Shah gradually developed a new attitude toward meditation. Over time, as she developed a personal relationship with the practice, she realized how many common myths about meditation prevent people from experiencing its benefits.

“You don’t have to clear your brain, quiet your mind, or get rid of thoughts — that’s not the goal of every meditation practice,” says Shah. “Sometimes people think you can’t meditate when the mind is busy, but many of us are busy and everyone is thinking! This is what our mind does. It was useful for me to understand that.”

Today, Shah has a very different perspective on meditation. She firmly believes that there is more to this practice than many people think and is passionate about busting myths and misconceptions. Below are three of the most common—and damaging—myths she points out.

3 myths about meditation that Aditi Shah wants to demystify

1. Meditation is a form of escapism

Shah says the type of meditation she is most drawn to is vipassana, otherwise known as insight or awareness meditation. The term “vipassana” comes from Buddhist and Hindu traditions and means “seeing things as they really are.” This involves paying close attention to physical sensations, breathing, and concepts of impermanence and letting go of attachment (among many other things).

Shah studied vipassana for two years and attended several silent retreats that helped her realize that meditation is anything but escapism.

“It’s quite the opposite,” she says. “Meditation is an invitation to the reality of what is happening. Even if you turn off some external noise, it does not mean that you are immersed in fantasy; you’re actually trying to look inside and make it true. It’s like you’re holding a mirror to what’s happening.”

“Yes, there are caveats to it, like you’re not judgmental, you’re empathetic,” Shah continues. “But we all have such an inner world, and sometimes we don’t even know what this landscape looks like. So you don’t try to run away from it. You’re actually trying to get a better picture of that picture.”

2. Meditation takes a lot of time

During her two-year vipassana course, Shah and her classmates were required to practice meditation every day. “As busy as my life is, there are people with busier lives and, frankly, bigger responsibilities, like kids or working in a hospital,” she says. “And they found time to meditate, a few days on the train or sitting in the car before going to work.”

What Shah discovered, and many practitioners have come to believe, is that there is no perfect time, place, or situation for meditation. The reality is that meditation and mindfulness can happen anytime, anywhere, in one breath or many.

“I really believe that everyone has a time to meditate,” says Shah.

3. Some people are just not good at meditating

One of the reasons Shah stayed away from meditation until her twenties was that she kept telling herself she just couldn’t handle it. But through learning and interacting with other practitioners, she realized that she was far from alone in this limiting belief.

“There is no such thing as a bad meditator,” says Shah. “It takes practice to believe it. But if you keep practicing, you will realize that they are actually all the same. Many of us find it quite difficult to concentrate.”

Shah is not sure if there is a specific type of meditation for each person. But she believes the practice can serve a variety of purposes, including strengthening the brain’s resilience and creating a structured space for exploring existential questions or connecting with spirituality.

“So many different Eastern worldviews have different definitions of meditation,” she says. “If you look at the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, it actually defines meditation as focusing on one point and doesn’t say what that point of concentration should be. So you can practice meditation during your yoga practice, because they are connected in that sense, without necessarily sitting down and doing the meditation that I teach. Some people think that meditation is just a body scan or relaxation, but it is not. There are so many different types.”

Ultimately, Shah knows she had to be curious and consistent before she could see changes in her practice.

Photo by Wini Lao

About our contributor

Michelle Konstantinovsky is a freelance journalist, writer, editor from San Francisco, a graduate of the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She has written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design and technology for publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Scientific American, Glamour, Shape, Self, WIRED, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue and many others . She also served as health and wellness editor at Fitbit, senior health writer at One Medical, and contributing editor at California Home + Design. She completed 200 hours of yoga teacher training in 2018 and is still trying to understand the physics of arm balancing. Follow her at @michellekmedia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *