Here is the full transcript of Vedic meditation teacher Light Watkins’ TEDx Talk: Debunking the 5 Most Common Meditation Myths at TEDxVeniceBeach conference. This event took place on February 22, 2015 at Los Angeles, California. Light Watkins is the author of the book The Inner Gym: A 30-day workout for strengthening Happiness. To learn more about the speaker, read the bio here.
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Light Watkins – Vedic meditation teacher
Raise your hand if you have meditated with success. Ah, a lot of hands dropped. OK.
Let’s just be honest. Meditation has a huge image problem and I’ve been in the meditation space for about 15 years, starting off as a practitioner and then I apprenticed my teacher, my meditation master for many years. And for the last eight years, I have been traveling around the world to different cities, teaching people from all walks of life the basic mechanics, the physiology and the biology of meditation.
And the general consensus is my life would definitely be better if I meditated but it’s too hard, I can’t quiet my mind, I can’t sit still long enough, I don’t have the time.
So I want to shed some light onto what I feel are the five most common meditation myths in our society. And I want to give you guys some tips that will help make your meditation practice instantly more enjoyable. And I want to show you how you can use meditation to literally create more time, to be more productive, and of course, to change the world.
But first, I want you to close your eyes and I want you to imagine in your mind’s eye a white polar bear and hold your attention on this white polar bear in your imagination, and then open the eyes.
OK, raise your hand if you got distracted and you thought about something other than a white polar bear any time? Now that was about half the room.
Close your eyes again, and this time I want you to let your mind roam free and you can think about anything you want to think about, as long as it’s not about a white polar bear. Whatever you do, do not think about a white polar bear. It’s very important. Go!
OK, open your eyes. Raise your hand if you accidentally thought about a white polar bear. Raise your other hand if you thought about it a lot. Almost everyone.
And that brings us to our first myth that I want to talk about, which is that I’m a bad meditator if I can’t quiet my mind. Now that white polar bear experiment that we just did was an actual study that was conducted by a Harvard psychologist who wanted to see, is it possible to suppress certain thoughts. Except they didn’t sit for a few seconds, they sat for five minutes trying to focus on the white polar bear and then for another five minutes trying not to think about the white polar bear. And just like you when they weren’t supposed to be thinking about the white polar bear they ended up thinking about it a lot and some of them were bordering on obsession, that’s all they could think about was the white polar bear.
And the conclusion from this study was two-fold. Number one, if you focus on anything after about five or six seconds your mind is going to naturally get diverted to another unrelated thought.
And number two, if you try to suppress your thoughts, guess what’s going to happen. You’re going to end up creating more of the thought you don’t want to have. So suppressing the thoughts does not lead to a very positive meditation experience.