Don’t just do something! Sit there: Twelve Misconceptions about Meditation

(Prologue: I’ve got first-hand experience that a real understanding of the laws of karma can substantially change our lives for the better. I created this weblog to share information and personal experience with others. May it be of benefit!)


© The New Yorker Collection 2000 David Sipress from All Rights Reserved.

Meditation is no longer a strange word. Scientists have done many studies to show the benefits of meditation on our health, both physical and mental.

This post is, however, not directly about the health benefits. It is about the misconceptions around meditation. It is necessary to deal with this because meditation is one of the tools that can help us to change the course of our lives, our karma. And if we are operating on misconceptions, then we cannot make proper use of this valuable tool.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche provides the context for this post

“If we follow thoughts back, we can see that they stem from an embedded karmic situation that has gone on for a very long time.”

“The point of buddhism is that we are creating future actions. We can change the course. We are not stuck in our karma.” (Classes 4 and 5)

By meditating, we see how the mind that created our karma is the same mind that can cut the creation and maintenance of that karma.

Before we get into details about how meditation can cut karma and allow us to control our lives, I want to first dispel some common misconceptions:

(1) Meditation is a religious, spiritual, buddhist, activity.

Meditation is fitness for the mind. It is a very practical activity. “It seems we all agree that training the body through exercise, diet and relaxation is a good idea, but why don’t we think about training our minds?” <source: Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: Ruling Your World>


“Tibetans are very practical people. They have passed these teachings down because they work.” <source: Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: Ruling Your World>


“…..[meditation] is not purely a Buddhist practice; it’s a practice that anyone can do. It doesn’t tie in with a particular spiritual tradition. If we want to undo bewilderment, we’re going to have to be responsible for learning what our own mind is and how it works, no matter what beliefs we hold.” <source: Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: Shambhala Sun magazine, May 2002 article>

(2) To truly benefit from meditation, I’d have to drop out of my regular life and become a hermit.

“(Meditation) is just simply creating a space, a space in which we can unlearn and undo our subconscious gossip, our hidden fears and hidden hopes, and begin to bring them out. Meditation is simply providing space through the discipline of sitting down and doing nothing. Doing nothing is extremely difficult.” <source: Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Friends of the Buddhadharma, 1978>

(3) Meditation practice is only for special people like His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

– Meditation is an activity that you can add to your daily schedule like any other activity.

 “One misconception is that people think meditation is about being a recluse. But in meditation, ideally, you’re training your mind and getting to know yourself. That gives you the strength and potency to actually see the suffering of others and then benefit them.” <source: interview with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche>

(4) To be a successful meditator, you have to learn difficult, advanced techniques.

The meditation with which I am familiar involves a very simple technique that includes proper posture and using the breathe as the focus of meditation.


(5) The purpose of meditation is to get into a trance.

Meditation is for anyone who wants to get directly in touch with their own mind so that they can control their mind rather than being controlled by it. Looking into the nature of our mind takes courage!

(7) Meditation is an exotic, “New Agey,” impractical activity.

Meditation is very ordinary, just like physical fitness. But this is fitness for the mind. It’s actually a very practical activity. Like every activity, it’s an ongoing process. What is “exotic” and impractical is to get so caught up in the busyness and speed of our lives that we don’t make time to touch in with our minds and make them our own.

(8) You can only be a successful meditator if you move out of the city.

You can practice meditation in any location.

(9) Only introverted people would meditate.

Meditation isn’t about being cut off from your world. On the contrary, you bring whatever your experience is to your practice.

(10) You could go mad from meditating.

This is the last, desperate trick of ego to keep us from learning about our real nature. Not surprising, as it knows that we’ll discover that ego is only a manufactured entity with no substance.

(11) I can read or attend classes or seminars about how my mind works. I don’t have to meditate to do that.

If you want to learn about a country, you can read books about that country. Or go directly to it. Likewise, books talk about the mind. Only meditation can get you directly in touch with your mind.

(12) You just get “blissed out” when you meditate. You can get the same effect from recreational drugs or alcohol.

Meditation wakes us up to who we actually are. It grounds us. Stabilizes our minds and emtions. Recreational drugs or alcohol can have the opposite effect.

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