Meditation myths and reality

HealthMeditation myths and reality

By Dr. Attia Anwar

When we talk about tools that are used to become calm and reduce stress, meditation is at the top of the list.  In the last few decades, there has been a lot of discussion about positive psychology. As a part of the actual pursuit of happiness, scientific research was done on this ancient practice of meditation from Buddhism and other religions, and it proved very beneficial for stress reduction. There are two modalities of treatment in psychology which are based on meditation and mindfulness one is mindfulness-based stress reduction, and the other is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.


In recent years there has been exponential growth in interest in meditation, mindfulness, and contemplation. It is no longer seen as a mystical practice from ancient Buddhism or esoteric philosophy. They are more and more being used as evidence-based tools for wellbeing. They are being seen as tools or technologies that have evidence from psychology and neuroscience. Mindfulness and meditation have become the basis of therapeutic interventions like MBCT. People are also taking it as a lifestyle choice for their well-being and happiness. They are using it to enhance their everyday experience.

The basis of this meditation is to pay attention to the moment which is present. We have no control over the past and future what we can do is in the present moment.  If we use the present moment efficiently by paying full attention to it, we will be happy and productive. With time we have been so involved in making our future better or controlling it that we do not pay attention to the present moment which, if we utilize properly will produce the result. We are mindlessly walking, eating, and not paying attention to the surroundings. Sometimes we are watching TV,  eating and we are thinking something else, that we even do not know what the taste of food is or even sometimes what we are eating.

Meditation practices focus on bringing your awareness to the present moment. It gives you clarity of mind. It gives you a chance to sit in silence. It gives to a chance to be with your feelings. So after meditation, you can make better decisions and think clearly about the past and future.

Thinking about the past and future is not a bad thing. But to be involved so much that you are ignoring the present moment is hazardous for your well-being. The present is the only thing that is in your control. You can utilize that to think about the future or regret over past or you can use it for something productive.

The basics of all medication are to give some rest to your brain and practice being in the moment. Running away from your bad feelings brings destructive behaviors or numbness which is not healthy. If you sit with your feelings bad or good, give yourself space, then it will promote healing. And then they will not have long-term effects on your life. So whatever happens in life accepting it, acknowledging it, brings to half of the healing. Then you have to enjoy all the good things in life. You should give yourself some time to taste your food and pay attention while walking. Appreciate nature. They are going to bring a positive outcome for you.

You can use different meditation techniques to enhance your power of being in the moment. Guided meditation videos are available which are approved by health authorities also. You can use them and spend some time every day in meditation, which is going to cultivate the habit of paying attention. And that habit will take you a long way. Mostly these are breathing exercises, paying attention to your body, or paying attention to your present feelings. By this, you will have the power of being rather than mindlessly spending your life. You slow down and listen so that when you grow old, you will actually feel that you had a life you lived.

There are commercial aspects of mindfulness and meditation. In recent decades it has become an industry. So people sometimes get confused about whether we are doing the right thing or just spending and earning money. There are talks about regulating it also. So that people should know whether the teacher is able or not. If we search on YouTube videos we have certain channels which are approved by healthcare authorities. But since it is a form of experiential learning, mostly it depends upon the results and benefits you get. You can make mistakes in mindfulness practices which is part of learning. But the effect depends upon whether your stress is really reduced and whether you start enjoying common things after a certain period of time. So it does not matter whether you are using an expensive cushion with a certain association or you are just sitting in an ordinary chair in your living room. It is the practice that matters. If you want to get a bracelet or something else with strong association, you can. The real thing will remain the practice.


The author Dr. Attia Anwar is a consultant family physician with a postgraduate degree from the Royal College of GP UK. She is a strong advocate of health and well-being and wants patient participation in decision-making regarding health.

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