Meditation: 9 received ideas to sweep away before starting

In hospitals, mindfulness meditation is increasingly used for its benefits supported by multiple scientific studies. However, meditation still suffers from many misconceptions. Meditation, what is it exactly? And what can it bring us? We take stock.

3 min meditation: meditate while being active

Meditate wherever you want: while walking in the street or in a park, cooking, taking your shower, eating your meal or drinking your tea… The idea is to transform an act that we do without reflect in an act carried out “in full consciousness”, always more beneficial, in terms of relaxation but also of sensations.

In practice : it’s just a matter of being fully present to what you are doing, of centering yourself. Are you in the shower? Don’t fuss over your schedule for the day or the shopping list, forget everything, and awaken your senses to the drops of warm water on your skin, the scent and the texture of the foam: make it a sensory experience, putting your mind aside. Do you peel vegetables? Touch them, enjoy their contact, the smell that emanates from them when you cut them: like an attentive chef, think of nothing else and do things slowly, carefully, without letting your thoughts drift on to anything else than your gestures. At the table, instead of devouring, make the meal a ritual: smell, look, taste in small bites, use all your senses, appreciate the different flavors, textures and colors, let it melt, let your taste buds be delighted, in a state of plenitude but also of thanks for the one (or the one) who cooked (including if it is you!).

Meditation from 5 to 15 minutes: to take a break

Meditate in a quiet corner of your home, which you can arrange (zafu-type cushion, candle or incense stick, flower or image that inspires you), or, even better, in the middle of nature, the ideal way to fully reconnect to the elements. You can dim the light, put on a light soft and peaceful musical background (sounds of nature, birdsong, gongs…) but nothing is obligatory.

In practice : seated, find your comfortable position. You can close your eyes (even partially) or keep them open, as you wish. Start by taking 3 full, deep, abdominal breaths to relax the whole body. Then, without any particular thought or objective, let yourself “go into your bubble”: clear your mind, be present to the sensations and thoughts that may arise, but let them slip away like clouds in the sky. Breathe freely, without effort or constraint… and let yourself drift. You can, if you wish, immerse yourself in the contemplation of the spectacle that is offered to you (if you are outside) or of the image or object that you have chosen, which allows you to focus your attention to distance your thoughts. If one of them occurs, accept it (without feeling like a failure: it is difficult, especially at the beginning, not to be parasitized), then let it slip away… Do not have any precise objective, except that of being fully in touch with yourself.

>> To prepare you for sleep (if you meditate in the evening), you can lie down and put your mind on each area of ​​your body (we call this the body scan), to feel the tensions and soothe them with your mind: you can thus start from the feet up. ‘in the head, once or several times.

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2/9 – To meditate is to no longer have emotions
FAKE. To become impervious to all emotion: also impossible. As with thoughts, meditation will help mitigate the negative impact of these emotions. “We will see that the emotion is there, without necessarily trying to to understand. We welcome it and then let it pass. This makes it easier to recognize your emotions on a daily basis and to be less led by them. We get out of automatism, we act less under the influence of emotion” explains Béatrice Weber, psychologist.

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3/9 – You have to stay still to meditate
FAKE. Alongside the often seated formal practice, there are all the informal meditation practices. We can meditate while walking, cooking, drinking tea, waiting in a queue, as long as we are entirely in what we are doing. “The important thing is where we place our consciousness. It is to seek this state where one observes everything that moves around, in oneself, but where the consciousness is immobile.. To meditate while walking, for example, we will pay attention to our breathing, the course of our steps on the ground, the songs of birds, etc.

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4/9 – Meditation requires daily practice
TRUE. “LMeditation is difficult to conceive. You have to live it to fully understand it” insists Dr. Colombel. And above all, practice it very regularly to reap the benefits. “The brain will gradually learn to go into this state of mindfulness. And the more often we do it, the more it will easily”. The more we “muscle” our attention, the more on a daily basis, we will have this ability to return to the present moment, without being carried away by the vagrancy of our thoughts or undergoing the yoke of our emotions. But like bodybuilding, the practice of meditation is never acquired.

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5/9 – To meditate is to stop thinking
FAUX. Impossible, thoughts constantly cross our minds. Meditation, or “mindfulness”, is not about suppressing these thoughts, but about changing our attitude towards them. “In meditation, we take a break in order to become aware of what is happening within us – the breath, the bodily sensations, the tensions, the flow of thoughts… – and around us, explains Dr. Marine Colombel, psychiatrist. We observe his thoughts, without judging them. We don’t try to prevent them from coming, but we let thempass like clouds in the sky.” One poses as a witness to one’s thoughts, and one thus becomes aware of what they are: only thoughts, and not reality. In doing so, meditation helps to have a better perspective on worries, fears or ruminations.

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6/9 – Meditating Changes the Brain
TRUE. Neurosciences show that the practice of meditation modifies the functioning of the brain with increased cerebral activity in certain areas (in particular that associated with positive emotions), but also the structure of the brain. Thanks to neuroplasticity, new neural connections are created, the volume of gray matter increases, especially in the area related to concentration. With both cognitive and emotional benefits, with better regulation of emotions. Recent studies even suggest that the brain would age less quickly in seasoned practitioners, thanks to a strengthening of brain areas that tend to atrophy with age.

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7/9 – Meditating allows you to relax
TRUE AND FALSE. Meditation is not a method of relaxation. “In relaxation, one uses a tool, for example breathing or visualizing a pleasant mental landscape, to move from a state of tension to a state of relaxation. In meditation, on the contrary, we are not going to try to modify this state: we try to be as close as possible, in consciousness” explains Béatrice Weber. The state of relaxation can then occur… or not! It is important to specify this, because many people can give up after a few tries, not seeing this relaxing effect coming. “Relaxation is a possible side effect of meditation, but not its primary goal”.

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8/9 – Meditation is good for health
TRUE. Numerous studies confirm the therapeutic virtues of meditation: lower cortisol levels (stress hormone), regulation of blood pressure, improvement of cardiac function, relief of skin diseases (psoriasis), reduction of chronic pain. .. Work has also shown a strengthening of the immune system, in particular via an attenuation of pro-inflammatory mechanisms. The regular practice of meditation could even slow down the aging of telomeres, these little protective caps located at the end of our chromosomes.

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9/9 – You have to become a Buddhist to meditate
FAKE. No need to go to a monastery to meditate. While its Buddhist roots cannot be denied, meditation as it is practiced today in many contexts has deliberately been made accessible to everyone, by limiting religious connotations. “Meditation is an ecology of the mind which, of course, cannot be detached from all “spirituality” and allows the cultivation of certain attitudes: patience, acceptance, trust, non-judgment… But nothing religious” recalls Béatrice Weber.

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