A tense guy, sitting all hunched up on his monitor.
“Damn, I’m so stressed!” he says.
Voice-over: Have You Tried the MEDITATION PILL? It will fix all your problems!
Man: All my problems? Golly gee, I better try it then.
Man takes pill. Scene changes.
He is now sitting on a beach, cross legged and meditating. Next to him is an attractive woman in a sports bra, also meditating. The camera lingers on her, especially her cleavage, for a few seconds.
Man: Thanks, strange ghostly voice! Your MEDITATION PILL saved my life!
Voice-over: Have you tried the Meditation pill? It has been proven to fix all your problems. No side effects. 100% organic and natural. Call 0800-MEDI-NOW to get started.
The Marketing of Meditation
Meditation is, with rare exceptions, marketed as a quick fix to all your problems, to lower your stress, to make you happy.
The default image of meditation is a PYT – Pretty Young Thing, usually a woman, sitting cross legged while looking very solemn, slight smile, most likely wearing tight yoga pants and a tighter sports bra. If it is a man, he will be all muscly and hunky, and doing splits or some other physically demanding pose on a mountain.
Think of that. Meditation is marketed the same way as slimming pills.
I’ve read dozens of meditation books where the main thrust is basically meditation make you happy, that’ll be $59.99 please
And the public has bought this marketing. Which is why you get questions on forums like I have been meditating for X years, but I still don’t feel happy. What am I doing wrong?
And the answer is usually:
⇾ Change your guru
⇾ With extreme condescension, Get a TRADITIONAL Guru, preferably one who wears orange robes, not of these new fangled New-agey ones
⇾ Change your technique
⇾ Meditate more (because like in the material world, MORE meditation is better! More more more, how do you like it, how do you like it)
And you get one lone guy who says Maybe you AREN’T supposed to feel better, just accept where you are, but everyone ignores him. It’s like someone saying they like purple balloons—interesting, no doubt, but hardly relevant to our “serious” discussion.
I, too, bought into the Meditation Hype for a long time. And just to say, the myth isn’t completely wrong or bad.
(1) Most people will only start meditating to feel better. To relax, to lower stress etc. So in a way, meditation is better for them compared to what they would normally be doing, which is binge watching TV or porn, or spending hours on social media.
(2) Like all good lies, there is a kernel of truth in his. Meditation does help you feel happy. In some cases. Terms and Conditions apply!
Obvious lies are easy to debunk. “Smoking helium makes you blissful” can be easily disproven.
“Meditation makes you happy” has an element of truth in it, which is why it is used to sell Spiritual Snake Oil.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN Meditation Won’t make me Happy?
No, it might make you MORE MISERABLE
To understand why meditation can make you happy, but most likely won’t, you need to know the cause of most of our problems.
Most of us live mainly in our head, slaves to our thoughts. Any random thought comes up in our mind, we think it is true. We are so attached to our thinking, we do not see the difference between the mind, which is more likely a small part of our whole body complex, and us. This is why The Work by Katie Byron is so powerful because it forces us to challenge our thoughts.
In today’s society, few of us rarely sit alone doing nothing, even for a second. Which is why the mind never gets a moment’s rest. Not only that, but we are trained to avoid negative /uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and are conditioned to push them down, because “Ooh we need to think positive thoughts only. Positive thoughts good, negative thoughts bad.”
So when you sit quietly in meditation, it might be the first time in years, if not your whole life, that you have ever given the mind “time off”.
And suddenly, all the shit you have been pushing comes jumping up!
Not only that, our subconscious doesn’t like it when we suppress or ignore stuff–this is called our Shadow. The subconscious wants us to resolve these problems, but if the problems were easy to fix, we wouldn’t have suppressed them in the first place.
The subconscious is the right one, though: Suppressed emotions come up as diseases/health problems.
And so, as soon as you sit, you are with a truckload of issues. Unstoppable and uncontrollable thoughts, feelings of shame, self disgust and self loathing. For many years, I couldn’t meditate at all as I felt bat shit angry. It took many years of self-love, self-compassion, journaling and shadow work before I was able to sit quietly.
Back to the Marketing
And now you see why the myth is so harmful?
While yes, meditation can lead to peace, it is not an easy peace. It’s more like going to the gym for 10 years before you get the 6 pack, and less like a faddy “diet pill”.
But it is marketed as a diet pill. It’s like, just pop this pill and you will be all blissed out, man!
The reason is: Meditation is now big business, with books, courses, apps, even TV/internet celebrities pushing it. Now, I believe people have a right to make money from their skills, including meditation. I’m not saying people should teach for free or not be paid for their time.
But the marketing of meditation is more like the get rich courses or fad diets. The key thing is not just what is said, but what is left out.
So I don’t want to scare you off meditation. It’s a great thing to try, and it will change your life for the better. But go in with your eyes open and be prepared that this is a lifelong goal, and not a “Get a beach body before summer” goal.
Read more in the Series on Meditation