Get into Meditation…Even If You’re The Worst
I would wager that most of us have considered meditation…
And that’s probably about as far as we’ve gotten.
But, there’s good reason to believe you need to get into meditation like, yesterday.
Keep reading . . .
You just might turn into that rare and elusive “person who meditates.”
Since I began this quest to become a writer, my development as a scribe and thinker (second title is arguable) has been primarily influenced by three podcasters.
They’re amazing, and tend to interview amazing people in turn:
1. Jeff Goins
2. Tim Ferriss
There’s a common theme among this mashup of amazingness…
The word “meditation” keeps popping up.
Not just popping up in passing, but coming up as a cornerstone of these people’s continued successes…
Of all the routines and habits, the most consistent among guests some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice. More than 80% of the world-class performers I interviewed shared this trait…This applies to everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Justin Boreta of The Glitch Mob, and from elite athletes like Amelia Boone to writers like Maria Popova. It’s the most consistent pattern of them all. –Tim Ferriss
Sure, you can shrug it all off as hippy woo-woo, but there’s a saying …
“Where there’s smoke there’s fire”
-a Cowboy and/or Grandmother in general
Sometimes it serves to listen to the little gifts the universe is layin’ down.
As I endeavor to be this self-made writer type, I need all the mental resources I can get. Because there’s also the anxiety.
Anxiety about failure, writing deadlines, general motivation, etc.
If there’s this free, non-illegal, health-boosting, wonderpill that supposedly will make my life better no matter what, I’m going to buy from whomever’s hawking.
The Meditation (Non) Practice
Look, I’ve always wanted to be a person who meditates. We would all probably like to say
“Oh yeah, for sure, I meditate daily–can’t you see how chill I am?”
But I’ve never been able to pick up a consistent practice. Usually, it goes something like this: I commit to 10 minutes a day and trust that after a week or two I’ll “get” whatever it is that one is supposed to “get” about meditation.
I’ve tried countless meditation techniques for beginners…
Guided meditation tracks (most recently Oprah & Deepak’s meditation)
Youtube meditation videos
Meditation through yoga (which, while meditative, I deduced it shouldn’t be thought of as a two-birds-one-stone thing–at least up to intermediate level)
Body scan meditation (focusing on specific parts of the body)
I start off strong, maybe going for several days in a row! Sitting cross-legged on my bed or mat, I am open to that universe, man! But while I’m sitting there, the discomfort creeps in. The antsiness. The way everything enters my mind except for whatever it is I’m supposed to be thinking or not thinking about.
It’s like making a hole in a pool of sludge . . . The words and thoughts fill the gap as soon as it opens up.
Usually I end up throwing in the towel . . . or forgetting. I go 10 days straight doing the exact same thing every morning and on the 11th day, it’s like none of it ever happened.
After a few days, I remember that I’ve been forgetting, but it’s not worth it to restart by that point. (please i want better brain.)
How to Get into Meditation
(Even if You’re the Worst)
Finally, back in November I was talking to my friend Mikey about how I would like to meditate, but it never works out for me. Mikey could relate, but he’d been finding success with this app called Insight Timer. Since he and I could connect on the app, I signed up with hopes that having someone out there might keep me feeling accountable.
On the first morning, I sat up, put some pillows behind my back, and set the timer to the sound of a babbling brook (how relaxing!) for three minutes. Three! No sprinting out the gate with ten this time. In this case (and maybe only this), I had learned from previous failures; three minutes was easy enough to wrap my arms around.
Not quite sure what to do with the time, I would either repeat mantras that seemed relevant just try to keep my mind clear. And it worked. Like a brisk splash of water to the face, it was refreshing— not painful!
Since three minutes wasn’t a struggle, I didn’t mind returning to it each morning.
After a week or two, the kangse bell that chimed when time was up triggered a little tug in the pit of my stomach that seemed to be asking me to stay for a bit longer.
One benefit of Insight Timer is that the track and timer will keep going until manually stopped, so you don’t have to look at your phone and mess with any buttons to turn off a “time’s up” alarm.
As long as I felt good, I remained sitting. Maybe for 10 seconds, maybe more. When I began staying for four minutes, I bumped the minimum time up to four.
This gentle tug increased every week or two, so I would add a minute when it positively felt right. It’s been about four months, and now when I wake up, almost immediately I feel the pull to meditate.
It’s the type of pull I feel when I see a bowl of steaming macaroni and cheese or am craving a “beverage” after a long day—but this is a pull toward something healthy.
Now I’m at 20 minutes, and often I like to go longer. Healthy addiction all up in my mornings.
But Still: Why Meditate?
Allow me to backtrack for a moment…
I think for a lot of us the resistance toward getting into meditation comes down to this question: What is the point, really?
Even me, I was sitting there every day, and I knew it felt good…but I was worried it wouldn’t last because there were no measurable results. I was doing it because I heard it was good for me…but still I wasn’t convinced.
It was our boy Dan Harris who finally locked it in for me. After I’d been meditating for about a month, I listened to an interview with him and crazy James Altucher. Dan is the newscaster notorious for having had a panic attack live on ABC World News Tonight, but is lately better-known for his 10% Happier project (and yes, the two things are related).
Here’s the gist: Meditation is called a practice for a reason. You’re practicing to be ready to play come game time.
What is the game? Daily life.
What is the practice? Handling it…well.
In daily meditation practice, the “exercise” is to keep our mind in a neutral, aware state. When thoughts fly in or emotions hit, we push them out and return to baseline calm. According to Dan, this brain process of “trying to focus, getting lost, and starting over” is the equivalent of mental “bicep curls.”
We exercise the brain muscle so that it is stronger and better able to manage the spinning wheels of of thoughts, emotions, and impulses. What are all our big beautiful ideas and emotions if we are mere victims whenever they wish to strike?
You aren’t a “bad meditator” because you get easily distracted. The distractions are what you want! They are the weights to your weight training.
There, take a load off.
I suppose this style may specifically be called “mindfulness meditation,” but whatever we call it, it’s legit.
Personal example: I used to be a very reactive person.
(Side note: I am still a pretty reactive person, but not as much as I used to be.)
In romantic relationships especially, a boyfriend might do something to trigger a strong emotion, and rather than stay calm->think->respond, my eyes would go black and I’d turn into Satan. Nobody wants to be like that. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but there.
Imagine something for me:
You’re standing in a bar and suddenly a big burly fist is heading straight toward your pearly whites. Instinctively, you crouch and cover your head.
When we are attacked emotionally, we sometimes react by just kind of freaking out. We roar at the fist instead of ducking.
Meditation retrains your mental instincts so that when you are about to get “hit,” your impulse is not to roar, but to do the smart thing.
Meditation and the Devil
Through meditation, I exercise my ability to return to my neutral state of awareness. It’s strength training; I “push out” reactive thoughts and feelings and grow stronger with each push.
Now when something triggers me emotionally, before jumping into the wheel of reactivity, I’m often able to pause, go to neutral, and ask myself: “Can I stay peaceful? Can I withhold the tide? Refrain from reacting and just stay calm until I am better able to process it all?”
And in the moment I may seem like a robot, but at least I am not terrifying. It’s a way to buy myself time.
Getting into meditation is a way to bring awareness into our daily lives, both through the act itself and through its after effects.
Not all the time, but more often.
How much of your day do you feel like you’re just going through motions? Crossing items off lists? Making appointments? Scarfing down meals? Responding to texts?
We’re awake, sure, but can we call ourselves aware or mindful of what we’re doing? Which is what we’re all after, isn’t it? Living—not just going through motions. And don’t forget that even if your life is roses, you could probably stand for it to be even better. That is why we supersize things.
Just kidding. Don’t supersize things. Unless it’s emotional well-being. Mostly just that.
Hey, and if you’re still not convinced, I’m just going to leave this smorgasbord of meditation benefits data from The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health here. Some other purportedly good meditation apps I haven’t tried are Headspace, Calm, or Dan Harris’ 10 Percent Happier.
Guided meditation helps a lot of people get started, but you might like to listen to ambient or white noise like I normally do.
Otherwise, what do you think? Are you buying any of this? I’m selling it for free—leave a comment!