Let me just start by saying that I’m probably not the most qualified person to be writing this. I’m not going to get too in depth with this for that reason. I’ll leave a bunch at that end if you wanna learn more about it. I will say though, it turns into a slippery slope if you go down this path. With that being said, if you do take this up, there’s a lot of change that comes along for the ride. My main reason for writing this though, is to talk about what its done for me, the benefits, and how simple meditation really is. There’s a lot of craziness and woo-woo talk that revolves around meditation when there doesn’t need to be. I think that reason alone turns people off from it. Or they think they have to change who they are to take up meditation. I’ll have you know I’m still the same asshole that I was 3 years ago before I started. Just a calmer more aware asshole. So my goal is to simplify this as much as possible and give you a quick crash course. Enjoy.
I wouldn’t be where I am in life if I’d never got into meditation and the practice of mindfulness. I can say that with certainty. I’ll also say that meditation might not be for everyone. What works for me won’t necessarily work you for you. The real benefit of meditation in my opinion, is the power of awareness/mindfulness that comes from it. So you don’t have to take up meditation if it’s not for you. You can practice mindfulness through many different avenues. Just know that this is only going to be about meditation itself, and at the end I’ll list different forms or ways to practice mindfulness if that’s more for you.
When I first tried to meditate years ago, I was a joke. Didn’t even come close. It’s easily got to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do. The act of meditation is extremely difficult but the act of going about it is simple. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but was just something that I always had an interest in. I would go back and forth meditating for a few years until I really started taking it seriously to see what would happen if I kept at it. There were two different times of about 3-4 months each where I meditated at least once a day but usually twice. If I missed a day I started all over. I started noticing the benefits little by little. It wasn’t anything drastic, but definitely a difference.
I felt a lot calmer.
Less likely to react to situations.
Less agitated with people.
Had a lot of old childhood memories come up out of the blue. I wasn’t even aware they still existed. Super beneficial to look at those memories from a new perspective and properly be able to “refile” them correctly and put them back in the cabinet so to speak.
My sleep improved dramatically. Going from taking about an hour to usually fall asleep vs falling asleep in minutes.
Became really aware of my body. This was huge. I started to notice areas where I was holding tension or had trouble letting go. Or I could feel the areas where I was holding fear or other old traumas whether it be physical or emotional. Every physical, mental or emotional trauma is stored in the body in a negative way if not taken care of properly. I won’t get into it, but that’s when you hear of people having emotional releases during a massage or other forms of bodywork. They let their guard down and get so relaxed that that area where they were holding all those old traumas comes rushing to the surface. I heard something by Dan Harris where he said “What are you unwilling to feel? To be fearless, you have to be able to feel fear. You have to be able to be vulnerable.” Over time though, meditation lets you slowly investigate these areas of fear/panic in a gentle way that doesn’t send the body into freak out mode.
I was becoming more aware of negative habits that I had and realizing areas in my life that I wasn’t so proud of. I’ll say now that this was really tough to deal with. Some people might not want to get into meditation for this very reason, but I mean, that’s who you are. It’s not going anywhere. And as tough as it was to became aware of all these shitty habits and take full responsibility for them, it wasn’t the end of the world. I know that’s not a big turn on to meditation but being aware of that is half the battle. You’ll get past it, I promise.
I’ve had 3 “breakthroughs” throughout my time learning meditation that might help if you decide to get into this.
1. For the longest time I thought I had to get my thoughts to stop completely. The more I would think of how to get them to stop, the more they would stick around. Just focusing on the breath will take care of that. The key to Vipassana meditation is focusing on the breath, returning to it whenever your mind starts to wander, and letting whatever comes up just be.
2. When I learned about all these bad habits that I had, I tried to get rid of them completely. Just know that those are still part of who you are and that’s not the way to approach it. You can definitely reduce those habits dramatically by your own will power and simply being aware of them. They’re always going to come out now and again just know that. But being aware of them and not letting them control you is key.
3. This is big if you really get into meditation. Game changer. I was listening to a talk where the person was talking about meditation and said that in Hinduism they believe you get reincarnated as a cow if you get caught up in the “la-la land” aspect of meditation. Point being, cows just eat grass all day content in la-la land. That was me for the longest time. If you really get into meditation you’ll notice how awesome and super relaxing it can really get. Once I heard that, I realized that I was in this la-la land state all the time. Anytime my head started to fall forward I knew I was there. I got so infatuated with that state that I would be one step away from falling asleep. I realized after hearing that that you need to keep some level of awareness while you meditate and can’t completely drift off. This is really hard for me to explain but one way they explained this story was how Jack Kornfield would meditate sitting on the edge of a well to keep some level of focus so he didn’t completely zone out. I hope that helps give you a better understanding into what I’m talking about with this. Probably not though.
I’m going to break it down as simple as possible if you want to practice meditation.
1. Find a quiet room or area where no one/nothing is going to bother you for that time you set a side for meditation.
2. Sit in a comfortable position with your back completely straight. You don’t have to cross your legs to meditate. You can if you want but don’t fall for the trap. As long as you’re comfortable and your back is straight, you’re good to go. Do not lie down you’ll go to sleep. You can use a chair with or without a back. I started with a back and then over time switched to without a back as it helped me stay out of the la-la land and more focused.
3. Put your hands wherever is comfortable for you. I either put my left hand in my right hand with the palms facing up in my lap. Or I put my pointer finger and thumb together and keep them face down on my knees.
4. Shift your weight from left to right until you feel completely comfortable/centered and feel like your spine is in alignment.
5. You can keep your eyes open or closed. Whatever works for you. I usually start by inhaling for 2 seconds, holding the breath for 4 seconds and then exhale for 2. I’ll usually do that 3-5 times. Just note you should always be breathing into your stomach. That helps calm the nervous system vs chest breathing.
6. Now for the purpose of this blog, I’m only going to talk about Vipassana or mindfulness based meditation. All you’re going to do is watch your breath. That’s it. Easy right? So wrong. You’ll notice that you’ll be focusing on your breath and then oh man, what’s for dinner? What time is it? I wonder how my second grade teacher is doing. The name of the game is to bring your attention back to your breath whenever that happens. That’s the big secret. It’s going to happen. A lot. Buddhist call it the monkey mind. You’ll start to realize just how little control you have over your mind when it comes down to it. It’s easier if you pick a spot where you can focus on the breath. A common spot is the brim of the nostrils or in the belly. Focus on the feeling of the breath in whatever spot you pick as you inhale and exhale. Don’t judge or push away your thoughts. Just acknowledge your thoughts without attaching yourself to whatever comes up and let them pass.
7. Now people think they can meditate for a week and get outstanding results. It won’t happen. It’s going to take time but if you keep at it, I can 100% guarantee you’ll notice a change. It’s just like working out. The more you do it, the better you’ll be at it. But once you stop, the monkey mind slowly starts to return. How many times have you ever just tried to sit still and notice your thoughts? It’s going to be hard for some people and might even spook them out a bit at first. Just like anything you’ll get use to it in time.
8. Lastly if you give this a shot, be consecutive for 2 weeks. If you miss a day start back at day 1. And when you start, start small. Maybe the first few times just get comfortable with sitting still for 5 minutes. Then as you go along tell yourself ok today I’m going to practice watching my breath for 10 minutes and so on. But start small and do it for 2 weeks before you decide to quit if it’s not for you.
Here’s some different ways to practice mindfulness if meditation is not for you. And these are all forms of meditation in their own rights.
1. You can practice walking meditation. Go for a hike or walk with no music or anything at all and just be consciously aware of what’s going on around you. Beware of the muscles in your feet as you walk and start making your way up the legs/body. There’s a lot more to this so if this seems like a good go to for you, I’d look up what actual qualified people have to say about this.
2. You can take up floating in an isolation tank. I wouldn’t try this out if you’ve never meditated though. This can really get to people if they’re not comfortable just being still with themselves. I’d say get use to that first and then try this out. Just know that it’s along the same lines as meditation. It’s not something you do one or two times and think it’s going to be your savior. I’ve done it a handful of times and I still have days where I come out and feel like I missed the mark or have a hard time getting completely comfortable. It’s my absolute favorite though. Since most of the people reading this are from the island, I’d go check out The Float Place on deer park ave.
3. I met a guy out here on the trail who would make fire pits every night from scratch and he considered that to be his meditation. Washing the dishes can be a form of meditation. It just comes down to practicing mindfulness. When you open the door, know that you’re opening the door. When you’re driving, know that you’re driving. Really feel the steering wheel, etc. You get the idea.
So those are just a few different ways to practice mindfulness. Very simple and very effective. Last thing I’m going to leave is different people to listen to or books to read. And if you don’t read, audiobooks.
1. Dan Harris. If you’re a skeptic towards meditation, I’d say start with him. “Until recently, I thought of meditation as the exclusive province of bearded swamis, unwashed hippies, and fans of John Tesh music,” Dan Harris writes in his book. He wrote his book, “10% Happier” and it’s about his road into meditation after having a panic attack while reporting the news. Funny guy, even better book. But that’s what he believes about meditation. That it won’t be the end all be all, but it will make you 10% happier. “And when you’re unaware of these emotions, this nonstop conversation that you are having with yourself it yanks you around and you do stupid shit.” “It’s ok to worry, stress, self criticize, we just tend to make it worse than it needs to be and with meditation or mindfulness you’re able to draw the line. When you play it out for the 17th time in your head just ask is this useful?”
2. Tara Brach. She’s someone I came across on trail and really enjoyed her podcast and unbiased way of teaching. So I’d say listen to the podcast The Tim Ferriss Show and find the episode where she’s on it. Really awesome podcast. She’s also got her own podcast called Tara Brach. Really good podcast and she has guided meditations throughout or you can find them on her website. “Meditation is evolution strategy to bring out full potential.” She’s also got a book out called Radical Acceptance. Haven’t read it but Tim Ferriss swears by it so I’ll check it out eventually.
3. Jack Kornfield
4. Headspace app. I never used it but I’ve heard some good things about it and might be a good place to start off.
There’s so many people you can listen to but I think it’d be easier to start with them. And for books. The Power of Now and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle are good starters in awareness. They can be a little woo-woo at times but those were some of my first books that really led to a shift in my thinking. Also Mindfulness in Plain English is a good book to start with. Just wanted to write a little something about this as it’s made a huge difference in my life and might benefit you.