Recently a lot of things have happened which have inspired me to write this article. Firstly my girlfriend took a Vipassana meditation program involving 12 hours meditating every day for 10 days with absolutely no speaking or communication. I resumed meditating myself after about 18 months break, and a large number of my students have taken up meditating. Our combined experiences gave me the feeling that more men and women should make meditation a part of their lives.
SO WHAT IS MEDITATING EXACTLY?
At its most basic, meditation is about learning to be present. We spend a lot of our lives thinking, and thinking, and thinking, and thinking. Our brains provide us with a never-ending stream of chatter, we are thinking about the future, thinking about the past. We are discussing and ruminating things with ourselves all day long. Meditating is about switching off that internal chatter and focusing entirely on what we are experiencing right now in this moment and nothing else.
“So What?” you might ask… “Why do I care about being present in the moment”
Let me explain to you what I have personally experienced with meditation. It’s fresh in my mind because I’m just re-experiencing the shift right now having just started again last month.
- I sleep better. I used to wake up in the morning early and be alert and already planning the day. I’m a highly strung person, that’s part of how I live. But now I wake up in the morning, and I feel calm and relaxed. I can take my time to enjoy my morning before I start thinking about work.
- I have far more perspective on everything. In my day to day life I have a lot of things go wrongly. Not because I have a bad life, but because I have a complicated life running businesses and having staff and clients to constantly monitor and think about. When I’m meditating, I never lose perspective when something doesn’t go to plan. I don’t get angry and annoyed because I realize in the grand scheme it’s no big deal and I can calmly and intelligently come up with a new plan of action. This is far superior to making emotionally reactive decisions.
- I don’t get irritated in traffic jams
- When I’m talking to someone I can be completely present with them and focus on them. It greatly improves my interpersonal relationships.
- I feel like the weight of the world is slowly being lifted off my shoulders. There’s a lot of pressure in my life, I chose it to be that way so I’m not complaining, but as I get deeper and deeper into my meditation practices, life feels much more effortless. There is much less resistance to the daily tasks that usually bother me.
- At the end of the day I enjoy my life much more. I feel happier, I feel like nothing needs to change for me to enjoy myself no matter where I am. It doesn’t kill my drive to live out my purpose in life, but I just do it with a much happier mind set.
Now that’s just my personal experiences over the last month. Let me tell you some of the major ways meditation has helped me in the past and has helped my girlfriend and other students I’ve suggested meditation and retreats to.
When you meditate you become present with yourself and your emotions. All the feelings and memories that you repress throughout your life finally have a chance to slowly make their way to the surface. As they do, you get a chance to deal with them and release them. You know all those niggling hang ups we all have in life, many of you have them relating to women and relationships, but most have other hang ups as well. Meditation allows you to release those hang ups for good.
I witnessed my partner get a lot of her childhood memories back because she had suppressed them because of negative events in her life. I have witnessed guys overcome irrational fears of women and guilty feelings about sex and sexuality because they finally got the chance to release their hang ups and get perspective on the world around them. I myself let go of a lot of beliefs about sex and sexuality I learned from my sexually conservative up bringing which were holding me back.
Most notably, my students who meditate regularly are FAR LESS affected when they get rejected, and everyone gets rejected form time to time. They are much better at putting that rejection into perspective and moving on. They also experience a lot let approach anxiety because they don’t listen so much to the fearful chatter that goes on in their heads. They are also much better at teasing and humor because they are feeling much more calm and relaxed, so their brains function much better when it counts.
SO HOW EXACTLY DO YOU MEDITATE?
The beauty of meditating is that it’s actually not hard to do at all. It’s not complicated. In fact the more complicated you try to make it the more you can be missing the point. The first most important thing is to not expect a special state of mind. You are simply doing this to focus on being present. Allow your body to experience whatever it wants to experience. Sometimes this can be agitation and frustration, but be assured that’s part of the process as your body releases pent up tension. For some people, meditation can take a while to actually feel relaxing. My girlfriend had tried meditating with me a few years ago, and gave it up because she always felt jittery and agitated and figured meditation wasn’t for her. It wasn’t until she set her mind to it that she realized just how badly she needed it. If you get agitated in the beginning it’s a sign you need to meditate, not a sign you need to stop.
1) Wait at least a couple of hours after eating a big meal as this will make it much harder to relax
2) Find a location that isn’t too bright and isn’t too noisy, and where you won’t get disturbed.
3) Find a place to sit where you will be comfortable and won’t need to fidget. Keep your arms and legs uncrossed.
4) Set a timer (ultimately you want to be meditating from 20-30 minutes a day. You can start on 5 minutes the first day and work your way up if you like)
5) Close your eyes, and just focus on your breathing. Don’t try to control your breathing, just let your body breath however it wants to. Focus on the feeling of the cool air coming in your nostrils, filling up your chest, and then the warm air coming out as you exhale.
6) You will notice that especially at first, you will regularly lose focus of your breathing and start thinking of something in the outside world, like the girl you met the other night, or the mean thing someone said today, or the milk you have to buy at the shops. Once you notice you have lost attention don’t be annoyed, just gently move your attention back to your breathing. This cycle of losing attention and bringing it back to being present is something you will become familiar with.
7) Continue this until the alarm goes off. Then gently open your eyes and take your time to get up and get on with the rest of your day.
It’s really that simple. Think of it as your daily chance to have ‘you’ time and relax in the most efficient way possible.
TIPS TO ADVANCE YOUR PRACTICE
Being present should ideally become a part of your every day life. I do more than just meditate regularly to learn to stop focusing on the future and the past. Taking on these ideas will have a huge impact on how long it takes you to start to relax and feel the benefits of meditation.
1) When I drive, I no longer have my radio on blasting cool music. Instead it is completely silent, and I focus on being present with the process of driving. I shift gears with intention trying to make each gear shift as smooth as possible. I watch cars on the road, I admire the sunset when trapped in traffic, my mind will wonder and when it does, I remind myself to be present with the moment.
2) When I eat food alone which I often do for breakfast, I no longer have the television on, or have my phone out catching up on the latest blogs. Instead, I sit quietly by myself and focus intently on tasting the food that I’m eating. Being aware of the texture and the smells and the noises of the spoon on the plate.
3) If am waiting alone somewhere, perhaps at a café for a friend, or at a station for a train, instead of pulling out my phone and checking emails or blogs or forums, I take the time to look around me and just watch what’s going on. Take in the sounds, and smells, watch people as they walk and move.
At first, driving without music and eating without a form of distraction feels a bit agitating. That agitation is normal, but it’s all a part of learning to be present because our minds are so used to being constantly distracted from the present moment.
I’d love to see if some of you guys would be willing to take up the challenge for a month and write back to me letting me know about your experiences. The aim of life is to be happy, and I’ve never found a more effective way to be happy without anything special having to happen in your external life.
p.s. Meditative monks have been scientifically proven multiple times under MRI scans to be the most measurably happy people on earth.