Meditation or Mindfulness Practice, as the kids are calling it these days to stay more bias free, is becoming popular again. From events like Wisdom 2.0 to internet entrepreneurs like Jason Calacanis making the case of why he is investing in calm.com, meditation is getting traction in Silicon Valley and beyond.
It makes sense. Meditation is probably one of the easiest ways to enhance your quality of life. It has been shown to have a plethora of health benefits, and even life hackers like Timothy Ferriss are pointing out the benefits of meditation – especially since now even neuroscience is showing its benefits and thus making it official for the materialistic crowd.
Meditation can lead to increased immunity, emotional balance, lower blood pressure, it acts as an anti-inflammatory, and even increases fertility (Source). Beyond these direct benefits, it enhances your self-awareness and helps to deal with stress, the number one cause of 60-90% of health issues – as even Harvard Business Review points out. Here an article from the Huffington post from last year listing 20 benefits of meditation and the sources.
I first learned about meditation when I was 13. My father one day looked at me and said “you are way too hyper, you need to learn how to chill!” – Fortunately, this was in a time before Ritalin and in a world where problems were dealt with rather than smothered with pills. So he gave me a couple of yoga and meditation books and tapes and I was off on my way to learn how to quiet my body, emotions and mind.
Yoga does just that. Many people think it is about stretching or learning how to become a human pretzel, but yoga is much more than that. Overall, it is about learning how to relate: to your body, your emotions, your mind and ultimately everything around you. One of my yoga teachers used to say that you know your yoga is working when all of your relationships improve.
But I am getting sidetracked. More about yoga as such at some other time. Let’s stick with meditation for now. It taught me first and foremost how to focus. In a world of constant sensory input, this is one of the key skills. Without it, multi-tasking is practically impossible. It taught me how to be with myself and has been a companion throughout my life. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Most recently I have started to have a proper regular practice again, and I can feel the benefits already.
“Should” is a Watchit Word
All this does not mean, though, that you “should” meditate. “Should” is a dangerous word. My friends and I actually put it on the “watchit words” list we came up with when we talked about language in the context of organizational culture a couple of years ago.
“Should” induces guilt. As soon as you think of something you “should” do, there is a natural cringe, an immediate resistance. Worse, if you lay that trip on other people, especially in combination with other “watchit” words like “maybe” and “just”, as in “maybe you should just…”
If you think you “should” meditate, it’s just one more thing on the to-do list (and you will get to it right AFTER you changed your diet, started working out every day, saved the planet and created world peace etc.)
So drop the idea that you “should” meditate.
Consider this Invitation
Instead, consider it an invitation to actually for once take some time for yourself. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with things to react to, meditation is your chance for a way out. It is a way to say “fuck all you all” to family, friends, bosses and bills (in a loving way). It’s the one place in the world you can find where nobody wants anything from you, where you simply get to be you, all you, all by yourself and with your Self.
It is a respite. A few minutes of time to simply breathe. All you have to do. Breathe. You don’t even have to keep track of time. Set an alarm. Until that bell rings, there is NOTHING you have to do. Simply sit with yourself. In peace.
A Mind Trick
If you find yourself getting distracted by your thoughts, you can use this trick that I learned from a Shaman friend many years ago: every time you inhale, say “I am the one inhaling” in your head; and conversely, every time you exhale, say “I am the one exhaling.” The neat thing about that is that your mental body is a linear processor. It can only think one thing at a time. If you say these things out loud in your head, there is no room for any other thought. Bingo. Chill time.
Get to know “I”
What this also invites you to do is to think about who that “I” actually is. Who is inhaling and exhaling? As you sit and ponder that, maybe you get to meet “I” in a new way. The “I” that is not distracted by daily life, the “I” that you came here to be, the “I” that Rastafarians refer to when they talk about “I and I”. Some people call it genius, some atman, some soul. I like to think of it as the “I” that I can be. My highest potential. The “I” that is not worried about what other people think of me or want from me. The originating source for what I consider my Self.
Make it YOUR day
Meditation is best practiced in the mornings, when you first wake up. Before the sound and fury of the day takes its toll. Before you are caught in reacting to the things around you. Take that time in the morning. Even if it is a few minutes. It doesn’t have to be an hour of sitting there. That is not easy to do or fit into a schedule. Actually, studies have shown that even meditating for short intervals throughout the day has tremendous benefits for your decision making. Because the point is to be chill all day long. It makes sense to re-up every few hours. Or doing it after something upset or aggravated you. Take that time-out. For you, only you. Give yourself that gift.
And don’t buy into the idea that you “should” do anything.