On Meditation

14 Jul

meditation

I am going to keep this piece very informal. I usually write short fiction stories but this subject has been so important to me as of late, I thought I would write about it. If it reaches one person and helps them, I will be elated. The subject is meditation. I have been doing it consistently now for over four months. In no way am I an expert. I can only express what someone who has done something for a miniscule period of time can. In this piece, I hope to cover the Why, How, What Happened.

Why:

I can´t explain why but I have always been drawn to meditation or at least the sexy idea of meditation. Something about being able to meld your mind with the fabric of the universe was very titillating to me. Of course, as you will read, this may never actually happen but I can tell you in my short time practicing, I feel I have gotten close. Over the past two decades every few months or so I would tell myself I would make meditation a staple in my life. I would either read a book, pre internet, or listen to guided meditations, post internet. I would “meditate” here or there and not have a plan. I really didn´t know for meditation to give results, consistency is the key.

The last push to make a plan and stick with it was given by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was a guest on the Tim Ferris Podcast, a motivational show that gives life hacking tips and has effective people as guests. Arnold described a time in his life that I related too. A time where his thoughts were jumbled and his life felt hectic and out of control. He was having success in his ventures but he was having difficulty putting it all together and making sense of it all. He said that one thing and one thing only put him on track and kept him there. Transcendental Meditation. He used TM for exactly one year and stopped. It was enough to right the ship and sail into one of the most successful careers the world has ever seen. Although my practice is not TM per se, I read extensively about it and have adopted some of its principles.

How:

Let´s get to it. The how. What do I do? Just sit there? Summon spirits and demons from other realms. Yes and no. Well, maybe to the second question. I shall explain. What I do is sit down for a period of time, usually 10-15 minutes, the most 20 minutes but that is rare. I do this two times a day, once as soon as I wake and another close to bed time. When I started I used a mantra that I got from the internet. Mine was “Enga”. I have no idea what it means, I just like the way it sounds and vibrates. The mantra is simply an anchor. When you meditate, you do not think about anything. That is the point. To think about nothing. This is where the mantra enters. You focus on the mantra. I mentalized the mantra on out breaths. I breath in, and as I breath out I would think the mantra and feel it vibrate in my head. When your mind wanders and it will, your bring your attention back to the mantra.

I have since started simply focusing on my breath and have similar results. Start thinking about your childhood? Breathe. Bring your attention back to your breath. Start thinking about that bill that is late? Breathe. Bring your attention back to your breath. That´s it. You don´t pontificate the nature of reality, the reason for your existence or anything. It´s just focused attention for a few moments per day. How is this beneficial? Shouldn´t I come in contact with the spirit world or have a chat with God? I will try to scratch the surface of that later. I am afraid I cannot even put into words the benefits, but I will try.

I know a lot of people get hung up on sitting posture. There is no need to. Just make sure you are comfortable but not so comfortable that you go to sleep. Some people can meditate laying down. I cannot. I will go to sleep. I use a “meditation chair”. It looks like the letter “L” with a pad for the butt. I will admit, I made the investment almost to guarantee that I would stick with meditation for a period of time. I used my cheapness to my advantage. I knew if I spent that money, I would force myself to do it. This worked but by no means do you need fancy pillows or chairs. Before the chair arrived in the mail, I was sitting on a folded blanket and propped my back up on a wall. I had great results.

I have done some experimenting as well. I have used guided meditations with great results. I like the ones called “body scans”. The narrator will have you focus on the different parts of your body and relaxing them. I´ve had some sessions that left me extremely relaxed. There is an app on my phone that I use called Insight Timer. It is a free app. It works as a timer, as the name implies, but there is a wonderful array of guided meditations to follow. Another advantage is that it keeps stats. I love stats, you may or may not. If you don´t, I am pretty sure you can turn this feature off. Even if you cannot, just ignore them!

Another thing I experiment with is binaural beats. I won´t go into what these exactly are. That would be well beyond my pay grade. The Wiki page explains them perfectly. Pretty much, they produce a sound that affects the way you brain functions. Again, Google my friend. I feel I have had pretty good results from these as well. Different frequencies will produce different results such as, relaxation, contemplation, creativity, euphoria, just to name a few. Again, do your research but I recommend them.

What Happened:

So now that you see how easy it is, let´s talk a little about what happens. Of course, results will vary, ask your doctor…oh, wait. The scientific community is pretty much in unison that meditation is beneficial. A simple Google search will give more information on this than you could read in a few incarnations.

First thing I need to express because I saw other people had the same reaction. For the first few days, I actually felt more irritable than usual. I just felt like I was in a really bad mood. Again, this was only for the first few days. It passed and has never happened again.

During the first few weeks, I had some absolutely sublime revelations. They are personal and not Earth shattering so I feel no need to share them here. These have subsided though. They would happen the moment I brought my attention back after it had wandered off. I would label the thought “Past”, “Desire”, “Utility”, etc. and as I realized my mind was wandering and I brought it back either to the mantra or my breath, BAM, I was hit with a deep thought that would resonate with me for days.

Overall I feel more calm in control. I have become a better father to my three year old daughter. How, you ask? Because I don´t lose my temper. Here is one of those places I fear my words will fail me, but I will try to explain. I feel like I understand her more and therefore an action that would anger me in the past does not because I see it for what it is. Maybe she is just exploring her world. That´s why she knocked over the cup of juice, on purpose. Maybe she is just exploring limits, that´s why she continues to bang on the plate after I had asked three times to stop. Also, again, it is hard to explain, I just feel overall more patient. If I miss more than one day of meditation, this is very rare, I feel a little anxiety and a little out of control. This may or may not be some kind of placebo effect but as soon as I get a session in, all feels normal again.

Another thing that I have not really read anywhere else but I have experienced is increased memory. When I read books and watched movies or television series in the past, I would pretty much forget everything, pre meditation days. I have read East of Eden three times and every time felt like the first time. I watched all of Breaking Bad. I loved it. Ask me something about it. I cannot answer it. Now I seem to be able to recall plot points and other details better after viewing something. I think it may be a function of training the mind to be more present and training focus.

I am very early on in this journey. I may write a follow up to this piece a few months from now. I may be able to articulate myself even better or maybe not. I hope if you take anything away from reading this it is, meditation is simple, you can do it, there are many benefits and consistency is key. In fact, it is probably the most important factor. It´s not how you sit, what you mantra is, if you are burning fancy incense. The most important thing is that you are doing it and doing it consistently. At least once daily, preferably twice.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. I will do my best to answer them. You can also e-mail me. There is a Contact page with my information. I feel that mediation is so important that it should be taught early and often. Kids should be taught meditation, now more than ever. With so many things fighting a war for attention, the loser is attention. It gets so spread thin it is rendered almost useless. Meditation is a way to own your attention and bring it back to health.

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10 Responses to “On Meditation”

  1. Priceless Joy July 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    This is very interesting Ryan! Thanks for explaining this.

    • Ryan July 14, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

      Try it! You may like it, really. I didn´t even mention the benefits to writing. Like I said, I am so new I wanted to focus on the bullet points but I feel that though I may not be any better, the words come easier. Thanks for reading!

  2. celiegold July 16, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    I love that you’re writing about the beginning of the journey to meditation and also already being able to reflect on the positive changes you’re seeing just in the first few weeks (and realizing the first few days can be a doozy!) I’ve been trying to make it habit ever since reading Andy Puddicombe’s book: http://workhappi.com/2014/06/12/get-some-headspace-how-mindfulness-can-change-your-life-in-ten-minutes-a-day-by-andy-puddicombe/ Good luck and I hope you follow up in a few months with all the added benefits you’re seeing!

    • Ryan July 16, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

      First, I always thank people who comment for simply taking the time out to read anything I write. Secondly, thanks for the kind words and the link. I will definitely check it out. Yeah, the first days were a doozy. I have not read a good explanation of why that is but I have seen it stated by many people on blogs and forums. I will make a follow up! I was thinking around the one year mark. Thanks again, my friend. Happy journeys!

  3. Chelsea July 22, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    My dad has meditated every day for at least the past 25 years. He says the point is not to think about nothing but to focus intently on one thought. This seems similar to your idea of focusing on your mantra, but instead he focuses on a specific thought.

    He’s been trying to get me into it for years, but I have yet to actually try. I do practice yoga, and the idea of focusing your mind is present in that as well. Of course, sometimes in yoga I have trouble focusing because I’m too concerned about figuring out how it’s possible to hold my entire weight up with one arm haha.

    As I get older, I do see the advantages of taking this time each day. Maybe it’s time for me to try meditation!

    • Ryan July 22, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

      What your father says is exactly what I am saying. The point is not what you are focusing on, but the focusing itself.

      Some people will focus on the flame of a candle. The point is, when your mind starts to wander, you recognize it and bring back your focus. It´s like a mental exercise. One thing I hope this piece can do is demystify meditation.

      Some people “meditate” while doing a craft which requires total focus. Same thing. If their mind wanders, they must focus on what they are doing to do it effectively.

      About your yoga practice, as you become more proficient in your movements, the more meditative it will become. I find this with my Jiu JItsu practice. In the beginning, I was so worried about getting strangled and where to put my body parts, my mind was all over the place. As I improve, I can concentrate more.

      Thank you so much for reading. Start!!!!! Let me know how it goes!!!! I am more than willing to help in any modest way I can. Hugs!

  4. Jéssica Dall'Occa December 16, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    Ryan,
    Really cool the way in which describes the steps for meditation and its benefits. In fact the way easily explained for the perfect understanding helps us to delve a little more about this interesting topic.

  5. Jéssica Dall'Occa December 16, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    Ryan,
    Really cool the way in which describes the steps for meditation and its benefits. In fact the way easily explained for the perfect understanding helps us to delve a little more about this interesting topic.

    • Ryan December 16, 2015 at 11:09 am #

      Thank you so much for your kind words! Good luck on your journey! Let me know if I can help. 🙂

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