Shortly after moving to Boulder, Colorado in 2010 I learned how to meditate and I’ve been practicing it consistently for about 4 and a half years ever since. I recently saw a blog post by Sami Paju where he wrote about what he had learned in two months and I appreciated his perspective and it made me sit down and reflect on my own experience.
Growing up I never knew much about ways to deal with life’s stresses. I always had a bit of the world’s weight on my shoulders for various reasons when I was developing as a kid into my adulthood. Whether it was the circumstances in which I was trying to figure out my path in a working class family in a blue-collar city, to being creative and a naturally introverted person, I internalized a lot of the stimuli that overwhelmed me day-to-day.
I remember a big reason why I started doing creative things when I was a young teenager was because I couldn’t verbally articulate my emotions to family and friends and felt completely hindered by the anxiety I felt. I’d come home from school and lock myself in my room and blast anything from Nirvana to Miles Davis and furiously scribble words down into my notebook or doodle drawings of monsters that I perceived to be my inner self.
As I got older, as with most people, life got more complicated and my coping mechanisms didn’t really develop at the pace of how I was exposed to stimuli. Luckily when I moved to Boulder, Colorado after some tumultuous years post-college I was exposed to Transcendental Meditation through the woman I was dating. Her and her family all meditated and she grew up in a community in rural Iowa called Fairfield. Shortly after we started dating I was allured by the lifestyle that my ex-girlfriend and her family had and their overall presence when just talking to you and how they approached life’s challenges.
Her parents offered to introduce me to their style of meditation, which is called Transcendental Meditation and got me into a short course to learn how to meditate with a friend of theirs. It is without a doubt one of the best gifts I’ve ever received in my life and I’ll be eternally grateful to them for it.
I’m certainly not an expert in the mental or physiological benefits of meditation as they pertain to your brain and body, but I wanted to share some insights that I’ve observed in my own practice that have kept me practicing daily for so long.
Meditation Is Like Pizza
You’ve heard that saying applied to other things, I’m sure… Even when it’s not that good. It’s still great. Every morning I wake up around the same time and I either sit up in bed and immediately start meditating or I get up and have a large drink of water and then get right into my meditation practice. Regardless of what I do before I meditate, I get into the practice the same way. I sit comfortably, I close my eyes and after a few seconds I begin my meditation. Whatever happens next I just sit and let my mantra bring me deep into my own consciousness and stillness. Sometimes I have a lot of thoughts that bombard me about my upcoming day or something I’ve done or didn’t do recently and all I can do is let the time pass and repeat the mantra over and over again. Sometimes I feel like I am not going deep at all, like I’m not even meditating, just thinking and unwillingly contemplating my life. Other times I blissfully drift off into a soft, black quietness and come out of my meditation like I’ve just taken the best nap or full night of sleep that money can buy. Regardless of the outcome or feeling of the duration of my meditation, I come out of it as a better person. I simply feel better than when I started. I’ve learned that no matter how the meditation feels as I’m doing it, taking place in the practice with a daily cadence is what helps me make the daily progress. I don’t know what the ultimate picture will look like from meditating will be, however I am able to appreciate the journey at every step.
Don’t Focus On Anything, Seriously
Chill, dog. Even when the thoughts won’t come, I’ve been trained to not focus on any thought or stimulus that is happening in me or outside of me. If I have some disturbing thoughts, I focus on my mantra and the thoughts either leave or stay with me, however the mantra stays ever-present. If there is a noise outside of me, or if I am meditating on a train or bus, the conversations happening around me or the garbage truck making noise outside of me don’t get my ultimate attention. You can meditate anywhere,any time. As long as you have the time to sit still for a bit, you can meditate. One of the actual beauties of meditating when it’s not perfect quiet and peace sometimes is that you hone your ability and tolerance by separating how you feel from the actual world around you. Growing up in an insanely loud Irish Catholic family full of guilt and shouting (and love), I used to just run away to a spare room to avoid having an anxiety attack from too much stimulation. Nowadays I can tune most things out at will when I want to. So yes, if it seems like I’m not really listening to you or the things around me, I’m probably not.
You’ll Look At Your Absurdities In The Third Person
This part is one of my favorites. When you’re not meditating, I’ve been able to look at myself in a much more objective way. I can see myself speaking certain ways and when I feel emotions come up it’s like I have a pre-roll of what I’m about to do or say. Sometimes I still go into my petty emotional tirades and do or say things that I don’t mean. But as I’ve been meditating over time I’ve found that more and more, I am able to intercept these emotional or mental outbursts and impulses better and interpret them better. It’s like I’m able to talk to myself and say “hey man, you notice this? Do you really feel this way? Do you really want to say that? Why so?” This has helped me immensely in my interpersonal relationships as well as in my career and professional development. I’m an emotional person and I’ve let myself live inside myself un-checked and unfettered. With meditation, I am able to feel the source of my actions before they come more often. I find that invaluable.
Try a Group Setting
I am an introvert and I avoid groups. This is just a reality of who I am and I truly embrace this part of me. However, I’ve had some pretty amazing and fulfilling experiences meditating in various ways with groups of people. Whether it’s been part of a mens group I was lucky to be invited to or if it was a specific Transcendental Meditation group meditation practice in Boulder, there’s a certain energy that can’t be replicated when you focus on meditation and bettering yourself with others. I believe this is part of finding your tribe. I’m still looking for my core tribe of people. Wherever that may be or whomever they may be, I want meditation to be a shared commonality between us, for sure.
Even though meditation is ultimately a very personal practice and something every person will find their benefits from. I think Transcendental Meditation is the best kind of meditation, though I’d suggest you try apps like Calm.com just to get the ball rolling and see the immediate benefits of meditation. One of the big detractors from T.M. is that it’s expensive to take a course. I really don’t think meditation should be something you pay for, should it? I guess I’m torn because I know the value of it. But if you must pay for training, I don’t think the cost should be prohibitive to someone who can’t afford it. Regardless, you can meditate any way you want. Just get started and be consistent about it and watch the benefits start accumulating over time.