"[M]editation is a way to get in the space between your thoughts. You have a thought here, a thought here, and there's little space between every thought." -- Deepak Chopra
YOU have no excuse not to meditate.
Yes, you...I'm talking to YOU.
|Yes, I'm pointing at YOU...
To all of you who claim you have tried meditation and it just doesn't work for you.
To all of you who claim you don't have any time to meditate.
To all of you who think that meditation is for a bunch of hippies who like to burn candles and make weird chanting noises.
To all of you who have used any kind of excuse not to meditate, I am here to tell you that your excuse is a cop-out. Your excuse is nothing more than a self-created justification to keep you from doing the hard work - and yes, meditation is hard work - that you need to do to live a happier life. And if you say, "I'm already happy, I don't need to meditate," then think about how amazing it'd be to feel even happier.
Before I go further, I want to make clear that meditation is not a cure all. It won't fix all the problems in your life. It won't make money suddenly appear. It won't make that guy you see at the grocery store magically fall in love with you. It won't make the girl of your dreams come walking through the door. It won't cure cancer.
Meditation, however, will make you happier - and that's completely relative to how you feel from day-to-day, moment-to-moment. It will also make you more productive. It will help you open your mind and see new opportunities that you may have completely missed otherwise. Most of all, it will make you recognize that the little voice that constantly runs in your head - the one that tells you stories all day long about how you look, how you feel, how someone else looks, whether you're doing a good job - is not the truth. That's right. That little voice in your head is only telling you some version of a story. Once you recognize that, pause, and realize that's all it is - a story - then your entire outlook can change a little bit at a time.
For now, I'll save the science and details of the benefits of meditation for another post. My only goal for this post is to get you to commit for one month to meditate for at least 5 minutes a day. There's no science to that number. It's just a place to start.
I mentioned in my post a couple weeks ago, Slowing Down for Speed, Efficiency, and Endurance, that I'd been trying to meditate for 20 minutes twice a day. I'll admit that there have been days when I don't fit in the 20 minutes or I don't do it twice a day, and I was feeling guilty about that. (Actually, that little voice in my head was telling me that I was being lazy and failing at my goal).
Then I listened to a wonderful podcast by my favorite podcaster, Rich Roll. I've mentioned him before and if you haven't checked him out, then you truly don't know what you're missing. One of his recent podcasts was with ABC News anchor, Dan Harris. If you think that meditation is a bunch of hooey, that it's for hippy freaks, that you can't slow your mind down enough, or that it's just a waste of time, then this podcast is a must listen for you.
I promise that if you listen to this podcast, you will wipe away every excuse that little voice tells you to let you get away with not meditating.
You can read Rich Roll's notes about the podcast to get a better sense of Dan Harris and his entry into meditation. In a nutshell, as a broadcast journalist, he's one of the busiest, most overstressed people you will find. He's not religious and is a self-proclaimed agnostic. His mind races probably faster than yours on any given day, and he's in a constant pressure cooker with his job. He would be one of the last people you would think would take up meditation. Yet, after an interesting couple of years following an on-air panic attack, some news assignments covering different faiths/religions, and reading a book on Buddhism that his wife gave him (which he thought was ridiculous), he decided one day on vacation to screw it and try meditation for five minutes.
As he describes, it sucked, it was hard, and his mind wandered off all the time. Over time, however, it got better. And over time, he got happier. Consequently, he wrote a book called 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works - a True Story. I implore you to click the link and watch the videos where he describes how he came upon this journey, how ridiculous he thought meditation was, and how he came to realize the immense benefits meditation would have. The video is actually quite funny and sarcastic (right up my alley) as Harris tells about his journey. You can also watch the talk he did at the MindBodyGreen seminar, which is on Rich Roll's website.
His point - and mine - is a simple one: focus on your breathing for 5 minutes every day. Don't call it meditation if that you creeps you out. You don't have to light a candle or chant sanskrit. All you have to do is sit comfortably - in a chair, on a couch, on the floor, however you want - close your eyes, then focus on the breath coming in your nose, moving down your throat into your stomach as you inhale, and then moving back out your stomach, throat, and nose as you exhale. That's it.
Yes, your mind will wander. You may take one breath and then that little voice will start saying "oh, wow, good job, you focused on that breath. I wonder how long we can do this? I wonder if I'm breathing the right way. I wonder if I should be sitting differently. Did I turn my phone off? Oh wait, I'm supposed to be focusing on my breath." Once you realize that the voice is running on auto-pilot, just turn your focus back to your breath.
Then your mind will wander again...and again...and again. Don't get angry, frustrated, or disappointed, and most of all, don't give up. Just recognize that your mind wandered and refocus on your breath.
Contrary to what you may think, the point is not to clear your head of all thoughts. That's not going to happen. The point is to recognize when that little voice kicks into gear and just bring your attention back to your breath. The beauty of meditation isn't to clear your mind. It's to get in touch with your mind - more specifically, to find the space in between the thoughts. That's where the true peace lies. It's where - and this may freak you out - you will find the true spirit, God, or whatever higher power you want to call it. It's where you find your true consciousness. It's the place where that little voice - the one that only tells you stories, not truths - ceases to exist.
Okay, that was a bit lofty...but that's the carrot at the end of the stick. Your goal isn't to wipe your mind clean, so stop stressing about how you can't quiet your mind. Your goal is to find the space between the thoughts. And you do that by doing one simple thing: focusing on your breath.
Doing that one simple thing doesn't have to be a huge undertaking. So don't let that little voice tell you that you don't have time. If Dan Harris can find 5 minutes a day (actually he does more than that), then so can you. If not 5 minutes, then do 1 minute and build from there. Just establish a consistent, daily practice of focusing on your breath for a set amount of time. Do it when you first get out of bed. Over your lunch break. Right before you go to bed. On the metro. Just do it.
Don't get discouraged and say "I can't do it, my head is to busy. It's just too hard." That excuse is the equivalent of not going to the gym because it's hard, it makes you breathe hard, and you get too sweaty. Let go of any expectation that meditation is easy or that you should be able to be good at it in a matter of days. As I mentioned in my prior post, you wouldn't expect to get up off the couch and run a 5k without training. So don't expect your brain to run a 5-minute mediation session without wandering off for most it.
Doing some amount of meditation every day (well, almost every day) the past few weeks has nearly blown my mind. Just in the last few days, I've begun to notice opportunities and meet new people that I know I would have missed before. How has meditation helped me do that? It's made me notice when that little voice is rambling on. It's made me decide that I don't have to listen to that little voice. Instead of letting that little voice talk me out of introducing myself to a new person, I let that negative thought pass, and decide to take another course of action by walking up to the person. Instead of pre-judging a situation and assuming that a certain outcome was sure to be the end result, I decided to open myself up to at least trying to achieve a different outcome or exploring the possibilities. I've had a more empathetic response - rather than knee-jerk reaction - to other people and situations throughout the day. It's allowed me to focus better and not get caught up in the constant storytelling of that little voice.
It's made me....happier.
Am I happy all the time? No. But I'm happier more of the time.
Do I still flip people off in traffic? Yes. But I do it less.
Do I still get annoyed with people throughout the day? Yes. But it's less often.
Am I able to meditate for 20 minutes without my mind wandering off? Absolutely not. But I'm getting better.
On my Helpful Links tab I've provided some Meditation Tips that provide a couple of resources to get you started with a simple meditation practice. Whether you do one of those or find your own, all I ask is that you commit to focus on your breathing - meditate - for 5 minutes a day for 30 days.
Drop the excuses. Just do 5 minutes of focusing on your breathing for 30 days. Then I dare you to tell me that you're not even slightly happier at the end of that 30 days.
Can you commit to that challenge? If you do, I'd love to hear about your progress, your struggles, etc., so email me at email@example.com or leave a comment below...