What do you think of when I say meditation?
You probably imagine sitting in a cross-legged position. Creating a circle with your thumb and index finger, closing your eyes, and humming. You also probably think that it’s a way for free-loading, marijuana-smoking hippies to appear wise and philosophical. It also likely has no real benefit. Or, there ARE benefits to meditation, but they’re very overrated.
I thought the same. But, it turns out it may not be bullshit. Here’s my blog post on meditation:
The first person I’ve ever met who claimed to meditate was an easy-going pothead I met back in college. Let’s call him Andy. Andy was a nice guy, but he was also lazy, unambitious, and noncommittal. He was constantly trying to appear spiritual and wise, but would fall apart the minute his life got busier as the semester wore on. Once, Andy ate 5 sandwiches at a school event with free catering, probably because he had the “munchies” from heavy marijuana use. Not the best representative of meditation.
Thanks to Andy, I wrote meditation off as pseudo-science bullshit with completely negligible and overrated benefits that some hippies made up while tripping on LSD during an orgy.
I tried it on and off for the next few years, mostly for shits and giggles. I found that right after meditating, I was generally more clear-headed and able to focus more effectively, but I never stuck with it long enough to see any significant benefits.
The people who see little to no benefit from meditation don’t do it with the right mindset. Meditation shouldn’t be about emptying your mind, relaxing, or calming yourself.
This is Andy’s biggest mistake, aside from the acres of marijuana that he smokes. He relaxes too much. I can guarantee that he daydreams about stupid shit during meditation. In fact, meditation for him might be the time that he gets high and fucks around with the hallucinations he gets.
Is it any wonder meditation does jack shit for him?
Right now, try to not think about ANYTHING. More than likely, this is difficult. There’s seemingly always thoughts racing through your mind. You may regularly have negative feelings like stress, anxiety, and anger. You may feel tired all the time. Our minds are normally very chaotic, especially in our high-speed, instant gratification society.
Think about that question: “Have you lost your mind”?! A better way of saying it is: “Have you lost control of your mind”?! Because that’s what’s happening. You’re losing control of your mind.
When someone cuts you off in traffic, you may feel volcanic levels of rage. You know that it’s not productive or helpful to get like this, but you can’t help yourself. You might feel anxiety, and even panic attacks, when talking to strangers, talking to girls you’re attracted to, etc.
During meditation, your overall goal is to silence this chaotic whirlwind of thoughts. You shouldn’t really be relaxed, but you shouldn’t be tense either. You have to find and maintain that sweet spot of calm stillness and energetic engagement. This contradictory state of being is where you are at your most creative, productive and efficient.
You’re probably thinking that it’s great to gain better control over your mind, but is it really that big of a deal? Well…
This is a quote said by Bruce Lee in the film “ Enter the Dragon (1973)“. For awhile, I had no idea what he meant, but I’ve come up with a possible interpretation. There are multiple interpretations, but this one is applicable outside of martial arts and athletics.
Meditation is a form of mental exercise that’s meant to help you gain better control and understanding of your mind: your thoughts, feelings, and moods. You can focus and stay on-task more effectively, overcome feelings of negativity, doubt, or skepticism, and you can avoid laziness and procrastination more easily.
I’ve been hyping meditation in this entire blog post. Now, I’m going to give a step-by-step guide to doing it. This certainly isn’t the only way, but it’s the way that’s worked best for me.
I recommend meditating at night. I’ve tried both day and night meditation, and I gained far greater benefits from night meditation. Many people, including me, end up falling asleep during meditation, or at least becoming very sleepy. Because of this, it’s much more useful to do meditation at night soon before going to sleep then in the morning right before starting your day.
There’s actually a proven neurological basis behind this.
There are four types of brain waves that are a result brain activity. Beta waves occur when you’re wide awake and mentally engaged in something, like giving a speech or talking to someone in conversation. Alpha waves are a step below that in intensity, and typically happen after you finish something and are taking a break.
Theta waves occur when you’re doing something that’s very habitual and simple for you, but still requires concentration to do properly, like driving on a freeway or brushing your teeth. You’re able to mentally disengage to an extent from the activity, and it’s in this state when people become extremely creative and good ideas start flowing into their minds.
When you go to sleep, your brain waves go from Beta down to Alpha, Theta, and finally Delta waves during deep sleep (Link) (Link). Meditation puts your mind into the Alpha and Theta brain wave stages. The reason why you get tired and sleepy during meditation is because you’re essentially following this brain wave sleep pattern; it seems like you’re in the process of going to sleep.
The good news is that after about a week or two of consistent meditation, you’ll become used to this feeling of tiredness and you’ve essentially trained yourself to resist sleepiness. And, being able to get more done when tired is something anyone can stand to benefit from.
Anyway, I recommend meditating at night.
Make your environment as quiet as possible to prevent distraction. The raging thunderstorm of thoughts in your mind will already be distracting, and you don’t want to add fuel to the fire.
First step, inhale, hold your breath, and tense up your entire body and mind for 5 seconds. Try to tense every muscle in your body. After 5 seconds, exhale quickly, then repeat this 2 more times.
Second step, relax every part of your body, starting with your legs. Breathe in deep, exhale slowly, and then relax your legs. Mentally say to yourself “relax legs.” Repeat this for your stomach, chest, back, arms, neck, face, and finally your mind.
You’ll find that starting from a state of high tension and gradually relaxing your entire body from the legs up makes relaxing your mind much easier. Maintain this state of physical and mental stillness for as long as possible. Don’t become more relaxed, or else you’ll start falling asleep. Don’t let your mind wander and allow thoughts to start flooding in.
For me, becoming too relaxed is easy to deal with by just becoming more awake and alert. My mind wandering is the bigger issue. Repeat the second step whenever your mind starts wandering too much. Meditate like this for 10-20 minutes daily.
So, is meditation bullshit? It really depends on you and how you go about it. If you fuck around with it like Andy, it won’t do a thing for you. If you do it in the morning and it makes you tired just before starting your day, you’re shooting yourself in the foot with a metaphorical gun. Or, morning meditation might clear your head and get your ready to start your day. It really depends.
Try my method for about a week and see how it works out. If it’s as helpful as it is for me, great! Keep it up. If it’s not doing much for you, play around with the time you meditate at and how long you do it for.
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All the best,