Before I moved to Australia, If you’d told me one day I’d be writing an article about meditation, I would probably have started laughing.
I had never meditated and it’s not something I’d even thought about doing.
Yet here I am, crafting the first lines of a blogpost about meditation… And guess what: I’m pumped about it!
Why? Because meditation has been hands down my #1 life discovery over the last year.
Out of all the crazy/healthy stuff I do on a daily basis, it’s my meditation that helps me most show up in the world they way I want to, and become a slightly better version of myself everyday.
And that’s why, my friends, I’m happy to say that I haven’t missed a day of meditation in 9 months. And to be honest, I don’t plan on ever missing a day again. Yes, meditation is that awesome.
If you’re skeptical, I don’t blame you. How could sitting down, eyes closed, doing nothing for a few minutes really help us, let alone provide Jedi Mind Tricks?
Let me tell you a little story.
How I Started Meditating
One day around this time last year, I was lost in the depth of the Youtube sphere, browsing around aimlessly, before I found an interesting video. It was Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer of meditation in the Western World, introducing Meditation to a room full of Google employees.
I had nothing planned for the next hour, and I figured if those guys had the time to watch this presentation, I should watch it too. So I did. And what a good idea it turned out to be.
Before the video was even over, I knew I to try this thing. I’ve always had a really active mind, always thinking about a million and one things, and it seemed like meditation was exactly what I needed to harness the full power of my mind by taming it down a little.
So I committed to 5 minutes every morning, for the next month. See what happens, you know. If anything, the chances of getting injured from this experiment were rather slim.
The next morning, as soon as I got up, I sat up in my bed, closed my eyes and thus began my meditation career.
The next 5 minutes were slightly uncomfortable, relatively uneventful, and certainly not life-altering. But I got up happy, because I had taken that critical first step in my meditation project. And you know what? I was already looking forward to my next 5 minute session, to see if I would be able to control my mind a bit better.
Over the next few weeks, I traveled far and wide around the internet, doing research about meditation, trying to shed some light on this concept that is still so obscure to us Westerners. But the more I learned about meditation and it’s benefits to the human brain, the stronger my feeling grew that I had embarked on an adventure unlike any other. An adventure inside my own mind. Woah.
And now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with meditation, I’m about to take you on a guided tour inside this amazing activity. And if you’re already a meditator, I’ll be sharing a few unconventional meditation tricks that could greatly enhance your practice.
So take deep breath, smile, and get ready because this is gonna be good. If the following information can enhance your life half as much as it has mine, you’re in for a ride.
(That’s me meditating at the Kalbarri Canyon in Western Australia a few months ago)
What is Meditation?
“When we speak of meditation, it is important for you to know that this is not some weird cryptic activity, as our popular culture might have it. It does not involve becoming some kind of zombie, vegetable, self-absorbed narcissist, navel gazer, “space cadet,” cultist, devotee, mystic, or Eastern philosopher.
Meditation is simply about being yourself and knowing something about who that is. It is about coming to realize that you are on a path whether you like it or not, namely, the path that is your life. Meditation may help us see that this path we call our life has direction; that it is always unfolding, moment by moment; and that what happens now, in this moment, influences what happens next.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn in Wherever You Go, There You Are
Who better than the master himself to start us off? :)
Kabat-Zinn makes it quite clear, but I want to make this real clear: meditation is not some weird mystic activity, it’s an effective, relaxing, and pleasant way to to tune in with ourself.
When I meditate, I don’t see crazy stuff, I don’t communicate with aliens, and I don’t time-travel. No, I just chill out and meditate. That’s it.
Meditation is the process of slowing down our mind, and controlling our stream of thoughts. It’s achieved mainly by controlling our breath. Breathing, when we focus on it, acts as the connection between our mind and our body. By taking slow, soft, rhytmic breaths, we calm down both our body and our mind, and before long, we’re meditating. We achieve a state of deep relaxation.
Everything slows down, the outside world ceases to exist, and we connect with what’s going on inside us.
What happens when we meditate?
As we do that, the brainwave patterns in our brain begin to change. From a beta state where our mind is busy even a beginner meditator can quickly go into an alpha state which already feels quite nice.
Then, with some practice, we start calming our mind enough to produce Theta brainwaves, which is when the real fun begins. This state of relaxation is unlike anything a non-meditator has ever experienced, and is also the source of a lot of insights.
Finally, the Zen Buddhist masters have been shown in EEG’s to produce Delta brainwaves, which is the same as normal people in deep restorative sleep.
From our perspective, we just feel progressively more relaxed, light, and eventually (in my case at least), I feel like I’m floating, like my body doesn’t exist anymore. And in deep meditation, I feel this “glow” in my head.
Why is it important to slow down our brainwave patterns?
Well for one, we live more busy/hectic/mentally draining lives than any generation of humans before us. The amount of information our brain processes, the constant stimulation it’s provided, puts a severe drain on our cognitive abilities. Eventually, we become drained, and that’s when that urge to lay on the couch or to have another coffee appears.
By venturing down into Alpha, Theta, and Delta states, we calm down our brain, allowing it to refuel our neurochemical tanks. That’s why after meditation we enjoy greater mental clarity, focus, and serenity.
The Benefits of Meditation
“Over the course of the last ten years, I have also participated in several research programs intended to document the long-term effects of meditation practice on the brain and on behavior. This research has shown that it is possible to make significant progress in developing qualities such as attention, emotional balance, altruism, and inner peace.
Other studies have also demonstrated the benefits of meditating for 20 minutes a day for a period of six to eight weeks. These benefits include a decrease in anxiety, in vulnerability from pain, and in the tendency toward depression and anger, as well as strengthening the power of attention, boosting the immune system, and increasing one’s general well-being. Thus,no matter what point of view you approach it from—whether that of personal transformation, the development of altruistic love, or physical health—meditation emerges as a factor essential for leading a balanced life, rich in meaning.”
~ Matthieu Ricard in Why Meditate?
Mathieu Ricard is an interesting fellow. 37 years ago, he left a promising career as a cellular geneticist in France, moved to the Himalayas, and decided to become a Buddhist monk.
After about 30 years isolated in the mountains of Nepal, he came back to the Western world to take part in some studies on the human brain. Through extensive testing, it became obvious that all his years of daily meditation had totally transformed his brain. He was now capable of lighting the parts of his brain linked to kindness, compassion, attention on demand, and to generate much more activity in those regions than normal people.
Thus began a series of studies that now show without a doubt that meditation benefits us in many ways. You can read a good overview of all the scientifically proven benefits of meditation on this site.
In his great book “Relaxation Revolution”, Herbert Benson even tells us that “eliciting the relaxation response through any of a wide variety of techniques will actually change the body’s gene activity or “expression.” I’m not sure I fully grasp the implications of this, but it goes to show that meditation can really change us on a very fundamental level: our gene’s expression.
At this point in time, we’re past the debate of whether this stuff works or not. It’s been proven time & time again, meditation is legit. And beyond all the studies & research… take it from me. I’m not here to sell you anything, just trying to share a bit of wisdom with you.
The benefits I’ve experienced from my 250+ consecutive days of meditation
There are probably more, but on top of my head:
-I have a greater ability to focus when I’m working, reading, trying to learn a new skill, or having a conversation with someone.
-I have a lot more good ideas popping out seemingly out of nowhere.
-I’m much more relaxed, and I very rarely get stressed anymore.
-My mind feels a lot less cluttered, my thoughts more organised and less chaotic.
-I have a greater ability for “whole-brain thinking”. This means I can use both hemispheres of my brain simultaneously, looking at things creatively & analytically at once. For a naturally-analytical person like me, getting in touch with my creative has been awesome and has really opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
-I stay much calmer and composed under pressure.
-I have a much greater ability to put myself between a stimulus and my response to it. This allows me to live my life a pro-active way, instead of being reactive to all the stuff that happens around me.
-I’m more confident and willing to go for it in because I know whatever life throws at me I’ll be able handle it.
-I need less sleep to feel good. I now sleep about 6 hours/night, and take a 45 minute nap-itation (30 minutes of meditation followed by a 15 minute nap) in the afternoon. I feel more energised than I did sleeping 8-9 hours a night last year.
Can you imagine if there was a pill that offered all this? How much would you be willing to pay for it?
How much better would your life be if you could feel more relaxed, be able to concentrate better, have more good ideas, and feel more confident while needing less sleep?
No pill does that yet. But doing meditation every day does.
It’s free, it’s simple, you can do it anywhere, and there’s no reason not to try it.
How to get started on your Meditation Practice
First off, the posture: the most important thing is to be comfortable. I meditate right after I wake up, so I just sit up, put my pillow against the wall, and sit in a butterfly position. Find a spot where you have space, where it feels right. When you sit, try to sit “with dignity”. Not too upright and rigid, or too slouched over. Just right.
Ok as far as the actual meditation process goes, there are 2 path you can embark on: the Traditional path, or the Technological path (which I recommend).
The Traditional Path:
1) Start with 5 minutes/day, ideally first thing in the morning (it’s easier on an empty stomach).
2) Once you’re sited comfortably, close your eyes and focus on your breathing: taking small, soft, calm breathes.
4) With each exhale, relax your body & your mind a little bit more.
3) When thoughts arise, don’t worry about them. Let them pass through.
5) Whenever your mind goes astray, simply come back to your breathing.
This path is very much the path of the training the mind through diligent, constant practice. It is certainly effective and has been used for centuries, but it’s a relatively slow process. Sure, after each meditation you will feel peaceful & relaxed, but it will take at least a few months but start feeling deep changes within yourself.
The most important thing if you choose the Traditional Path is to make meditation a part of your daily routine. The key is consistence. If you do it long enough, meditation will become just another thing you do, like sleeping, eating, and brushing your teeth. When I wake up, I do 15 minutes of “traditional” meditation and I
The Technological Path
Along the way, I discovered a technology that totally supercharged my meditation practice. It’s called the Brain Evolution System. It’s a soundtrack containing sound frequencies that directly alter the brain wave our brain produces.
Over a 30 minute period, the soundtrack takes us to aDelta state, which had previously been reserved to Buddhist Monks. Now, even the most novice meditator can just sit there, and achieve that state, enjoy all of its benefits, without having to focus.
Listening to the soundtrack is all that’s necessary. This is fucking revolutionary, and believe me it works.
The Dalai Lama, who meditates about 4 hours a day, once said that if there was a technology that provided the same benefits as meditation without the time investment, he would be willing to try it. I really wonder if he’s heard about it? Maybe I should send him a Tweet just in case…
Here’s the bottom line: Brain Evolution System is in my opinion one of the best technologies available to us in 2011, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough. You can purchase it, or order a free trial right here.
There’s no “meditation pill” yet, but Brain Evolution is as close as it gets. I’ve just been doing it for 30 minutes/day for the last 12 weeks and it rocks.
It’s been wonderful, the meditation sessions are enjoyable and truly restorative, and the changes I’ve noticed within myself have been nothing short of spectacular.
Why YOU should start meditating
“The ultimate reason for meditating is to transform ourselves in order to be better able to transform the world. To put it another way, we transform ourselves so that we can become better human beings and serve others in a wiser and more effective way. Meditation thus gives our life the noblest possible meaning.” -Mathieu Ricard
This might sound bold, but I honestly believe that it’s impossible to live life to the fullest without meditating every day. Knowing what you know now, you wouldn’t be true to the best version of yourself if you at least give meditation a shot.
When I watched that speech by Kabat-Zinn at the Google Headquarters, there’s one thing he said that really stuck with me: “If you were a concert violinist, you would never go on stage and offer your performance without first tuning your instrument. In life, your mind is your instrument. Why not tune it with meditation before going out into the world and offering your performance?”
As I wrote in my description of The Feel Good Lifestyle, “it’s based on the idea that each day should be treated like a gift, because it has the potential to be extraordinary. And by making the most of each day, we start living life to the fullest.”
So take a leap, even if you’ve always thought meditation was weird. Only fools never change their minds…
Whether you decide to supercharge your meditation with Brain Evolution, or to kick it old-school with traditional meditation, do yourself a favour and just give it a try.
If you stick with it, it will open up a whole new part of your mind, of your life, and let you tap into talents you don’t even know you have. Promise
If you have any questions, or want to share your experience with meditation, please leave a comment!
All the best in your meditation journey. It’s gonna be a fun trip.