I used to think that meditation was nothing other than a waste of time. The truth is, I'd never even given the topic much thought. What would be the point of feeling calm and "centered"? The idea of sitting still for 20 minutes with my eyes closed...well it just wasn't something I would ever want to do.
Then I started listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast. Almost without exception, Tim's guests (all of whom are extraordinary, super-successful and accomplished leaders in their respective fields) talk to some extent about meditation and how it is important to them. So I started thinking...if it is good enough for the likes of Seth Godin, Kevin Rose, Jason Silva, Mike Shinoda, Richard Branson, Maria Popova, and Tim Ferriss, himself...well maybe it is something I might consider. When I then started hearing Russell Brand talk about how it changed his life, that was my tipping-point. Perhaps there is some correlation between meditation and the success, wisdom, and overall effectiveness that these remarkable people demonstrate? Could be. So, a few months ago, I decided to give it a try.
Starting with a blank slate, I first looked up something I had heard of called transcendental medidation (TM). It turns out, this type of meditation is most commonly practiced by celebrities and it is probably the most well-known form of meditation. The bad news is that I found that it was nearly impossible to begin practicing TM without first going through a course. How long is the course? How much does it cost? None of this information was readily available. So I did as the site requires and submitted an inquiry. A day or two passed, no response.
Probably because of my location in Europe, it took the TM people 3 weeks until they finally did respond...and then I was told that I would have to travel 12 hours to the nearest person who could teach me. The process of learning TM would take about 4 days. Oh, and the price is based on my place of residence (so I still didn't have an answer and was left with a strange feeling that they were trying to extract additional funds from me due to my...American-ness). Here I was, 3 weeks later...on my quest to find inner-peace...and if I was relying on the TM people, I would have found nothing but inner-frustration! To be fair, I'm sure TM is a amazing...maybe I'll even give it a try someday...but I wasn't going to wait because I wanted to try something!
The good new is that I found another (much more simple, practical, and free) way to meditate. Over the years, I had vaguely heard about the concept of "guided meditation". Whereas TM is practiced alone, in silence (as you repeat your own, secret mantra), guided meditation is a lot easier and more approachable to those of us who are not yet aware of our oneness with the universe. You are simply guided along by an instructor, who tells you exactly what to do. So I searched iTunes for some guided meditation podcasts. The first and most popular program I found is called Meditation Oasis. After continuing to search some other sources, I ultimately decided that I trusted Meditation Oasis enough to give it a try.
Maybe this guided meditation isn't going to bring me quite to the level of Gandhi or Russell Brand -- but holy shit, look at me, I'm meditating!!!
The podcast is hosted by Mary Maddux. She offers 50 different meditations, for free, on different topics that you can choose based on whatever it is you're going through. I've probably given most play to the Accessing Intuition session, where she takes you on a mental journey beneath the waves of a pond into it's quiet depths. She then prompts you to essentially "throw a problem" into your calm, deep consciousness...and the solution will come to you in the form of a thought, a vision, a sound, or a sensation. It seems to work pretty well, because my consciousness has offered guidance on some of the most complicated issues I've been dealing with (and also some not-so-complex stuff). To offer an example regarding the not-so-complex stuff, I received an answer from my intuition without even having to consciously throw anything into the depth of my mental pond. Prior to meditating that day, I had spent 20 minutes looking for some important files on my computer, on CD backups, everywhere I could think of without success. I had given up and decided, instead, to meditate. 10 minutes later, in a state of stillness, the answer came to me without any effort at all.
I'd also recommend her Morning Energy guided meditation. Put it this way: you will end up feeling a pulsing sensation of energy in your pelvic region. Not bad, right?! What I realized is that my mind has the power to provide energy (so it seems that energy doesn't only come from coffee, though I still love my coffee). Other meditations of hers that I'd recommend include the Relax Into Sleep meditation if you ever have any problems sleeping. Other shows help you cope with stress, anger, and a variety of feelings you could be dealing with at any given time. I prefer the episodes that include music because, after several days doing this, the music itself becomes an automatic trigger to go into a meditative state.
So, if you've never tried it before, what do I mean "meditative state"? From my experience, it is a state between being awake and asleep. You learn, through Mary's guidance, to accept everything you feel....to even allow your mind to wander a bit as long as you bring it back. Everything is alright...no pressure...no expectations...no doing things right or wrong. If you fall asleep, that's ok too because that's what your body needed. It is a great thing to experience...simply accepting that everything is ok.
So I've been meditating 2x per day; once in the morning after taking my daughter to preschool and before I start working...and then once again in the mid to late afternoon. With respect to meditation in general, I've heard that the best practice is to allow 20 minutes per meditation. However, with this program, I end up coming out after 15 minutes feeling as though I've had the right amount. When I "awaken" from meditation I stretch, yawn, and feel completely calm, relaxed, and accepting of everything. But, you might ask, great, so you feel better...but how has Meditation Oasis affected my life in a tangible way? Here are four general areas where I feel my life has changed through meditation:
1) Mary says, in many of the podcasts, that you can actually get more done in a very relaxed state. I have certainly found this to be true. I work in a much calmer, more relaxed way. After meditating, I actually make fewer mistakes. I don't spend as much time doing things I shouldn't be doing. When my mind is less stressed-out and panicked, I can get more done and do things more effectively. In other words, I do the right things and get better results with less effort.
2) I have much more energy throughout the day. I don't burn myself out after 4 hours of intense work, like I used to. If I start feeling tired after lunch, or stressed, or lousy, then I'll just do another meditation and I'll be good to go for another few hours. It's like recharging the battery on your iPhone. So, in this respect, the 30 minutes per day spent meditating actually lead to a lot more being done through the course of the day. Before meditating, I wasn't so much limited by lack of time, but by lack of energy. This has changed pretty dramatically.
3) I'm healthier. So far I haven't been ill. Also, because I go for massages because I have real problems with my back (mostly stress in the shoulders and neck), I noticed another big change. During my last two massages, my therapist noticed that I was a different person. No tension at all in the areas where I used to have tension. This is related to allowing my shoulders and arms to fully relax 2x per day.
4) I'm more on top of my emotions. I'm aware of my emotions and, as you learn through meditation, the process of being aware is the same process that helps you overcome stuff. You don't have to force yourself to feel, or to do anything at all. It is enough to "breath-in" to your anger or anxiety, and in time it will go away. You can go on with your day in a relaxed way.
January is typically a very stressful time for me. I'm hustling for new customers, booking summer concerts for Abscondo, now I'm raising funds for my startup and putting a dev team together. I'm actually working about 2x or 3x harder than I was before I started meditating. However, largely thanks to meditation (and Meditation Oasis in particular), I'm in a really good place right now despite the challenges and the workload I'm facing. Life feels lighter and I feel happier.
In my experience after these two months, meditation is as important to your lifestyle as eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising. Meditation is, quite simply, just something our minds need to do...it is an ancient gift that we can embrace to go through life in a much better way. It also makes you sound really cool because you can act all deep and mystical.