The beginners guide to meditation

Categories Meditation, Mind

Meditation doesn’t have to be mystical or abstract. Meditation is simply a  study of your ‘self’. What you learn answers questions which your daily comforts  won’t.

Meditation powers you from the inside. You transform at the root.

Meditation is just a category, for a range of practice to bring attention to yourself (if ‘yourself’ is too abstract for you then you could see it as bringing attention to your mind, which is you). Just like exercise is a category for a range of practices to bring the attention to your body. Exercises are external, meditations are internal.

Meditation helps with anxiety, stress management, performance enhancement, but all these things happen because taking the step to meditating offers you a window into yourself. This is where you see the code that has been laid out over millions of years and content which have been propagated over decades. Meditation is about listening to the answers and not just sleepwalking through existence.

And like exercise, you can start meditating today.

This post is an outline of what I’m learning about meditation.

Meditation != thought

We completely underestimated how powerful thoughts are and how much it influences us. If you sit down and tap your finger every time you have a thought, in about half an hour, you’ll probably hit > 200.  Considering that everything you do on a daily basis is driven by thought, it worth learning about how it works and where it comes from.

Meditation in its essence is the absence of thought.

But with meditation the focus isn’t on thought, it’s the mechanism which creates thought. The more you meditate the more you get in tune with the code, you start to notice the algorithms which make you and the content which it drives. Meditation is just a process of observing this code – because in the act of observing the code, the code begins to unravel.

It comes naturally to ‘think’ that you are watching, which is why you can go for years ‘thinking’ your way through meditation. If you are wrestling with that thought then you are thinking. When you watch yourself wrestle with that thought then you are watching.

When you watch you are not thinking, when you think you’re not watching.

When you watch, you step off the stage and you sit in the audience, the drama keeps happening, the shit is still going down, but you are watching. The moment you think ‘ I’m watching all this drama’ then you as an ‘audience member’ simply ends up back on stage. You just need to step back and watch yourself again. This needs to become a daily practice. But this doesn’t need to be a ‘session’, you can do this while you are walking, while you are working, while you are talking or any other verbs you can think of.

The mindfulness ethos is this – to be in the present, to be in the now. But what does this actually mean, to be in the present?

What is doing?

I’m listening to (…) , I’m watching a (…), I’m feeling a (…), I’m smelling (…). Dancing by remembering steps, trying not to look like an idiot. Dreaming

What is being?

listen ,watch, feel, smell. There is no processing, you senses are on, you are not. When your head is nodding to the beat and you don’t even realise it. Deep sleep

Story of Little Sammy

I feel like I need to drop a zen story

Little Sammy had enough of his constant rattling thoughts. He wakes up in the morning and his thinking starts  “you are too little Sammy” – “Sammy you ain’t ever gonna get a girl cos you are too wee dude!” – “Sammy you gotta google how to put on 10 inches” – “hey Sammy, remember your bestie Big Tommy, he got laid last night, you know why? Cos that dude is tall AF”

So Little Sammy was done with his problems and figured, “you know what, there ain’t no way that I’m getting any taller, so I’m just gonna attain enlightenment, then I’ll be happy forever. If I can’t remove my pain, then I’m gonna go beyond it.”

So Little Sammy always bumped into this guy two floors down, he was zen. One time there was a massive fire in a block right next to us, the smoke came in our building and we all had to crawl on our all-fours to get out, and I remember this dude, everyone was crying, screaming, holding onto their ugg boots and flat screen TV’s, trying to keep all of those things alive. Then I saw this guy, he was wearing a vest and he was smoking a cigar, crawling on all fours. Little Timmy asked him “ buddy, you smoking a cigar in this smoke” and he replied, “I don’t see smoke pal”.

So Sammy got out of bed, put on his bathrobe and walks two floors down and knocked on this man’s door. When he opened the door Sammy says “You are enlightened aren’t ya?” and the man nodded an affirmative and takes a puff of his cigar. “I want to be enlightened like you, tell me how I can be enlightened, cross into the next plane of existence” and the old man replied, “wee man, that’s simple – empty your mind” – so little Sammy goes “that’s it? Ookay, see you tomorrow old man”

So the next day the Sammy comes running down the stairs and knocks again on the old man’s door. He opens and Sammy tells him “my mind’s empty old man, now give me enlightenment”

And the old man replies “Now empty your mind of emptiness”

No one knows what happened to Sammy but the legend is that in that moment he attained enlightenment, he also attained 10 inches, found the girl, had 5 kids and paid off his mortgage by 45. #theDream

Anytime when your mind goes empty, blank, you are meditating in some form. When you think about your mind being empty, you are thinking. Meditation is learning to tap into the void wherever you like, and this void rejuvenates you.

How to Meditate? Quick and Dirty

If you are completely new to meditation and want to go solo – there is a quick and simple guide. But the truth is that you probably already do things which put you in a meditative state. These are practices to just get a taste of meditation, and for you to understand that you don’t need incense sticks, audio tapes, or barrel loads of patience (although some of this magic juice will help)

@home

You don’t even need to set a timer.

To start off, find a place where you feel safe, comfortable. You can be sitting on your leather sofa, on your dinner table chair, or on your soft buckwheat meditation cushion – just make sure your back is straight.

Close your eyes, and for a couple of times, breathe in deeply and breathe out deeply, listen to your breath, feel your breath in your body and leave your awareness there. When a thought comes, just bring your awareness back to your breath.

Congrats, you’ve meditated.

@office

Lock your computer, focus on a point, eyes open and listen. To the people talking, to the keyboards clicking, phones ringing, to papers shuffling, footsteps, your own breath. When your thoughts wander, bring it back to the sounds, to the smells, to what you see, what you feel, to your breath.

Congrats bud, you’ve meditated.

@outside

When you are walking, breath naturally, just watch your breath. Doing this while walking can be challenging, but it comes with practice. Just watch your breath.

Congrats bud, you’ve meditated.

@club

Wait for that tune – get on the dance floor, let that tune just take hold of you and carry your body. Listen to the music – let your body respond to the music. You are listening to the music and letting your body follow it.

Congrats, you’ve meditated and you’ve just become that guy on the dance floor.

Meditations without meditating

There are many moments in life when you meditate, without meditating.  Without having a timer or completing a ‘session’, you simply meditate without being aware that you are meditating.  These are times when your focus shifts away from your thoughts, to the environment around you. You get hyper-aware of sounds, colours, smells, you live in it, you thrive in it.

It’s like when you take your dog out for a walk – you are not gonna put on your trackies and post our your route on Strava – you are just taking the dog out, but you are exercising – without exercising.

Nature

Take yourself away to nature, and walk for an afternoon. Your mind will be rushing through all the thoughts, but being amongst nature, your thoughts gradually quieten down. The nature of your thoughts change. You start to become aware of the leaves against the wind, the sound of the water in the stream, the gravel under your shoes.  You gradually start to come to the present moment, you are walking amongst trees. You get back home, you feel refreshed.

Exercise

Call it a runner’s high, call it whatever you want. But if you exercise consistently, then you know that you reach a state of being where your body keeps going without your effort, but you become hyper-focused on the present, you feel the wind, you hear the sound. The struggle suddenly disappears, you kind of detach from your body and connect to the world outside.

Beauty

When you see something beautiful, which doesn’t have a meaning. Sunrise, sunsets normally do the trick – maybe the moon, maybe a reflection on a river or the trees above you swaying in the wind. You kind of melt into it – you are gone.

Method 1. Breath Awareness

Breathing is the foundation of meditation. And awareness of your breath is the rest. This has been around for a very long time – currently used by navy seals, public speakers, pro athletes, mix martial artists, actors, rappers, and probably the Joe serving you coffee who suffers social anxiety.

There are many different ways to use your breath, but in it’s most basic form, you are being aware of your breath. You are watching yourself breath. Paying attention to the sensations will make this process easier.Pay attention to the physical sensation of the air flowing in and out of your nostrils, or pay attention to the feeling of your stomach expanding and contracting as the breath goes in and out.

It’s super easy to know if you are meditating or not – if you are watching you are meditating, if you are thinking you are not meditating.  When you watch yourself thinking, thoughts stop of it’s own accord.

Watching your thought

Once you get the hang of breath awareness, you’ll become in tune with your thoughts. You will start to see the role you and your thoughts play in how you experience your daily life, your existence.

Thought + You = Emotion

Thoughts can be super subliminal – and as you practise awareness all that’s really happening is that you are shining a light into the depth of you, and revealing these thoughts which are influencing you on a daily basis. As you see these thoughts rising, you also start to see how you respond to these thoughts and you slowly start to create a form of detachment from these thoughts. Because the moment you see the thoughts, the nature in which you normally respond to these thoughts change.

Thoughts need you to become something more than just a thought.

When you observe thought, you are no longer playing you are just sitting in the stand, watching. When you stop playing, the game stops and the real play starts.

Method .2 Self-Enquiry / thinking

This method is simple, you think your way to no-thought. it’s thinking to stop thinking. Thinking to go beyond thought. You use your intellect to reveal your self.

“Who am I?”

The idea of self-enquiry is that you use the mind’s intellect to silence itself.  The fundamental technique is to ask yourself the question “who am I?” – to quote Ramana Maharshi

The mind will subside only by means of the enquiry ‘Who am I?’. The thought ‘Who am I?’, destroying all other thoughts, will itself finally be destroyed like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre.

By asking yourself the question ‘who am I?’ and in observing that person who asks the question, your mind switches from doing to watching. In that space, you are meditating.  The moment you start to observe yourself, you no longer the one asking ‘who am I?’, you are the one who is watching the person thinking ‘who am I?’. The question which you use to reveal yourself gets destroyed in the process.

You don’t have to be asking yourself ‘who am I?’ there are other ways to do something similar. When that guy cuts you off in traffic and you get a little pissed – then ask yourself ‘who is it that’s getting pissed?’. When you get a notification on Facebook and you get curious, you ask yourself ‘who is it that gets excited’. When you open this up, when you keep at it, you start to create a space between you and the you who watches. This is meditation.

I think this is one of the most powerful methods of meditation, but it takes discipline to not get lost in the intellectualisation. This works if you are creative because it opens up a lot of ideas and realisations, a lot of it can be super abstract, but it starts a sort of effervescence in you. If you stick to any form of meditation something similar will happen. But for some people, self-enquiry feels more natural than the others.

Challenges of Meditation

Paradoxes of Big D

Big D is 6’1 and everyone knows him as Big D cos he likes Big Fat Greasy Donuts. Every time you see him, you see him with a bit fat greasy doughnut in his hand.  So big D hears that his bestie has now taken up meditation to get an edge in his COD game, so Big D being Big D who always has to do better than his friend decided to learn meditation as well. Google told him “just watch yourself, observe yourself” – Big D then gets confused “If I’m big D, how can I watch Big D? I need to be somebody else to be able to watch Big D – bud, what comes first, the chicken or the egg?” Fast forward 2 minutes, Big D’s on the floor weeping, gorging on a doughnut, wanting the pain to go away.

When does meditation happen? When does Big D get mindful? That moment when Big D watches himself trying to watch himself. Then all of a sudden a moment comes when Big D steps out and sees Big D fighting with himself. Then watching happens – then meditating happens, then mindfulness happens.

There are loads of ‘gurus’ out there who harp on about consciousness, enlightenment, zen etc – don’t follow anyone, follow yourself. Treat everything with a pinch of salt. Don’t let anyone tell you that they can unlock meditation for you – it’s already unlocked and it’s available to you. You just need to be willing to sit down and explore it.

Boredom

This is what keeps 80% of people away from wanting to practise any form of meditation. Take away the audio tapes and apps, and I’m sure this number would dwindle to 95%. I think the truth lies in our boredom because boredom is an indication that your mind needs nourishment.

I get bored after 3 minutes, I can’t bear the thought of sitting for another 2 minutes.

When I was a kid I had to sit for hour-long meditations with my dad. It was torture, especially since it was on Sunday, right when He-Man was on. I sat with my eyes closed, haunted my apparitions of he-man. 

We know this so I’m not gonna harp on about it. As we get more connected we are more disconnected. We are bombarded, our minds are hijacked by notifications and manipulations. A lot of us are becoming slaves to technology instead of the other way round. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, notifications. Amazon prime deliveries, new episodes of Fargo, Punisher. Reminders to keep moving, to go running, to connect to disconnect.

You are not weak because you feel boredom because you struggle. This has been cultivated, your brains have become dependent. Everything which needs you for it’s survival will make you depend on them. 

5 minutes away from all of this takes practice, it takes patience, it takes courage.

Boredom isn’t just a lack of stimuli, boredom is the feeling of lack caused by stimuli. The lack of stimuli doesn’t create boredom, you create boredom because you have a lack of stimuli. When you meditate, it’ll be tough, but it’s boredom that teaches you about boredom.

The boredom is what makes a lot of us anxious, but we get bored because we are anxious.

If you are willing to sit and go at it for one round, you can learn a lot more about yourself than the thing you are fighting against. Meditation is a powerful form of self-study. You just need to be willing to learn.

Consistency

We are built to be lazy and the problem with laziness is that it allows you to build your own conclusions so you can do the least. Consistency is like power levelling. The more consistent you are, the more you grow. Like with exercise, you need to build a streak and you need to keep at it – it doesn’t really matter how long you do it for, as long as you do it consistently. You can always build up as soon as you have the habit sketched down.

Consistency is the foundation upon which you can build growth.

With meditation you learn after the first hour, then the next 10, then 50, then 300, then 1000. You are travelling deeper and deeper into yourself, it takes time, it takes effort, it takes patience.

How do I consistently meditate? I find that meditating in the morning and before sleep is the best – if I put any time down during the day then it becomes challenging because things come in the way. If you know the first you do is to meditate and the last thing you do is meditate, then it’s difficult to skip it. This is what’s worked for me, it might for you, it might not.

Benefits of Meditating

There are lots of people who can explain the benefits a lot better than me. There is more than enough studies, ted talks, posts about how amazing meditation is.  I’ve posted some of these links below. Some thoughts.

Anxiety & stress management

Running companies, making films, living. All these things have caused stress and anxiety for me.

But the mistake I made early on was that I thought I was stressed because I was running a company and managing nearly 40 people. I was trying to get my film made over a weekend when I really need about 2 weeks. I thought I was anxious because I was driven, I was committed to a cause which didn’t have simple answers. But actually, take all these things away, and I still would have been just as anxious. I would have just picked something else to focus that energy on. Meditation makes you aware of yourself and that awareness helps you deal with stress better because you relate to yourself differently.

The most important way in which meditation helps anxiety is that you become aware of the thoughts.

Anxiety in its simplest form is a reaction. Calmness is a lack of reaction.

When you practise meditation, you become aware of the thoughts and especially the cycles which create anxiety. As you keep practising awareness, you keep breaking the cycle. This slowly starts to become a habit and the way you respond to situation change, the way you respond to your thoughts change.

Creativity!

Creativity isn’t something you can quantify easily, which is why it’s difficult for me to tell you exactly how it’s helped me.  In simple terms, insights seem clearer and dots seem to connect more efficiently. I’ve become more ‘porous’.

Difficult to explain, but if you are creative (which everyone is) then you will find that it helps you.

Performance Enhancement

Boxing is 10% physical, 90% mental according to Mike Tyson

Breath awareness and visualisation is the basis of a lot of sports psychology. I don’t know enough about this comment in depth. I don’t wanna be that guy 🙂

Get better sleep!

If you are like anyone who struggled with sleep, then you know that the best kind of sleep is the one you get without wanting it. The best kind of sleep is the one you fall into without asking for it. In other words, the problem with sleep is that the moment you want it, you don’t get it. This is exactly how meditation works as well, the moment you sit to get into a meditative state, it doesn’t happen.  There is a parallel between sleep and meditation. When you learn to meditate ‘effortlessly’ then sleep seems to come effortlessly as well.

If you meditate before you sleep, then you’ll notice that you get to sleep faster and get better overall sleep.

Arnie does it!

Yes.. he does. BANG!

Also

There are loads of material talking about the benefits of meditation. Some of them are:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snkr-1C2e7U

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVwLjC5etEQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLQJJDrbj6Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xco3UjLLvGo

Okay so how do you start meditating?

The Schedule

For a month I would aim to do 2 hours a day. This doesn’t just seem super long, it is long.

Let’s put it in perspective. The theory is that after 50 hours of meditation you’ll start to notice improvements. So if you do 10 minutes a day then it’ll take you 5 months. If you do 2 hours a day it’ll take you less than a month.

Do an hour after you wake up and an hour before you go to bed.

After the first month, you can then go down to 30 minutes in the morning and evening.

You are capable of a lot more than you think. Meditating for an hour is not more difficult that meditating for 10 minutes.

The anxiety of meditation is the same, you just need to endure it for longer. And it’s never as bad as you think, once you set the timer and start, there will be moments when it’s challenging, but these are the moments with the largest opportunity for you to learn about yourself. The more you want to cancel, the more you can learn by going ahead.

The Easy Way

You can use an app to guide you through it. But, I think guided meditations take you away from the experience. However, it’s better to have started than not.

I would recommend insight timer – it’s free and has thousands of guided meditations.

Let your day become your session

There is enough truth in thinking that the ability to meditation is like a muscle, like going to the gym. But you only get truly healthy if you practise outside of the gym, outside into your daily living. When you start eating healthy when you start caring about your sleep, your routines, your habits. Both help each other, improving your daily living makes going to the gym easier, and going to the gym makes it easier to improve your daily living.

The practice of meditation is no different, it’s not to be locked away in your daily ‘sessions’, we need to bring it into our daily lives. When that guy cuts you off in traffic, watch. When you lose, watch. When you win, watch. When you are sad, watch. When you are happy, watch. Don’t limit your meditation session to a timer, let you day become your session to meditation.

Finally..

If you stick at it, it can open doors within yourself which you didn’t even know you had – it can bring about deeply profound insights, as well as give you the ability to deal with situations which life throws at you. Meditation seem to tap at something which goes beyond. It seems to tap at something within you which seems to be more intelligent than you. At first you become aware of your thoughts, you become aware of the person who experiences thoughts, you become aware of the place where thoughts come from, you become aware of the place where you come from, all within you

 

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