Your mind is the most precious resource through which you experience everything. It’s how you perceive who you are, how you view others, and how you experience the world. It’s what you rely upon to feel happy, fulfilled, and emotionally stable. It’s our greatest tool toward a fulfilling life and yet, we rarely spend any time to look after it…
Meditation is one the most easily accessible, easy to learn, and powerful tools for self-development out there. It teaches you how to dis-identity with your constant stream of thoughts and emotions you feel, how to gain more focus and clarity, make you more self-aware, and create a much deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you.
It’s an incredible tool as well because anyone can do it, virtually anywhere. The disabled can do it, kids can do it, any conscious human can do it. It can be done at home, in public, while in the middle of a conversation, in a packed subway, some can even do it while sleeping (next level shit right there).
It lowers your stress and anxiety, makes you happier, increases concentration, better focus, more self-aware, sleep better, increases memory, helps overall health, slows down aging process (yes, I’m serious), helps fight sickness and disease by increasing immune support (again, seriously). It fine tunes your mind to better, sharper, stronger. The list of benefits goes on and on.
And yet, almost no one does it regularly (me included). Why?
Because it’s hard, like reallyyyy fucking hard. Right now, take 30 seconds, close your eyes and try to think about nothing. No seriously, try it, I’ll wait…
How’d it go. I can almost guarantee you failed. Why? because your mind is always spewing out thoughts and it’s very difficult not to get to lost and distracted by them.
Odds are you may have been good for the rest few seconds, but then you starting thinking about a lot of random shit. “I hope my fantasy team does well this week. Maybe I should call the guys and meet up for drinks tomorrow. I haven’t seen Dave in a bit, maybe I should include him. O, but I need to follow up with Brianna about our date last week, I haven’t heard from her in a couple days, maybe I should have picked a better restaurant, shit I hope I didn’t blow it, I’ll text her tonight, o shit I just remembered I have that presentation for work tomorrow, shit I’m nervous, why am I the one doing it anyway? isn’t Bob in charge of that, fucking Bob…” on and on the mind goes.
This is your mind 24/7. And this is why so many people will try meditation a few times, get caught up their thoughts, get frustrated, and say fuck this, I can’t do this.
I listed out a lot of reasons above, but I want to focus on 3 in particular
- Increases your self-awareness.
I think this is so wildly under-rated. Most people’s self-awareness (me included) is absolute shit.
Most of us have absolutely no idea what we’re are doing (again, me included), why we’re doing it, what emotions are happening, what we are choosing to focus on, what thoughts we are subconsciously and consciously associating with.
We’re often terrible judges of what actually makes us happy, and healthy, what is good for us, bad for us, and what it is truly making us miserable (you may think you know, but you’d be surprised how often you’re wrong). You often live in a state of unconscious incompetence, meaning you aren’t even aware that you don’t know these things.
And that’s a little fucking scary when you think about. That you are just operating on whatever gets thrown your way, whatever you were raised to believe, whatever is trending, or you think is right, without having really any actual ability to understand if it’s what you want, if it’s what makes you happy, if it’s who you are!
Imagine being able to truly and confidently know your strengths and weaknesses, to not just know what thoughts are happening in your head that you are associating yourself with, but also have the power and ability to choose what you want to focus on and associate with.
Imagine being able to recognize all that is bullshit in your life, that’s unnecessary, that’s causing you pain, stress, anxiety, depression, discomfort, and consciously replace it with all that makes you happy, emotionally fulfilled, and creates a healthy and exciting life for you. Imagine being able to know and understand who you really are, what you’re really doing, and what truly fucking matters in your life.
Holy fuck is anyone else getting goosebumps about just the very idea of that?! I mean seriously contemplate what it would be like to be on that level.
While there’s no one answer or overnight fix to make this happen, one of the biggest keys to unlock this life is, you guessed it, meditation.
2. It can significantly reduce your anxiety.
In my anxiety guide, I talk about various methods, techniques, and things I’ve learned and practiced to reduce anxiety. And meditation sits high up on that list for me and many others.
A large part of anxiety comes from that endless stream of thinking. You get caught up and associate with those thoughts and it can freak you the fuck out. Through meditation and learning to dissociate yourself from those thoughts, it can greatly decrease your anxiety. Again, (tying into self-awareness here) you often don’t even realize you are associating ourselves with those negative anxious thoughts, it often happens in your subconscious.
This is why you can be sitting on the couch at home, totally fine and relaxed, and boom! your anxiety seems to come out of no where, shoot through the roof, and now you’re freaking the fuck out because you don’t understand what the fuck just happened (quick, where’s the whiskey?!)
Through meditation and self awareness, you learn how to see your thoughts (conscious and subconscious) more clearly and how to NOT associate yourself with the thoughts that cause you that stress, pain, and anxiety.
3. It’s refreshing.
It’s debated exactly how much, but it’s said that 20 minutes of meditation is the equivalent of an hour or two of sleep. It slows us down, your brain has far less to process and interpret when meditating, and puts you in a less anxious, stress free state, that afterwards, leaves you feeling relaxed, refreshed, and ready to go.
Alright, Chris I’m ready to do this shit, soooooo how do I start?
Getting set up:
There’s an almost infinite number of ways to meditate. It’s helpful in the beginning to start with the basics, beginner level and you can work your way from there.
First, getting set up. Some sit on the floor, some sit in a chair, but I wouldn’t recommend lying down as you can fall asleep easier. Once seated, make sure your back is straight, chin up a bit, and most important, you are comfortable. If you’re sitting on the floor, it helps to sit on a pillow or something soft.
Now set an alarm on your phone for 10 minutes (10 minutes I find to be a good starting point). Put your phone on do-not-disturb (nothing will fuck up your meditation quicker then getting a text and wondering who and what it is) and start the clock and don’t look at your phone again. This is the best way to do this because you’ll find it’s very hard to tell how long you’ve been meditating and this eliminates the need to check for when times up.
Once you’re set up, start by focusing on your breathing and in the beginning, keep your eyes open.
As mentioned, meditation is about focus, so the best thing (in my opinion) to focus on is your breathing.
First, breath in through your nose to the count of 3, hold the breath for a second, then breath out through your mouth to the count of 4. Do this for a minute or two. This does two things, it starts getting you focused and by exhaling longer then you inhale, you actually slow your heart rate down. Do this for about a minute or two and try to notice how your heart and body slows down a bit.
There’s a variety of breathing exercises you can do from here. Now close your eyes and mess around with a few of these:
- Count to 10: After every exhale, start counting each exhale one by one, 1, 2, 3…once you get to 10 start over. If you get distracted (and trust me, you will) and forget what number you’re on, don’t get frustrated or worry about it (again, this will happen, I promise you), just start over back at 1.
- Cold and hot breathes: As you inhale imagine the air you are breathing in is cool, calm and refreshing. Hold that breath for a second. Then exhale hot, tense, stressful air out of your body.
- Body breathing: this one takes a bit more practice, focus, and effort, but is very powerful. As you breath scan through each part of your body, focusing on one section at a time. Start with your toes, focus on nothing, but the feeling in your toes. As you breath, imagine you are pumping the air you are breathing into your toes. Now slowly scan up, focus on our ankles, your legs, belly, chest, heart, shoulders, arms, fingers, all the way up to the top of your head, each time breathing and focusing the breath on that one area.
- Positive affirmation breathing: A positive affirmation is telling yourself something positive about yourself. Each time you inhale, tell yourself a positive affirmation (it can be out loud or just in your head), then exhale.
There are tons more, but experiment and mess around with these. There’s no right or wrong here, some people just like and prefer different techniques, so see which works the best for you.
***Always remember, you will get distracted, you will have random thoughts creep up. Some days it will be easier then others. Other’s day you’ll feel very distracted when you try to meditate and you’ll think about things like work, or what’s for dinner, or pizza, damn, I’m kind of in the mood for pizza, ahh, but I went to the gym so I don’t want to fuck that up, maybe I should get a salad, I fucking hate salad, I mean who cares I’m going to eat whatever, like how bad is pizza really, I mean…O shit, fuck, hey sorry, got distracted here.
But that’s the point! I guarantee it will happen. So don’t get mad, or frustrated. Here’s the only thing you have to do. The moment you realize your mind has wondered off, you gently bring it back…that’s it. No worries.
Much of the same principles of going to the gym, apply to meditation.
Meditation is the gym for your mind, and just like the real gym, if don’t do if routinely, you’ll see almost little progress or effects.
Like going to the gym, it’s tough at first. It feels awkward, you’re not good at it, and at the end of the day you may just want to say “fuck this” and quit. But just like the gym, it gets easier with time.
The more you practice, the easier it becomes and the better the results. And like the gym, it does not work over night.
It’s no secret, that if you go to the gym tomorrow and expect to have a shredded six pack you will be unpleasantly surprised in the morning when you still see your beer belly staring back at you. Additionally, if you go to the gym every day for a week, but then stop for 3 weeks, you’re not going to see much benefit.
Meditation works the same. It requires a little effort every day. The tough thing about meditation is it’s tough to measure the results. There’s no before and after picture, no scale to map your progress. No selfie’s in the mirror to show off the hard work (sucks right?) But, day by day, you will notice your mind feels sharper, your thinking should feel clearer, and your focus will be where you want it to be, not on your anxiety or other shit that doesn’t matter.
And like the gym, when you start meditating, start small. Just like you wouldn’t walk in to your first time at the gym and try to bench 300lbs, you’re not going to try to meditate for an hour straight and achieve enlightenment. Start small. 10 minutes or shit even just 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes. Then gradually progress, maybe 10 minutes one day for a few weeks, then 15 minutes etc.
Misconceptions to realize and remember about meditation:
As mentioned, one of the biggest reasons people will try meditation and not stick with it is because they get frustrated, think they suck at it, and sometimes are a little scared at the thoughts that pop up in their head when they stop and pay attention to them. They sit there in silence and try to stop the thoughts, trying to create this blank slate in their mind, and almost always fail.
Misconception #1: Meditation is NOT about trying to stop your thoughts. It’s actually a bit of the opposite, meditation is about allowing those thoughts to naturally happen, but learn how to filter and dissociate from them. Instead of the endless stream of thoughts being in the forefront of your mind, you learn to let them happen in the background, while you focus on what you want to focus on.
Imagine you’re walking down the streets of NYC and every single solitary thing around you represents a thought. All the buildings, the people, the smells (usually piss), sounds (usually honking and yelling), colors, cars, clouds, windows, stores etc. Now imagine as you walked down the street, you tried to stop all those things from existing in your mind and happening around you…I know completely impossible.
This is essentially what you are doing when you try to stop thoughts. You’re taking all the thoughts that surround your mind 24/7 and trying to somehow stop them from happening. Which, as you’ll find, is not only near impossible, but makes you more stressed and anxious then you were before because you’ll find it very overwhelming.
Meditation is about focus, focusing on a single thing while still allowing everything else to exist in your mind. Like walking down the street of NYC, you can learn to focus on one thing, everything else around you will still exist, but it will just be a background.
Misconception #2: Mediation doesn’t just need to be sitting in a quiet room with your legs folded.
Again, meditation is all about focus. Therefore, all you need to do to practice meditating is find a single thing to focus on.
You can be on a crowded subway and focus on your breathing, each inhale and exhale, or you could decide to listen to the sounds all around you. You can be walking to work and listening to music and focus on just the bass line of the song you’re listening to. You can be talking to a co-worker and focus on what they are saying and nothing else (yes, listening can be a form of meditation). That focus, that ability to focus on a single thing in that moment, while other thoughts, and everything else still happens and exists around you, is a form of meditation. Everything around you still exists, thoughts are still running through your head, but you are choosing to focus on that one single thing instead.
Now the best place to start for beginners is sitting quietly in a room as it’s easier to start practicing mediation where there are little to no distractions. But as you get better and as you’re out in the world, try finding different ways to create a single focus point, like sounds, music, breathing, and as you focus on it, notice how other thoughts and things start to fade more to the background of your mind.
Get creative with your meditation, it can actually be a bit fun. Colm Meaney’s character in Layer Cake would meditate by dis-mantling a gun piece by piece, and re-assembling it over and over (disregard the fact that his character was a crazed mobster). He would focus on that one thing and nothing else.
Even as Daniel Craig drinks in front of Colm, he remains focused AF on dis-manting and reassembling that gun
Misconception #3: Meditation isn’t just for weird hippy gurus on a path to enlightenment.
I was sitting on the subway a couple weeks ago and the woman next to me was reading this book on meditation and self awareness. I turned and asked her about it (yeah I’m one of those types) and got into talking about meditation, self awareness and all that jazz.
She laughed as we talked about meditation and said she’s not really “that type of person” and after talking said she was surprised I was so into it because I also “didn’t seem like that type of person.” When I asked what she meant she went on to say something like most folks into meditation are kind of weird, woo-woo, spiritual hippy types and that I seemed “normal.”
It’s true. This is the type of people we usually picture we think about meditating.
Sick dreads, bro
Sure, I’d say the majority of folks I’ve met who are big time meditators are a bit on that side, but I’ve also met a lot of folks that almost the polar opposite that do it and claim it’s their greatest and favorite self-development tool.
Billions’ Bobby Axelrod meditates daily and he’s a pretty bad ass motherfucker.