Everywhere you look today, some expert is recommending meditation to people for a variety of reasons. Why? Because the world is crazy and we’re all wound up. According to the CDC, 90% of diseases today can be attributed to stress…yeah stress.
Meditation is an age-old, tried-and-true method which relieves stress…calming the body and the mind.
The questions are:
1- Why should I care?
2- Ok then so…how does it do this?
3- Why so many techniques?
4- How should I get into it?
5- How many minutes a day?
6- When will I see results?
7- Why am I having a hard time at this?
8- Hmmmm….interesting…I actually do feel better…now what?
Well, let’s start from the top…
1- Why care? Because we are all suffering from what I call “Time Compression Syndrome”- where we have too many commitments in too little time so we’re always stressed and out of time. That puts our adrenals on overdrive leading to some scary stuff…
a- weight gain (I put this first because that’s what everybody cares about in our society)
b- sympathetic overdrive- over-arousal of our sympathetic nervous system which leads to anxiety, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, poor job/sports performance, and a whole lot more- essentially, we’re at “war” all the time and not giving our systems a chance to rest and recover
c- elevated cortisol levels have shown to SHRINK OUR BRAINS- yeah- it will pull blood from the pre-frontal cortex back to the hindbrain so we can stay in “fight or flight” which is the state of being in our society
d- Your interpersonal relationships are at risk- yeah stress leads to more divorces than the courts can handle.
That’s enough there…point being- if you’re not managing your stress response, you are de-evolving into a fat primitive ape that yells at your spouse and is getting pummeled over by life- thinking another cup of coffee of a shot of Testosterone is going to fix it all…sorry but it is not.
2- Now that we’ve established that we all need to care about the negative effects of stress, let’s get into why meditation is good for you. Meditation helps calm the mind and stimulates the Parasympathetic Nervous System to come online. This directly calms the Sympathetic Nervous System (mentioned above) and helps us digest better, sleep, make love, and be less edgy. Meditation helps us step out of Time Compression Syndrome and back into the present moment where things are calm and the body can function normally. You see, the body is great at healing itself and regenerating but it needs a chance to do so.
When we live in “fight or flight” all of the time, we never get out of wartime economy and our systems pay the price. We don’t allow the detox
systems and the immune system to do their job when under stress because all of the troops are out on the front line “fighting” the lion that is chasing us…Lion? Yeah the same evolutionary circuitry that helped us run away from the Lion is what gets triggered everytime we sweat our bills and are late for something in a traffic jam. The body mounts up resources to fight this war and the internal systems that are responsible for growth and recovery are compromised.
Meditation helps pull us out of this “fight or flight” state of being and helps us relax into “non-stressed growth” which is where our bodies can recover, heal, relax, and be creative again. Coffee won’t do this.
3- Why so many techniques? Well, because there have been millions of people practicing meditation for thousands of years and, frankly, there are many ways to climb a mountain. There are hundreds of meditation techniques out there.
There’s Buddhist meditation, Taoist meditation, Zen meditation, Mindfulness meditation, there are mantras (sounds to chant), yantras (images to focus on), and a whole host of breath control techniques out there. Do they all work? Sure- but different strokes for different folks.
4- The trick is to practice a technique that you gravitate towards…don’t force it. If you are a visually-oriented person, the guided visualization and yantra meditation are probably right for you. If you’re a musician, then maybe mantra meditation.
There are meditation courses in most towns in the world at this point. There are meditation DVDs, meditation CDs, and tons of stuff on Youtube. Its out there…you just need to try it out and see what works best for you. (Here are some free resources for you)
5- How many minutes a day? Now that’s the million dollar question. My answer would be this- if you can step into the Eternal Present Moment and tap into the Source of all Creation and Wisdom, then a single second is like an eternity and you will be forever transformed. That’s the paradox. It is not time-based because what we’re working to do is step OUT OF TIME and into the present moment where time doesn’t exist.
“That doesn’t help me!”- ok touche. So how to resolve this paradox? The ancient masters have all kicked down different formulas. I know people that do their Kriya Yoga Meditation for an hour at sunrise everyday without fail. Cool. I also have patients who do 20 minutes on “lock down” during their lunch break…also cool. We set designated times in order to shock the mind into a new pattern so we can break old habits (like jumping into “fight or flight” without even noticing it) and establish new ones (like stopping our reactive nature and simply enjoying the present moment for what it is…here and now). I use a practice called a GONG for this- check out tools for this here. I like to tell beginners to dedicate 30 minutes a day so the new habits can form but the true realization is this…
True meditation is not a technique…these are tools that help us step out of a certain state of mind (pop in the clutch if you will). True meditation is AWARENESS ITSELF. It is our consciousness being fully awake, aware, and alive in the LIVING MOMENT which is HERE and NOW. True meditation is not in the DOING but in the BEING. That means, we employ all of these techniques (doing/action) in order to calm the mind’s re-activity so that we can become more aware of Reality itself which is always here and now…right under the radar of our crazy minds which are stuck in Time Compression Syndrome and “fight or flight”.
So how many minutes a day? As many as it takes to stop time and be able to sit and be without doing anything- finally able to observe reality for what it is and dropping out of the “Matrix” or “Maya”- the world of crazy illusions that is riddled with suffering and ignorance.
6- When will I see results? As soon as you understand point #5 above
As soon as you let go of taking your “meditation pill” and actually get into changing your understanding of reality, then you’re on the road to freedom and have learned to properly manage stress because you finally sit at the dial and understand what stress really is and how you are intimately involved in its presentation. Stress is based on our perception of reality. Who is doing the perceiving? Who is the observer and what is it “they” are observing? These are the real questions worth asking…not who’s going to win the Superbowl…
Think of it this way: Most people who adopt a meditation practice treat it like a desktop application. They download their new app (technique) and install it as a program on their system. Then, whenever they are overly stressed (if they even remember to do so) they “double click” the meditation icon and start to breath or chant or do whatever to pull them out of the “fight or flight” mess they’ve found themselves in. OK- pop in the clutch and change gears…cool but not the gold standard.
The real goal here is to make meditation part of your OPERATING SYSTEM. It is to constantly be running a program which does nothing but ask a simple question “What am I doing right now?”- and whatever that is, come back to the present moment and let go of whatever you are attempting to attach to. This essentially liberates us moment to moment and keeps us mindful always- establishing a state of being that is always aware and not reactive to the reality around us. From here, we begin to liberate ourselves from delusion and we quickly wake up to Who we truly are.
You want results? This is where the real results are. If you’re using meditation as another technique to meet your sales quotas so you can get that bonus and finally buy that boat you’ve always seen yourself in, well, it’ll work but you’ve allowed life’s delusions to pull you off on a stale exit when you could have kept going on the superhighway of awakening and enlightenment
7- You are having a hard time at this because you have probably moved in the opposite direction your whole life. That’s the human dilemma. Our faulty understanding of what reality is has led us away from the present moment and into worries about the future based on emotional ties with memories from the past. Our culture drives us to want to be the next Wall Street badboy, the next Poker Champion, or whatever…picture yourself by your pool with all your toys and beautiful people all around you- society has now validated your efforts. That’s all nonsense and if you look at the disparity and conflict in the world around us, you’ll quickly see that that promise doesn’t bring happiness and it breeds suffering and discontent. Is there anything wrong with money and things? No. Just don’t let your delusional fantasies convince you that any of that crap actually defines you.
Learning proper meditation is like learning to fly a plane in many ways. It takes practice and lots of attention. Every ounce of mental power you exert tends to move you in the opposite direction…that’s a habit. We need to learn meditation as a new habit and work to dispel old ones. Paradox again. I thought meditation was about “not doing?”
True. So practice that. How do I do “not doing”? Sit there and observe reality and do not react to it in any way.
What happens then? Well, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize that you probably failed within the first 10 seconds. That’s cool. We all do. The task is to understand that this is the nature of the human mind and to simply LET IT GO and return back to observing the present moment. That’s all we do. Not easy. Actually, it can get quite frustrating at first. The challenge is to not get down on yourself and understand that the Dalai Lama has the very same problem- he is simply more aware of this game and catches himself quickly as opposed to the beginner who’ll take a joy ride down a thought train for maybe 2 minutes before they come to their senses, realize what they’re doing, and come back to the task at hand which is to “be” in the present moment. Be patient- all the power in the universe awaits you on the other side of this
8- Ahhhhh…you’ve started your practice and are now feeling the benefits. Great! Now what? Keep going.
Once you understand the mechanism of suffering, again, just keep this mindfulness in your “operation system” as you’ll get better and better at this. The less energy you lose in the suffering process (inertia…riding life with your foot on the brake pads), the more you’ll have available to you on a daily basis. The more you can live in non-stress growth, the more energy you’ll have to heal your body and stay healthy. The more personal power you liberate from the bondage of stress and mental suffering, the more alive and effective you’ll be in the present moment and the more capable of a human being you’ll become. Then, money and things come with ease as you’ve mastered this thing called life. You can have (paradox again) the boats and cars but somehow none of that is really important to you anymore. You begin to see the spark of life in every human being around you and are aware of their plight- their suffering which comes from the very place you’ve just liberated yourself. From here, you become a beacon of Light and Love to all those around you, and, by example, you live a life that makes the world a better place.
So is there an end to this? Ha! This is just the beginning…Good luck and happy trails.