I'm just a regular guy. I'm not a crazy hippie, or new-age mystic, or even this new breed of ultra-zen-mega-performing executive. I like health. I like it because it makes me feel good. And not just physically, but emotionally too. I like being strong because I think lifting weights is fun, but I also like how it makes me feel about myself and the world. It reminds me that I can change for the better and improve over time. I work a lot on my body, but I've never made any time in my life to work on my mind. So I decided to give it a shot, and I'm so so glad that I did. I've been meditating 2-3 X week for about 6 months now, and I've been surprised by how much I've enjoyed it.
I'm not an expert by a long stretch, and I understand it's not for everyone. But I'd love for you to try and I hope sharing my experience convinces you to give it a shot.
Why Should I?
I'm a thinker. I think about things all the time, and it can become incessant. My mind moves and moves, and I have a really hard time shutting it off. I'm always thinking and doing, and it becomes exhausting. My mind feels like it's always on the treadmill, and the only rest I get is when it's too exhausted to continue. We talk a lot at TrueFN about mindfulness, and mindful eating, and I decided that I sucked at it. I was familiar with the concept but I wasn't any good at it. I needed someone to guide me through the process. I know a lot about strength training, but not a damn thing about how to progress with meditation. I found a free app called Headspace, and decided to give it a shot.
Headspace gives you 10 days for free to try it out, and I highly recommend giving it a shot even if you don't continue afterwards. You press play on your phone and a little mini video comes on to explain the basic concept, and then guide you through the exercise. It only takes 10 minutes, but I have to admit, it is not easy.
The objective is to sit quietly, eyes closed, and become aware of your body and how it feels. Thoughts can come and go, but you let them drift by and do not 'chase after them'; meaning thoughts do not lead to another thought and another and another. They pass by like water in a river that you simply watch, without diving in, or following along. This was incredibly difficult for me, but was immediately rewarding.
After 10 minutes, I always feel better. Noticeably. I feel fresh, and free and calm, and...uncluttered. It is a wonderful feeling, but this is not the goal of the exercise. The goal is not to do anything, but to simply....be.
We often get caught in the 'doing' mind, where we need to do this thing, and solve that problem. We rarely make time to simply_be_, and enjoy where we are. There is no such thing as past, present, or future, merely our continually unfolding experience, and we often have to sit down and shut up to see it.
One of my favorite quotes from American Beauty:
"Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life..."
I've started to notice how this practice effects every other aspect of my life. My brain likes to go, go, go, and I need to calm it down. People do a lot of things to quiet the brain. We have an inherent drive towards activities where we can't think about anything else, like:
- Lifting weights that can crush you
- Watching TV and movies
- Driving Fast
- Sky Diving
- Eating something delicious
- Being with someone you love
Some of these things are dangerous, and some can be good for you. But they all have one thing in common. They wrench our focus (or lack thereof) away from the constant churning of thought, and back to our experience as it is happening. My dad used to tell me that 'the brain makes thoughts like the guts make poop'. The brain is just doing its job, and that's okay. But that doesn't mean we have to listen to it all the time.
I've really enjoyed the experience so far, as I feel it's helped me to enjoy every moment of my life more. And I say those intentioned words without hyperbole. I'm not an expert, and I'm not a therapist, but I wish I would've learned sooner how much the world has to say if we just stop and listen.