8 Steps To Start Meditating Today (Without Shaving Your Head & Buying A Robe)
We’re stone-age creatures living in a space-age environment, constantly bombarded with a startling array of supernatural stimuli.
Forget the city that never sleeps, you’ve got Times Square in your front pocket. Thank you Steve Jobs. With a multitude of allurements attacking our senses every second, it’s challenging to cut through the smog of sub-par stimulation which blind and side-track us from living a higher purpose.
This isn’t my opinion. This is a current cultural crisis. Look around.
Navigating a purposeful life isn’t easy. But imagine if there was a timeless tool you could use for free which enabled you to zoom out, become clear on what REALLY mattered in your life, and then take actions in alignment with your core values? Would you use it? How about if it was scientifically proven to make you happier, smarter, relaxed, and more present?
SPOILER ALERT: Both old-school philosophers and modern day scientists say that this tool DOES exist.
Here are The 4 Questions and I’m not talking about Passover, son:
- Mind – Would you like to have incredible control over your mind?
- Body – In the last month, have you been stressed, anxious, or tense?
- Emotions – Interested in feeling happier, more tranquil, and untroubled?
- Spirit - Wanna feel a deep sense of connectedness and purpose in your life?
I used to be a slave.
No S&M. No chains and whips. No dominatrix.
It wasn’t nearly as exciting. More like 50 shades of suck. A slave to my mind.
If you read The Story Behind the Glory, you’d know that I used to have some self-sabotaging and immensely menacing thoughts running rampant ’round my mind. The moment I woke up, they spoke up. Talkative bastards.
I’d be in meetings managing business and barely able to maintain my focus on what people were talking about. Who said what? And with phones, computers, co-workers, and an absurd amount of sources fighting for my attention, my brain was constantly farting.
I was poker-faced and faking the funk, going through the motions of pretending I had it all figured out. But really, I didn’t give a shih-tzu about walking around those blocks anymore. I had an existential stink to pick up and deal with.
- Who am I?
- What’s the purpose of my life?
- What do I do with myself?
- Is this as good as it gets?
No shame in my game.
And no guilt in my trip. When I was a teenager I smoked blunts, dabbled in blow, wrote graffiti, and chased broads. These were my “fixes” to escape the existential abyss. Problem is, when you’re a respectable and responsible adult, copping ounces of herb and cruisin’ with rattling milk-crates of spray paint in the trunk just aren’t feasible alternatives. Perhaps the reason I’m so inclined toward radical honesty and awkwardly authentic transparency is because of all the hiding and masking myself I’ve done in my past.
A lot of us anesthetize ourselves to the sobering somber realities of living life below our capabilities. Sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Burn baby, burn!
It’s not that we’re bad people. We’ve just never been supported and educated on how to create optimal lives and cope with the accompanying challenges that ensue when we pursue them. With the right guidance, most guilt, shame, vulnerability, and fear can be worked through. But often times we associate our fears and uncomfortable feelings as being a negative thing. They’re not – if we let them, they teach us.
I’ve found that most people don’t change until the pain of staying the same becomes worse than their fear of the unknown. And since we anesthetize ourselves to that pain, we end up stuck in a reliable rut that’s [cue the L-boogie] killing us softly.
Resurrecting your soul isn’t for everyone.
We’ve got to get comfortable becoming uncomfortable and some people just aren’t ready to do that. The reality is that your comfort zone is slowly slaughtering you.
So yes, it does suck to step outside of your comfort zone, and yup, you will be entranced in resistance and terror. But it doesn’t last THAT long and like the caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly, you’re awakening into an ineffable reality of what life can actually look like.
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly.”-Richard Bach
If you’re questioning yourself and pondering the possibility that you might be ready to become the butterfly, I’ve got a question for you. It’s a question that has the power to radically reshape your life, as it has mine. When I got asked this question by two mentors of mine within the same one month time span, I knew there had to be some substance to it. Now when I coach people, I often offer them a variation of this question and with the right structure set in place, the results speak for themselves. Now I ask you:
What’s the number ONE thing that if you started doing every day for the next 30 days would have THE biggest positive impact on your life?
2 and a half years ago I answered that question with “meditation” and I’ve meditated nearly Every. Single. Day. Since. (I’ve missed about 3 out of the last 800+ days).
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.”
Meditation: What’s the deal?
Buddhists say our mind is like a monkey which can’t stop swinging from vine to vine (thought to thought). I like to imagine mine being a bad-ass King-Kong-esque gorilla beating on his chest who doesn’t monkey around.
When I was 6 years old, monkeys were my favorite animal. I mean, how could they not be? They’re hilarious, athletic, and don’t get me started on their swag. It’s legit.
The problem with the monkey (our mind) is that Buddhists describe it as DRUNK and STUNG by a scorpion. Picture it. Not so friendly anymore.
This imagery represents the average person’s mind. A good deal of time they’re ape-shit outta control racing from thought to thought. Under those conditions, can you imagine the damage King-Kong would do swinging from vine to vine? It’d be bananas.
But how does the zookeeper detoxify that monkey and sober him up?
“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.”
-Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
Medicine for the mind.
It’s no surprise, even my cats have heard about the benefits of meditation. It reduces stress, builds willpower, grounds & makes us present, helps with mild cases of depression & anxiety, and ultimately, it makes us happier. Not a bad deal.
Nerd alert: Most of these benefits occur because mediators shift their brain activity from the stress-prone right frontal cortex to the calmer left frontal cortex.
Scientific research done at Harvard Medical School shows that meditating for as little as 12-15 minutes per day for 8 weeks has the ability to change our genetic expression and DNA. Those are things that until recently the scientific community thought to be impossible!
Oh meditation – you’re such an overachiever!
Back to that maniac monkey. How do you keep him from drifting away? The same way you keep a boat from drifting away: with an anchor!
On a basic level, that’s all that meditation is: Training your mind with the use of an anchor.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
An example of an anchor could be your breath. Here’s how that’d work: Sit down, cross your legs, and make it a game to focus your mind on your breath. Count your inhalations to 4 and your exhalations to 6. It’s really that simple.
Inevitably, your mind will drift and you’ll start thinking about what you need to do later. That’s fine. The game is to then REALIZE that you’re not thinking about your breath and then start focusing on it again! Got it?
After a few seconds, you’ll start thinking about how frustrating, annoying, and pretentious mediation really is. “Jacob and that bullshit meditation monologue. Get real dude.”
Awesome! REALIZE that you’re not focusing on your breath and bring your attention back to it. Is this starting to make sense? You’re cultivating your awareness to train you mind.
You could also use a mantra as an anchor. The word mantra is Sanskrit and consists of the root word “man” (to think) and the suffix “tra” (designating tools). The literal translation would be “tools for thought.” Thanx Wikipedia.
By using an anchor to train our minds, we elicit what Harvard Medical School’s Herbert Benson M.D. calls the Relaxation Response. We can slow down that monkey, and retrain it to travel in the route most conducive to rocking at life. No banana peel slip-ups.
Retraining our minds? Yup.
We cultivate this muscle by showing up repeatedly day after day – the same way you’d show up at a gym. You wouldn’t go to the gym on day one, get frustrated that you can’t grip a dime between your pecks and bench 225 pounds on the incline. You’d start small and accept that you’re a newb. Same goes for meditation. Keep calm and meditate on.
Now you may be questioning if meditation is right for you. And that’s a good thing, because it’s probably NOT right for you – if you don’t care about life.
Truth be told, if you don’t exercise regularly and eat a health conscious diet, you’re probably getting ahead of yourself with meditation. Start with those basics and build up from there.
But if your diet is in check and you’re regularly rocking some basic physical activity, you’re probz ready for meditation. :)
8 Steps to Start Meditating Today
“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of mediation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.” -Buddha
1. Start with why.
If you don’t have a strong purpose for meditation, this won’t last long. So don’t commit to meditating unless you have a grounded reason that reflects your values and authentic self. (I meditated for the ability to control my mind. Who’s the slave now!?)
2. Get your mind right.
Approach meditation like a game, playa. Don’t stress yourself out of meditating by being critical and judgmental of your practice Do you criticize and question your methodology for brushing your teeth? Well the same goes for the big M. Just do it. If you don’t brush your teeth, your mouth stinks. If you don’t meditate, your mind stinks. It’s a daily practice.
3. Pick an anchor.
It can be anything: Your breath, a mantra, a prayer, an affirmation, etc…
4. Grab some binaural beats.
This will help move your brain to the desired Alpha and Theta states. Plus the serene sounds of rain, water, and the ocean are sure to seduce your soul.
5. Eliminate distractions.
Turn your phone to silent. Tell the people in your crib that you’re gonna go do this for 15 minutes. Put the dog in another room. Anticipate all distractions and plan accordingly (mafia style).
6. Pick a spot and sit.
I like to grab two couch pillows (1 for my butt + 1 for my legs) and plump my plum on them while I lean my back up against the wall. Cross your legs (Indian style or lotus position) and sit up straight. Rest your palms on your knees facing upward. There’s one word to keep in mind when you’re settling into a posture: DIGNITY. Relax and sit with dignity.
Throw the beats on and focus on your anchor. Commit to spending a certain amount of time in this sitting no matter what. Beginners should start with 5 minutes. After two weeks, it shouldn’t be as challenging to sit for 10 or even 15 minutes. Focus on your anchor. Over + over + over + over + over…
Accept that your mind will wander. Your thoughts will never stop and you will kill yourself if you try to make them. The point is to witness your thoughts and direct them toward the appropriate place – back to your anchor! Do not give up because your thoughts won’t let up!
That’s the whole deal. Signed. Sealed. Delivered.
No shaved head and no new robe. If you were one of my best friends, this is the email I would send to you:
[note: this is an actual email I sent to two of my best friends a month-ish ago]
So, the choice is yours.
Last month I committed to meditating every single afternoon (in addition to my AM practice). Do you have it in YOU to commit to meditating for the next 30 days? Every. Single. Day?
“99% is a bitch. 100% is a breeze.” -Jack Canfield
Here’s to rockin’ it!
PS: Thanx to Brian Johnson and Tripp Lanier for rockin’ this interview which inspired today’s post.
PPS: Shout out to Nathan Agin for being my PM meditation accountability buddy during the month of September.
(Photos via The Atlantic)