8 Years of Meditation: Everything I've Learned
Table of Contents
So for those of you who follow the channel, or follow me on instagram, you know that I consider meditation to be the single most important habit that I practice. I truly believe that I would not be able to perform at nearly the level that I do in so many different areas, without the steadfast meditation practice that I’ve built over the last 8+ years.
If you clicked onto this post, I know that you know somewhere deep down inside of you that meditation can and will profoundly change your life, but my guess is that you’re either struggling with how to get started, how to be consistent, which techniques to use, or all 3 of those things. I know exactly what it is to struggle with this, and I promise that this post will help you tremendously, because I’ve gained skills, experience, and insights that allow me to explain meditation in the way that it needs to be explained to go from “struggling meditator” to someone who looks forward to meditation as much as they look forward to a big delicious meal after a hard workout.
I’ve structured this post to be a journey of 3 destinations. At the first destination we’ll discuss the actual benefits of meditation specifically within the context of self development. At the second destination, I’ll address the obstacles that I know you’re struggling with, and show you how these aren’t actually obstacles at all. At the third and final stop, I’ll share the unique approach to meditation that I’ve developed, which will allow you to adapt each individual meditation session to the state that you’re in.
Destination 1: How meditation Frees You From Your “Self”
The most limiting factor with respect to our own personal development is the idea that we are our thoughts and our emotions.
Most of us believe our “self” to be some sort of cohesive, permanent thing… This is merely an illusion.
What the “self” really is, is just the conglomeration of many disparate ideas that we hold of ourselves, absorbed from the people and cultural influences around us.
This is part of why I despise terms like ‘self-love’ and ‘self-esteem’ because they reinforce the silly idea that there is actually a self to be loved or to be esteemed!
If we truly want to grow, we should deconstruct the self, not worship it.
The reason I’m able to succeed at everything I dedicate myself to is because I’m no longer limited by the idea that I am anything – which frees me to be whoever I choose to be – and I credit meditation with helping me to understand this.
Meditation allows us to ‘separate’ from the infinite stream of thoughts that most people are trapped in for all of their lives.
Things happen to them, and they simply react – cause and effect.
Meditation however, creates a space between the thing that happens to us, and our reactions to them.
Over time, this space gets bigger and bigger, so that rather than simply reacting to the things that happen to us, we can actually choose how to react.
So rather than simply ‘trying harder’ to develop a gym habit, a good work-ethic, or even a meditation practice – only to inevitably fail once more,
Our default mode can be to instead separate from the action – observe it from all angles, and then return to it with a well-formulated plan of attack.
And if that plan of attack fails – it doesn’t matter – because when we learn to observe our thoughts the idea of ‘failure’ transforms into simply ‘vital information’, which we can then use to formulate the next plan of attack.
Meditation gives us the foundation we need to deconstruct the illusion of ‘self’ in relation to the world around it – unlocking the power to ACTUALLY think ‘critically’ and to ACTUALLY be ‘present’, which is where we should spend a reasonable amount of time if we ever hope to truly take control of our destinies.
Destination 2: The Obstacle is Not The Obstacle
Most people who are new to meditation think that the ‘goal’ of meditation is to stop having thoughts –
So when you’re sitting there meditating, and you’re getting frustrated because you can’t seem to stop thinking – you actually failed before the meditation, not during.
I’ll share something that has helped me immensely here – assume that there is an infinite stream of thoughts from the moment we are born until the moment we die. Assume that this stream continues even into our sleep.
When we see our thoughts in this way, the practice of meditation becomes not about ‘stopping’ our thoughts – which as far as I can tell, is actually impossible.
And more about moving our consciousness out of the infinite stream, and into the present moment, by anchoring it onto things that exist in the present moment, such as the breath, sounds, bodily sensations… and even the observation of thoughts and emotions – more on this in a minute.
So to be perfectly clear here – If you sit down to meditate for 10 minutes, and you spend 9 minutes and 55 seconds completely lost in the stream of thought, remembering only one time to bring your consciousness back to the present – consider that a victory.
The point is not to ‘stop’ thinking – the point is to realize when we lose ourselves and to bring ourselves back to the present moment, over and over again.
Now the other ‘obstacle’ most people face is not having enough time.
There’s an old zen saying that goes something like “you should sit in meditation for 10 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” – the idea here is that to see ourselves as ‘too busy’ to perform what is arguably the most important habit with respect to our own mental well-being – is a bit silly.
Especially when you consider that meditation can and should be practiced virtually everywhere, even if for just seconds at a time.
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Destination 3: The Technique
Ok so first and foremost – the recommended posture for meditation is to sit with your legs crossed – back upright, in a wakeful yet relaxed posture.
There is a reason that this position has become synonymous with meditation for centuries now, and EVERYTHING that has survived the test of time should we should always regard with the utmost respect and consideration –
So this should be the position that you use – but with all of that being said, if you’re not comfortable in this position – don’t force it.
Me personally, I’m not comfortable sitting cross legged unless I’m in a bean bag chair – And because of my thyroid issue Im usually exhausted in the morning when I meditate so I’ll normally just lay on my back, angled upwards, with a pillow behind my head –
Once you’re settled into the best position for you, the first thing you’ll want to do is quickly scan your entire body and relieve any tension you’re carrying –
It’s extremely common especially to carry tension in the face – and you’ll notice that if you direct your conscious efforts, you can relax it so that your brow unfurls, your lips aren’t pressed as tight against your teeth, etcetera.
Now assuming that your general mental state is ‘good’ – my favorite meditation technique is to simply focus on the breath, making sure to breath through your nose and deep into your stomach.
Once you’re focused there – now try to find a specific point where you feel the breath most profoundly – for me it’s usually inside the nose, right at the top of the bridge.
Try to place your consciousness wherever you feel the breath most profoundly and try to just ‘watch’ from there as the breath goes by.
It’s completely normal to lose yourself back into the infinite stream of thoughts – in fact, this will happen repeatedly – and that’s normal – what’s important is that when you catch yourself – gracefully bring yourself back to the breath.
Outside of meditation, it’s good to have goals with regard to your practice – however when you are in the middle of practicing is perhaps the one time in your conscious experience where you should not have any goals.
Nothing matters here – just stay with your breath, watching it closely from the start of each inhale to the end of each exhale – returning to the breath gracefully whenever you drift away.
That’s it – this is meditation.
Now here are a few tricks to help you based on a few different mental states or situations you’re in.
If you’re uncomfortable or have pain –place your consciousness there and realize that you are not your pain – try to separate from your pain and you can sit with that instead of with your breath.
If you’re in a heightened state of emotion, or consumed by thought – use your meditation practice to separate yourself from your thoughts or from your emotions, and observe them from all angles. Consider why you’re so caught up in these things, and what sort of actions you need to take to get yourself back to a state of peace.
If you’re in a place with a lot of noise then simply place your consciousness on the noise. If you hear a baby crying, or a dog barking – don’t get annoyed by these noises – that’s ‘reactionary’ being’ – instead, simply throw your consciousness onto them.
When I meditate, my housekeeper has no idea what I’m doing and she’ll often come over and ask me questions – I simply respond to the questions and then return to my breath.
I think it’s extremely useful to meditate at set points in the day, such as first thing in the morning, or before you go to bed, to help you establish the routine –
But meditation is something that we should carry with us throughout the day –
a few seconds during breakfast, when you throw your consciousness onto each bite – a few minutes after a hard training where you throw your consciousness onto all of the emotions your experiencing – or during a walk, when you can throw your consciousness onto the totality of each individual step –
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