How to Stop Reality Being Disappointing
…and Make Time Go at the Right Speed
Inspired by Ayurveda, I began daily mindfulness meditation a year or two ago to improve my health and wellbeing. I had no idea of the surprising and far-reaching benefits to my life that would arise. The mindfulness practice is described further on.
A catalogue of unsolicited effects
The first effect I noticed was that was tending to spend more time feeling engaged in the present moment — a significant change for me from how things were before. I could be more absorbed in one activity at a time, not begrudging the time it takes to enter into doing something properly: washing the dishes, writing a blog, watching people go by as I sip a turmeric latte. I wasn’t thinking quite so much about what would come next: what I’m going to cook for dinner, how many Game of Thrones episodes I’ll be able to watch later, or what I’m going to say to my partner when she says I’ve used the wrong kind of chia seeds in the salad.
So now I’m not spending quite so much time wishing one thing would hurry up and be over so I can move on to the next thing, and thinking several things ahead. I’m noticing that each activity tends to be more satisfying, and I’m probably doing a better job on it is as a result. It makes life less stressful: there’s less pressure of all the other things I might be thinking about, that also need doing.
The same sort of thing seems to be manifesting in how I am with other people: I feel rather more present with whoever I’m with, rather than wishing I was with someone else (another tendency of mine). Consequently I seem to be able to connect more profoundly with others — and enjoy the exchange rather more.
This effect seems to be extending into overall experience of life. I’m just finding it easier to be in the present moment rather than being preoccupied with something in the past or in the future — another favourite habit of mine. It seems somewhat easier to spend time committed to wherever I am presently, rather than wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else. When I can spend more time engaged in the present like and less time fruitlessly dwelling on the past or fretting about the future, there’s less of that awful sense of time going by too quickly — or indeed too slowly. I’m conjecturing that the way to obtain this sense — that time is going at the right speed — is all about being in the present moment. That’s a biggie for most of us, isn’t it?
Another change I’ve noticed is that I find myself a bit less interested in ‘outcomes’ and a bit more interested in experience and process, which I must say is a bit of a relief. I’m feeling less regretful about missed opportunities from the past: yet another of my favourite habits. I just seem to feel noticeably less dissatisfaction with how things are, compared with how I might like them to be. That’s another big issue: how we deal with life not being the way we want it to be…. not to mention wanting other people to be the way we want them to be, rather than how they would like to be.
Things not being the way I want them to be has long been one of my favourite ways to be unhappy, and it really works. More often than not, it’s also futile. It’s like I’m an infant throwing my toys out the pram; the toys may no longer be in the pram, but they still exist, so I still get annoyed by them. Possibly more annoyed, because now I can’t throw them out again. So spending less time being disappointed with reality is a good experience. And getting annoyed at every little thing is so tiring!
None of these developments was planned or sought-for; they seem to have naturally arisen since I started this daily practice and saw the effects spreading into my life. It’s not all laissez faire, of course — there are things I want to achieve and things I want to change in the world; I’m not just floating along and going with the flow. But there’s a big difference in how I relate to these hopes and efforts — and there seems to be a benign paradox here — as I become less attached to outcomes, less clingy and less graspy, I’m finding that more things are going the way I would like them to go. And as I manage to let go of old unfulfilled wishes and regrets, life often seems to unexpectedly turn up something just as good in fortuitous synchronicity. That’s a bit special, isn’t it? Less of the pain of not getting what you want, more of getting what you want. What’s not to like about that?
The mindfulness practice
Here’s my version of daily mindfulness practice. I started out with classic meditation practice — just being aware of breath — but gradually evolved these three five-minute stages. You might adapt your own version:
Stage 1: sitting with eyes closed, focus on breath, slowly filling the lungs deeply and breathing out fully
Stage 2: breathing in normally while visualising the energy of the universe being drawn into my body, then breathing out while visualising that energy spreading throughout my energy field
Stage 3: breathing lightly and effortlessly while feeling that I am united with the entire universe
Phase 3 in particular has produced rather special experiences. I seem able to go quickly into a sense of pervasion of the whole universe into my being, and vice versa: the entire universe is me, and I am the whole of the universe. Or indeed multiple universes. There are no boundaries to my being. It’s a sense of infinite spaciousness.
There’s also a sense of being in infinite time — an infinitely continuous present moment. It’s as if the whole of the past and the whole of the future are here in the present. So there’s a simultaneous sense of infinite spaciousness and infinite present time.
This sensation is pleasant. It’s a feeling that there isn’t anything else here in this precious moment: no effects of anything, no need to achieve anything, no attachment to anything. It’s a deep feeling of being home.
Why does this work?
These are not results which I sought after. However I’ve learned that they are highly consistent with Ayurvedic awareness, and also with Quantum principles: that understanding which physicists are discovering. Quantum theory includes the awareness that we human beings — and indeed everything else that appears to have physical presence and solidity, such as a rock, a tree or a planet — is not really solid at all, but totally porous. All matter, viewed at an atomic level, consists mainly of empty space in which vast numbers of sub-atomic particles move around. That spaciousness is what we’re all mainly made of; our interpretation of solidity is an illusory convention. Furthermore the line of division which we sense between ourselves and everything else around us — including other people — is also a misconception. These principles have been understood in ancient thinking and cosmology for many thousands of years, such as in Ayurveda.
So my phase 3 meditation — spontaneously experiencing the infinite present and infinite spaciousness — is in fact a more technically accurate sensation of reality than our usual understanding. In a profound sense, my being really does extend way beyond the limits of my body. I’m part of the same overall entity as my chair and my room, my house and my street and my town, my planet and all the myriad other celestial entities that are constantly being ‘discovered’ as science plays catch-up with ancient awareness. The life effects which I’m noticing are consistent with all this, too.
It’s all good
These are strange and wonderful discoveries, seemingly full of win-win: be more present, get better results and enjoy life more; be more present with other people, and connect with them more profoundly; be less attached to results, and get better results; be less disappointed with life; have that experience of fortuitous synchronicity; and feel time going at the right speed.
But are these phenomena so strange, really? Actually, no. This is not rocket science, although rocket science has helped quantum physicists twig what’s really going on. The great spiritual traditions already made these discoveries a long time ago, and commended this approach to tuning in to the benefits, in which I’m a starting-out dabbler. It’s very liberating. Are you ready for some of this?
Deepak Chopra: Perfect Health: includes an excellent introduction to Ayurveda awareness and its relation to quantum physics: DeepakChopra.com