Level Up Your Mind with Meditation

I know. I didn’t believe it myself either.

Back in September 2016, after an almost unbearable amount of articles and recommendations by brilliant artists that I follow, I finally succumbed to the constant signals and started meditating.

I HATED IT.

It was probably worse than my OTHER first time.

On a weekday, after some dinner and emails, I went upstairs to my bedroom, laid down a pillow, sat down, opened the Insight Timer Android app and started Simply Being — Relaxation & Presence.

I closed my eyes, sat straight, crossed my legs and listened to the voice of, who I assume, is a very nice grandma.

Shit.

I started thinking about this person who is trying to guide me to relax my mind but all I’m thinking about is who this person is, how they got into meditation guidance, how do you get to #3 on the top meditation guides, etc. and onward.

There would be times where she would stop speaking for about ten seconds and my mind would start shutting down, but then she would start speaking again, sparking my need to analyze the situation.

What is happening?

Am I doing this right?

How does this even work?

Do I need a salt lamp or something?

My mind was in a whirlwind throughout the entire guided meditation when finally, after what HAD to be 20–30 minutes, the track ended.

Aghast.

I couldn’t believe that only five minutes had elapsed. I thought I had just run a mental double marathon of endless thoughts, queries and comedy.

I felt exactly the same as I do every night when I go to bed, my mind begins to race and ask questions and present ideas, all of which I want to hear but also want to viciously swipe at so I can sink into my mattress and pillows soundly.

Great timing

Needless to say, I was completely turned off of this whole thing. How could this work for me? How does anyone “empty their mind” like this?

The Dive

I am a big nerd, so whenever I encounter a problem or challenge like this, I go DEEP into it. I’ll read, listen, and watch hours of content and varied perspectives to get an idea of what’s happening and what the general consensus is.

By now, I’ve already become quite familiar with the benefits extolled by people like Dan Harris, Gretchen Rubin, Martin Seligman and even the affable Hannah Hart, so that wasn’t my problem.

My problem was (and usually is), execution. I went into the activity thinking that if I just do as they do in the movies, I’d just get it and become Buddha 2.0, when instead I was Julia Roberts.

A little Eat Pray Love reference for ya’ll

Ah, Voila!

I ended up rifling through a lot of literature, but my favourite piece and the one that turned it around for me was from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits fame. He’s a great writer and actually writes as if he’s in a constant state of zen, whereas this article you’re reading was written in the FRANTIC typeface.

His article, Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind, broke down the components you need to really get started and not overwhelm yourself. The 6th tip was especially important to understand:

Come back when you wander. Your mind will wander. This is an almost absolute certainty. There’s no problem with that. When you notice your mind wandering, smile, and simply gently return to your breath. Count “one” again, and start over. You might feel a little frustration, but it’s perfectly OK to not stay focused, we all do it. This is the practice, and you won’t be good at it for a little while.

As it turns out, the trick is that you’re not supposed to be trying to “empty your mind” as I thought. Accept that your mind WILL wander, and when that happens, just bring yourself back to the present and “calm your mind”. It’s like your mind is policing your own mind. How meta.

The rest of the article outlines some great points, so I definitely recommend you check it out.

Once I digested the information, I gave meditating another shot, this time starting with two minutes as Leo point out. No audio or anything, just myself and my breathing.

What a difference.

Don’t get me wrong, it was FAR from perfect. I was still everywhere, but when my thoughts went a little off the rail, I was able to reel them back in and start again. This zone only lasted for mere seconds, but I felt better about it knowing this is perfectly normal given my experience with meditating.

It was a good start, and I started doing this every other day (habit-building is a whole other topic…), and began to really feel good about it.

So, after few weeks since I started, I have already noticed a difference in my mood and energy. Maybe it’s just a mental placebo, but it’s working for me (for now), so I’m going to continue to do it. At worst, it’s a great way for me to settle down before heading to sleep.

I’ve started using the Insight Timer app again, and it’s interesting, but I’m not convinced I want anything more than a start and stop chime. YMMV.

Worth a shot?

Ya.

How can I start?

I recommend reading the material I linked to above, and just start simple.

No guidance or any special materials. Just find a quiet room, sit on the floor, close your eyes and begin breathing. You may only last 30 seconds before getting frustrated but that’s okay, try again tomorrow. As Leo said:

Don’t expect to be good at first — that’s why it’s called “practice”!

If you need any other tips or some accountability, feel free to tweet me @thisiswilson and I’ll help however I can.

By the way…

You should also hit that heart icon and follow me, because I plan on writing sporadically about personal development, marketing, feminism and Donald Glover. Thanks for your support.