I’ve been meditating on a semi-regular basis for the last 3 years and I really want to write out what I’ve learned from it (and learned about myself) so far.
1. Personal Benefits I’ve Noticed
Before the how-to of almost any guide to meditation, there’s typically a list of why meditation is so good for you, usually with benefits like increased focus, happiness and wisdom, decreased depression and more elaborate, miracle-like benefits like better metabolism and increased reaction time.
I have no idea if I have better blood pressure levels or my reflexes have improved from meditating, but I can tell you what I’ve personally experienced:
– The chatter in my mind decreases substantially when I’m regularly meditating. It feels nice and quiet up there in my typically crazy brain compared to its unintelligible rambling and random thoughts when I’ve been slacking.
– I’m more focused. Typically I’m quite a ‘space-case-y’ person, thinking about everything else besides the task I’m working on. This leads to me to pouring orange juice on my cereal, or leaving what I buy at the till after I pay. But meditating appears to improve my mindfulness and keeps me more present on the task at hand.
– My confidence seems higher, I’m better at public speaking, and I’ve been saying what’s on my mind more than I used to. I can’t say for sure this is related to the meditation but I feel like I see an upward trend in this the more I meditate.
2. There are Many Different Types of Meditation
In other words, meditation techniques range from very simple to in-depth, and learning can be free, cheap or very expensive.
I knew very little about meditation three years ago, but I’d learned some family members had done a Transcendental Meditation class, a 4-day course that can cost over $1000. In a consumer-like brainwave I figured that higher cost = higher quality, so I would be getting the best meditation technique out there.
Now, I’m not going to express my thoughts here on the cost or quality, but I will say that having done TM as well as other techniques that I’ve picked up from yoga classes and online, I enjoy all types relatively equally. I can’t say which is more effective- all the various types of meditation I’ve tried have relaxed me and quieted the mind from it’s chatter to some extent. And it’s simply nice to switch it up and try different techniques to keep it interesting.
Now that being said, there has been one glaringly huge benefit to paying a substantial sum of money for a meditation course, or any course for that matter: you’re 100 times more likely to stick with it! I can’t necessarily speak for everyone, but for me, having spent so much hard-earned money on the course made me really put effort into setting aside time to meditate.
It makes me think about the amount care I give the knockoff sunglasses I got in Mexico versus my $200 Ray-Bans that stay in their protective case when not worn. I have done some amazing free courses, but it is simply a human condition that we tie our level of care of something to the dollar value we spent on it.
3. Casual Practice Equals Casual Results
The TM program states that the meditation should be done for 20 minutes, twice a day and that ‘casual practice equals casual results,’ meaning not practising on a regular basis results in less significant benefits. During the class I didn’t give a second thought to how hard it would be to find those 20 minute intervals during my day; it seemed like such an insignificant amount of time! But the weeks after proved to me that even without a very demanding lifestyle (no kids, 9-5 job etc.) I struggled to sit down and meditate regularly.
The first solution to this problem is to make time for it like other necessary tasks we do in our day like cooking, brushing our teeth and sleeping. It has to be given that level of importance if consistency is to be achieved. The hard part is that there aren’t any extrinsically negative consequences from not meditating, compared to not brushing your teeth which people will notice pretty quickly.
The second key to consistency is to not be a ‘closet meditator,’ which I admit I am guilty of. This means you don’t tell anyone you meditate, which makes it very hard when you want to meditate but can’t bring yourselves to tell the friends your with that you’re going to meditate and will be back in 20 minutes. It’ll make your life much easier and make you a more interesting person to others if you just tell it like it is!
My third, final and most important key to consistency is what I learned from a High Existence post. To explain with an example, TM says I should meditate for 20 minutes. There’s been so many times I’ve said to myself “oh well I have to leave in 15 minutes so I don’t have time to meditate.” This all-or-nothing mentality really killed my consistency.
The High Existence guys suggest to ask yourself “what is the longest amount of time I’m willing to meditate? Is it 15 minutes? No? Is it 8 minutes? Yes? Then meditate for 8 minutes!” Any amount of time you can give is beneficial and will help strengthen that daily routine.
We all live busy lives, but it’s a great challenge to find that time to sit down and take some time for yourself. The actual meditation is the easy part 🙂