So you want to meditate…?

Lake-matheson

…but never find the time to do so. Right? Well, you’re in good company and definitely not alone out there.

Recently I read in the blog of a well known and successful Venture Capitalist (VC) in the US a brief statement that reminded me of myself a few years ago just before starting my meditation practice. He wrote:

 

“It’s like meditating. I know I should do it. I just can’t bring myself to spend the time on it.”

 

This made me think, simply because on one side I could very much relate to what he wrote while at the same time wondering what it was that enabled me to change from wanting to meditate to actually doing it in my own life journey.

To me, meditation is neither political nor religious. It is universally applicable to anybody with a body, thoughts and feelings, a fact that renders most of us equal – at least on a very generic level. Probably the worst thing one could do though is imprisoning meditation in one specific belief system or molding it to ones own philosophy alone. In fact, real meditation is quite the opposite: while it opens the mind, it is down to earth at the same time. Because of that, meditation can produce very clear, tangible and measurable results – depending on what it is you want to achieve.

Going back a few years, when I was 7 or 8 years old, my view of the world changed – almost over night. For some reason, I started to look upon the outside world differently. What had changed? Well, I started to see people fighting with life instead of enjoying life. I saw them building businesses and relationships with a financial purpose in mind rather than enjoying building them. And I saw them building houses for themselves though they’d never live in them but would instead extract money (as rent) from those who could not afford to build a house themselves, only to die one fine day without being able to take any of this with them.

I asked myself: what’s the sense of building anything – be it a family, a house, a business, …you name it…, if  it is already clear that whatever you do serves only a very temporary purpose?  For a 7 year-old this was a pretty harsh realization and there were no satisfying answers from outside that would really put my mind at ease. And although I tried to ignore these tough observations, they simply wouldn’t fade away.

I also found it most shocking to see some people with seemingly great faith, who did much preaching about the wonderful life after death were especially keen to amass as much wealth as possible during their (physical) lifetime on Earth as they could – while saying at the same time that they’ll not be able to take it with them to their heavenly abode.

It was not until five years later when I was 12, that while reading certain books, the world would start making sense again. It was then that I was first introduced to the subject of meditation. However I didn’t have the discipline to follow “written instructions” for meditating at the time, nor was there a person in my reach that could actually explain the principles of why and how meditation would work and a step-by-step process of ‘what actually to do’.

While my intellectual reasoning about the insanity of making money and building stuff (just to lose it one day), did not put my mind at peace, at least I felt that in meditation I had found a hope and powerful ally whose practice could possibly help me make sense out of an increasingly confusing world out there – some time in the future.

Since then I tried various forms of meditation from visualizations, breathing exercises, walking, deep relaxation, self reflection and so on. While I was quite disciplined with some of them, ultimately, they did not produce the ‘desired result’. Why? because the ‘desired result’ was not well enough defined for myself.

It’s much like with anything else. If you want to learn the piano, you go to piano lessons, you don’t go to trumpet lessons or play tennis. If you want to develop software, you hire a software developer and not necessarily a lawyer that has never written a single line of code.

Choose the right meditation for you

One of the most important things I believe for anyone being interested in starting meditation is to first choose the right meditation for his or her objective. Much like with other things, if you’re serious about something, do your due diligence and that bit of research that can make you go the whole way rather than getting stuck in the middle of the road. In IT, if you have a brilliant idea and some business experience, you wouldn’t just start building stuff, you’d first select the right architecture and framework for what you’re trying to build. In music, you’d want to know something about the composer or the piece you’re learning at least at some point during your practice simply to get the interpretation approximately right. 

Aim for results with an open mind

While you may have a certain aim for the outcome of your meditation practice, be open to accept that things might work out differently than you anticipate. In my case I had to learn and accept that – much like with anything else in life – you may do certain things for a specific purpose, but that you simply can’t get there in a direct way. Say you want to cross a creek without getting wet feet and move the stones in front of you appropriately to accomplish this. Chances are that in order to reach your goal – or the other side – you’re not able to take the exact route you’ve planned but rather end up on a different place on the other side of the river than you had originally envisioned. While you did not come out exactly where you expected to, you’ve ultimately still reached your goal: the other side. So when you do meditation – have an aim in mind, but don’t expect it to be executed exactly the way you want it to, then take your steps, but let the way and ultimate outcome be made by means of the practice of meditation.

Regular practice matters

Most importantly especially while beginning your meditation practice, there is the question of regularity. If you have read the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, then you know this already: practice matters. But the regularity of it matters even more when you’re just starting with something.

I had already known this from my piano career and yet the more relevant question to me was, “how does practice start to happen regularly” vs. “why are some things just not getting practiced”? Surprisingly, even disciplined people sometimes find it difficult to get into the habit of practicing something new, regularly. That’s because before discipline, practice is first a matter of priority.

Unless you’re totally committed to something and truly understand its importance or relevance to your life -right now- chances are you’re simply not going to do it. So whatever new thing you’re starting with and to come back to the quote of AVC (whom I highly respect) from the beginning, unless you’re changing your priorities and give the ‘new’ thing the highest priority over whatever else you’re doing in your life right now, it never had and never will have a real chance in the first place. In the (latter) case, why waste a single thought about it then?

So, if you have an inner urge to do something, at least follow that urge to its source and examine its elements instead of denying it. Find the reasons for where the desire (i
.e. to meditate) comes from and see if this gives you enough material to change your priorities – at least for a set period of time.

Don’t let your time rule you. Instead, understand your desires.

 

10 thoughts on “So you want to meditate…?

  1. Pingback: Smart Business Concepts - Was ist die richtige Balance zwischen Arbeit und Auszeit? - Smart Business Concepts

  2. Hi Renjith, I don’t know these specific ones but shall have a look. Personally I think Meditation is a universal pratice, beyond a specific system, culture or religion and that it can come about in different ways and various forms. Within your context I also think that it starts with concentration ("Ekagrata"). Then continued (inner) focus, also called "Dharana", leads to "contemplating on the experiences" (Dhyana) of such focusing. The subject matter of the focus during Dharana may lead one to the observation of different experiences (Dhyana) which in turn produce certain definite results ("Samadhi") which again depend on the nature and approach of the practice.So while for many Meditations one final aim is to reach Samadhi, I think the whole process (starting with Dharana) is actually all part of almost any Meditation.

  3. This question comes down to – is yoga = meditation?- is meditation = yoga?- or, are they a part of one or another?Meditation can be seen in many different traditions and Yoga is one of them. The meaning of the word "Yoga" means "Union". However there are many different types of unions in that concept, i.e. body with mind, plus with minus, mind with universe etc.Therefore depending on the "Union", Yoga often has some additional words to describe the union being achieved as the ultimate aim of the practice, examples: Hatha Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Nada Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Gnana Yoga and so on. According to the Vedas, there are totally 33 types of classical Yogas ("Types of Unions").These are not to be confused with modern terms such as Hot Yoga, Vinyasa Flow Yoga etc. – they mostly originate from a specific teacher or a specific teaching style and the question of "Union" remains often unanswered.Most modern teaching styles known in the west are related to Hatha Yoga or focus on some parts of it. According to an ancient sage in Yoga called Patanjali, Yoga has 8 limbs, or parts. They are called as Asthanga Yoga.The physical Yoga exercises or "Asanas" which I assume you are referring to, are one part. Meditation is another part. You can find more details here:http://heartsoulmeditation.org/yoga-meditation.htmlDoing Asanas is one part of Yoga practice, and so is Meditation. Therefore Meditation is a part of Yoga but Yoga is not doing Asanas alone. There is a natural evolution of the 8 limbs i.e. physical -> mind -> beyond the mind which through regular practice propels itself from one to the other. It’s likely that if you’re doing Asanas for a long time, you’ve already been in contact with breathing exercises (Pranayama) and have (knowingly or unknowingly) practiced Pratyahara, too. "I know I should meditate" is only the next logical step and a natural evolution for many Yoga practitioners.In my opinion, if one wants to experience "Union", he should practice all 8 limbs of Yoga.Otherwise it’s a bit like going for a delicious 8-course french dinner but only taking the soup and maybe a salad while leaving the main course and dessert out ;-)

  4. Teemu – couldn’t agree more. There is a huge difference in perception about "real-time" technologies that often have people trapped inbetween and being truly "present". Chasing the real-time web means catching up with what already happend vs. being at present allows us building stuff that’s likely to be relevant in the future.I wish I had known this earlier in my life ("young people going full-on with energy drinks etc."). I had my first (& hopefully last) burn-out at the age of 29 and know quite a few people that power through their entire year like that, just to find themselves really down or out of steam once or twice that year and often becoming sick when there are Christmas or other holidays.Therefore it still surprises me that few to none of the worldwide incubator programs, hack marathons etc. that I know of would give this some serious thought and incorporate some of that thinking in the form of meditation / work-life-balance trainings into their high energy programs. Young entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity today to create a better corporate future when they build such thinking and awareness into their startups from the beginning.

  5. Toby, I like what you say in the comments about looking forward to it rather than to have to. In fact, being effective every day requires a bit of meditation – to be present rather than to worry about future events. Everything that is, is connected to the here and now.This links back to your post, the need to put something as a top priority, to be in the present, to manifest what you actually really look forward to.Our modern day is full of memes that demand our attention. The ones that worry us often take over half of our capacity in the process.The media takes care of disconnecting us from the present. We use search engines to search the past. We even search the future, with tools like "recorded future". Social media is full of intentions and anticipations people share. The process that should take us back to the present, the real-time web is in fact a disconnected web of people who are not really there, but rather in between.The technology we use can both enslave and empower us. That’s why technology and meditation could go well together, as well as to disconnect us.I take the view that you cannot really perform well in modern knowledge-based work if you do not take a holistic view on it, and that includes connecting the body, the mind and the spirit.Take young people going full-on with energy drinks and hamburgers, working late at night with the power of caffeine, salt and sugar in front of their computers. Can you be a knowledge work kung-fu master with that prescription?Healthy knowledge working includes brain food. Our modern diet is still greatly based on performing physical labour with muscle rather than working with your mind.We should shift our diet to accommodate the stuff that our brains need – Various fats, nutrients, vitamins and minerals. In the end it is also about the immaterial things: the media we consume, the way we guide our attention with intuition. And attention, that is the greatest scarcity of our time.

  6. Great list Chirag and I’d be very happy to share our experiences in person.One of my plans in 2012 is to be as "free" and "calm" as possible at all times, both in my physical and mind related endeavours. Also I’m reducing the noise and clutter that surrounds us all too often. I’ve started to go on a media fast regularly and find that to be very healthy. My meditation practice has recently changed from "have to/should do" to "looking forward to it" and I noticed a big productivity gain from that (I realized the urge or "duty" feeling to meditate can also cause stress), so I’m happy to continue spending at least one hour a day in silence.

  7. Toby, Awesome insight about how difficult it is get yourself to do something new. I am glad to read this post. I have challenged myself to make 2012, the year i propelled myself into the higher level of existence, by being more "pure" and a lot more focus on my desires. I have decided the following things with no particular order: 1. Turning into a vegetarian ( yes, fish included, but i will take eggs for the time being)2. No Alcohol. 3. Early mornings around 4:30 am, to give myself to connect with myself and do more inner soul searching and becoming more spiritual. 4. less socializing & networking, and building more meaningful relationships. 5. giving more time on existing family, friends and building better professional relationships. Anyone, and everyone who is planning to change themselves for the better or embarking on a new journey, i would highly recommend to read "Do the work" by seth godin. It will get your ass of the chair even if you are reading it at midnight. Its amazing. Have you planned to change/improve anything Toby? Anyone else?

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