Read time: 5 minutes.
I sat here for about two hours trying to write this. Trying to capture and provide you with an expose’ on this elusive, thousands-of-years-old tradition called meditation. My plan was to write something of a science-based article blended with my own experiences over the past month, to give you some studies upon which to intellectually understand meditation and it’s potential benefits to human beings.
I changed my mind. Meditation, although receiving an abundance of attention now thanks to people like Tim Ferriss, is still as undefinable, mystifying and intangible as catching air with your bare hands. I even cringe at that analogy because I know it doesn’t do it justice, so rather than fill your five minutes on this page with corny lines, esoteric platitudes and the odd scientific journal reference, what I’ll do is simply blurt out the weirdness that is meditation with the most clarity I can muster on such a topic after 30 days of practicing it. Here goes.
… I bumped into Marcus Hamill on the headland in Avalon (Sydney), whilst checking the surf one morning.
We got talking and bro’d down about waves, film, storytelling, and then finally meditation. Meditation was something I’d been constantly hearing about but not to the point where I felt inspired to learn or practice. The momentum had been creeping up on me, I’ll admit, because it seemed that a large majority of ‘successful’ people whom I admired practiced some form of meditation daily.
TM, Tim Ferriss said, TM TM TM – okay I get it Tim, you have a mantra, and you sit there and it’s all okay even if you think about the kid who pushed in line during school all those years back… Topically, it didn’t sound like much benefit could be garnered from such an activity and after all, I told Marcus, I don’t have much stress or anxiety in my life so I don’t really need it.
“That’s like saying ‘well I don’t have digestion issues so I’ll just eat junk food every day.'”
Well played, sir.
This, just in guys, Gut Health Kid Has No Witty Comeback.
Over the next few months meditation played on my mind. And after a brief period of extreme inactivity and some seriously good procrastination, I decided to call Marcus and book in for 4 consecutive days of Vedic meditation training.
“Improve my productivity please. I require help,” I told Marcus. He promptly organised some sessions in his studio and I was officially locked in. Committed. No last minute bail texts. Shit. What had I done? I had no idea what classes in meditation would entail. Would it be super weird? Like humble-warrior-on-steroids kind of weird? Like church-for-someone-who’s-never-been weird? Would Marcus sit over me with a wooden rod, Miyagi style?
Wack! “Focus young Padawan.”
Wack! “Stop getting distracted.”
Wack! “For good measure.”
Thankfully enough, albeit a little disappointingly to my inner fantasy dweller, classes were as ‘regular’ as you could expect and involved no Myagi style punishments. The first session I brought along some flowers and fruit as instructed and a small ceremony was conducted, honouring the technique which “comes from the 5000 year-old Indian wisdom tradition known as the Veda – from which both Yoga and Ayurveda are derived.” After the ceremony I was given a mantra, my own special mantra, which would be my guiding sound, if you will, throughout all my meditation. I can’t tell you what my mantra is though, because then I’d have to kill you.
We sat down and I interrogated Marcus, good cop bad cop stylz. I put to him that mindfulness/flow and meditation were the same thing. Surely he could let go of this facade now and admit guilt, I mean I surf and when I’m in the tube I’m fully meditating, bra. And what about yoga, I’ve been super yoga-stoned before – I get it. I’m an A student and we haven’t even started, I may as well just walk out the door now.
I was wrong.
Marcus taught me over the next 4 evenings the fundamentals of the practice. We would sit in a comfortable position and meditate for 20 minutes, and then discuss our experience. I told Marcus it helped if I focused on the breath. He said don’t try so hard – just let go and let the mantra do its thing. I told Marcus I felt like my hands were floating away on big paddles and I didn’t know if I was sleeping or meditation and he said that’s called sleepitating. The main thing was, it was all okay. The practice is meant to be effortless and for someone who typically ‘tried’ all the time, at school and sport and all the rest of it, that’s a little difficult to grasp.
Over the 4 evenings I learned the ins and outs of what a meditative state is ‘meant to’ feel like. And the key cues to look for to know that you’re actually ‘doing it right’ but Marcus said that even that is an elusive point because it’ll be different for everyone and if you’re always trying to have a ‘good meditation’ then you’re not practicing correctly. It’s like yoga, there’s no good or bad, a shallow meditation is good and beneficial, likewise a deep meditation is good and beneficial.
Now, if I had to compare meditation with flow, I would say that flow is an extreme state of being conscious. A front-of-the-brain intense existence in the present and your surroundings. To the point where reality enters slow-motion. The brain clicks away in a hurried rush to capture all that occurs in a frame by frame strategy to entice another few hours in the water. Meditation, though, is an extreme state of being present, but within the recesses or subconscious part of the brain.
Hmm, let me try in one sentence. Okay here we go…
Meditation is an extreme state of presence within the body, flow/mindfulness is an extreme state of presence outside the body.
It would be easy to enter a 1000 page philosophical soliloquy over this point right here, however like I said earlier, that’s not the point of this article. The point is, this is my experience that I’m sharing with you.
The Benefits I Noticed From Meditation
After the 4 days were up, I thanked Marcus and he sent me on my way into the big wide world. He said, meditation is meant to be challenged. You can’t sit all day and meditate and expect to benefit, the benefit is in the challenge of it. I liked that. It seemed like a ‘going to the gym’ analogy. You don’t go to the gym to ‘go to the gym’ – you go to the gym to become a better person outside the gym.
I committed to meditating for 30 days. Marcus suggested twice per day but ‘be happy if you get to do it only once’. I think having that little escape route took the pressure off.
I had always found it hard to implement new routines into my life simply because I don’t have a routine. Im routineless. Surfing rules my life and I should go to Surfing Addiction meetings but they don’t exist yet. My routine changes all the time depending on the tides, the surf, and the volume of emails and editing and orders I receive. I don’t have a routine because I hated having a 9-5 routine for those two dreadful years I actually worked a normal job…. anyway.
For 30 days I meditated mostly once per day, but also missed the odd day here and there.
One of the biggest things I noticed was that I was much more deliberate in my activities on the days that I did meditate. It was easier to stay present and mindful and to relax, and the normal frustrations such as traffic and technology issues didn’t bother me as much as they did before. I also noticed a big increase in my productivity at work. I would smash out edits or scripts within minutes instead of hours, and for me that was the biggest benefit – I didn’t feel rushed or overwhelmed by projects any more. Everything became do-able.
From here, I don’t know if I’ll commit to meditating twice per day. There’s still that nagging, deep-seeded feeling that if I sit down again for 20 minutes I’m missing out on what’s going on in the world… but it’s weird because I don’t care what’s going on in the world [self improvement needed].
I’ve definitely found that the more work I have to do, the more I crave a meditation session. The more relaxed I feel, the less inclined I am to sit down and miss out on the sunshine and surf. I know people get up earlier to squeeze in their meditation time, but for me I like waking up naturally and if the surf’s good or I’ve got something to do, normally I make the meditation wait.
Regardless, though, if you are someone who has a high workload and high-stress job, I think meditation would be extremely beneficial. Actually, I just think almost everybody would benefit from meditation.
Meditation and Religion
I’ve seen in the past where religious folk look upon meditation as being antithetical to their beliefs. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a completely individual practice and doesn’t require prayer to a deity of any sort. Someone once told me that prayer is speaking to God and meditation is listening to God. So whoever your God is, I definitely believe that meditation, or an increase in consciousness or connection with your ‘self’, if you will, would only benefit your spiritual practices.
This morning I sit down on the couch, cross legged with a blanket over me and ‘drop’ into a nice lil’ medi. <– You see I’m so legit now that I can shorten meditation into the vernacular, medi. Just a quick lil’ medi.
My girlfriend decides to get out of bed around halfway through. She has to wind up the blinds now. Oh and the dishwasher should be emptied, too. Is this pot still dirty? Let’s tap it a few times with a fork. Oh and latte’ anyone?
But all these sounds and noises are blurred and buffered by a seemingly impenetrable zone just in the forefront of my mind. I am sitting peacefully, comfortably, and joyfully further back in an empty room filled with my mantra… but I can’t tell you what that is because then I’d have to killl you.
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