Make meditation a daily habit and control your thoughts and feelings
Everyone wants to meditate. It’s the new, cool, hip trend. Our fast-paced technology-powered world moves quickly. If we’re not careful, we’ll be swept along with currents we don’t want to ride. To survive the storm, we need to stay still. So we look to meditation for the answers: to keep calm through the chaos. It appears to solve everything. But there’s a caveat: it’s damn hard.
I’ve attempted to integrate meditation into my life many times. The hardest habit I’ve ever tried to make a part of my daily routine. Every other habit involved doing, but meditation requires not doing: counterintuitive and uncomfortable. I hate doing nothing; it makes me feel like I’m not moving forward. I love the feeling of progress so much that it’s difficult for me to sit silently.
I’ve needed constant stimulation since the day I came out of my mother’s womb. As a kid, I endlessly annoyed my parents for one fun activity after the other. As an adolescently, I spent all my free time locked in my room watching TV, playing video games, and masturbating to porn; apart from the comedowns, I loved the massive dopamine hits. As an adult, I’ve continually chased intellectual challenges to the point of burnout (I always burn out and never learn.) My life until now has been a perpetual discovery of new ideas, affairs, experiences. Meditating is unnatural.
I only wanted to meditate because I knew it would eliminate my burnout (or at least delay it). But I found so much more in meditation: a place of solace. To this day, I haven’t found a better way to relax (for me). I don’t enjoy yoga, hikes, sitting in nature, and other Mindfulness Promoting Activities.
I’ve found a way to make meditation a part of my life. And if I can do it, you can too (seriously, I’m one of the most restless people I know). If you want to meditate for the rest of your life, it starts with one thing: commitment.
To meditate every day for the rest of your life, you need to commit to the rest of your life. It sounds silly, but I was never able to meditate consistently for extended periods before I committed. Like most people, I wanted a quick fix. I tried to meditate once and forget about it. This strategy never solved any of my problems. I would meditate for a month, find it too difficult, give up, realize I need to meditate, and start the cycle again.
One day, I decided enough was enough. I was sick of lacking mindfulness. I didn’t want to be a floating plastic bag in a Katy Perry song anymore. I wanted to be the captain of my destiny. It wasn’t that my life was going poorly — I was doing well from society’s perspective — but I didn’t feel like my choices were mine: everything I did was automatic. In fact, I had created this lifestyle intentionally because I thought it was the best way to live. I had set up habits that enabled me to function without conscious attention. Wake up, write, go to work, exercise at the gym, eat, sleep. Rinse and repeat. I didn’t need to think because my environment did it for me. I felt like a robot. I wanted to feel human again.
I committed to meditation. I decided to meditate every day, regardless of how long I do it. Every day for the rest of my life. Accepting that thought meant I didn’t have to meditate perfectly. I didn’t have to be a zen master who excreted a Buddha-like calmness. I just had to sit still and meditate.
Meditation is challenging, so I relaxed all my rules. I didn’t want to turn meditation into a chore. I decided to meditate for any amount of time and slowly increase it. The first day after committing, I meditated for a minute. That didn’t feel good, so I increased it to 5 minutes. I knew I could do every day for the rest of my life. That was easy compared to the 10 minutes I was doing before.
Since I knew I was going to meditate for the rest of my life, I didn’t rush to increase my meditation time (as I would before). I raised it slowly. 5 minutes became 6; 6 minutes became 7; 7 minutes became 8…
Permit yourself to start small. You don’t need to change your life today. There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this, you’re going to be on this planet for years to come. Focus on long-term habits, not short-term fake fixes.
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it”— Buddha
Before starting any habit, it’s imperative to understand the reasons for doing it. Self-understanding is especially crucial for meditation because there aren’t quantitative measures of success. Weightlifters lift heavier weights. Singers hear changes in their voices. Writers write faster.
What do meditators get? A clearer mind, but that isn’t measurable. Many people quit meditation because the lack of observable results can be demotivating.
Learn the benefits
Understanding the benefits of meditation helps you interrogate your purpose in the right direction. But what you get from meditation isn’t — as I said — clear. Research suggests there are positive impacts on stress, focus, mood, compassion, and other mental health indicators.
These effects converge towards self-awareness. Meditation increases awareness of your thoughts and feelings. Rather than being stuck in your head all the time, the practice enables a more third-person perspective. Not that meditation provides you with complete awareness, but at least you’ll have more awareness.