“I’m happy in life, why should I meditate?” “How can meditation affect my everyday life?”
If you found yourself asking these questions in regards to meditation, or if you are just beginning your journey as a meditation practitioner, reading this piece might be beneficial for you. Hell, I’ll even stretch as far out as saying it might even change your life.
The answer to questions such as the ones opening this article is quite broad since meditation is an activity that can affect our lives in so many areas, starting from our training and diet, through the development of relationships and business, and all the way up to our sex life.
Let's focus on productivity, and how sitting in silence for a few minutes a day can make you more productive in life.
We are choiceless in how or when we experience emotions. Some studies even suggest that up to 95% of the thoughts we think daily have a negative nature to them. Why is that? Quite often, feelings that we really don’t want to feel jump on us in moments we really don’t want them to. Sometimes we plan on doing a certain thing for days, but all of a sudden “we are not in the mood”. Such negativity can block us from many productive activities like eating healthy or maintaining a steady workout routine, especially if it happens too often. In some extreme cases, it may even cause us to seep into depression. (Sidenote for those who now jump at me with "But sadness is a part of life too!!" - I’m not negating sadness. Balance is important in life and we should embrace and feel all aspects of life. We are not to stack feelings we like such as happiness and pleasure and avoid the ones we don’t like such as anger or the occasional blues.) Although it is important to sometimes experience sadness, feelings we label as “negative” can be counterproductive to our own personal developemt.
Imagine this next scenario if you will:
You wake up in the morning all fresh, with a great mood and a smile. You eat your breakfast, drink your coffee, and generally feel pretty good about yourself. You decide to go for a workout. So you put on training clothes, pack your bag, and off you go, still feeling pretty damn good. You get into your car, and drive to the gym, listening to your favorite radio station on the way, when all of a sudden - the car radio plays a song that reminds you of your ex. You know, that one ex that got away, that big “What if?”, the one who broke your heart and wiped the floor with it? That one.
So you get nostalgic and emotional, maybe even shed a little tear on the dashboard... Suddenly you don’t feel too much like training anymore. The perky, jumpy, pumped-up mood you had before is now gone, and soon after so does the wonderful energy that came along with it. There goes today’s workout. Better go home, put on some Netflix and wallow in nostalgia and Ben & Jerry’s.
If we simplify this situation for a moment and remove all the self-pity and emotions that come along with it, what happened that moment is that a different form of energy surged through your body. An energy of sadness or melancholia, a type of energy that is not as "pleasant" as the previous one.
So before we get to the “energy discussion”, let’s take a step back and analyze this situation for a second. Event 1: You were exposed to some form of external arousal - a song that reminds you of your ex. Event 2: That arousal triggered something in you - a memory, normally. Event 3: The reaction to that memory triggered some form of emotion in you, something you can feel physically. You point to this emotion and think about it. You ask “what is it that I feel?”. Event 4: Once you figure it out, you call it by a name: “sadness”, “loneliness”, “nostalgia”, or whatever you wish to call it. Then you identify with this word you put the feeling on, meaning you project this feeling onto yourself. You say “I am sad. I am lonely”.
This whole process happens in under a second, and it’s quite difficult to pick up on it. The problem begins not when we feel the feeling. The problem begins when we decide to call this feeling by a name, to attach a description to the sensation.
What you experience though is just thoughts.
Underneath those thoughts lies the raw emotion - the raw "energy" if you will. Before our own interpretation of it (i.e “Sadness”), there was “something” - something you feel physically, and doesn’t have a name. The emotion is an amorphic, undefined thing, it cannot be described with words like “Sadness” or “Love” or “Joy”, it can only be felt. We are used to thinking in terms of naming and defining everything, but in fact, any wording of emotion is just describing it insufficiently or inaccurately. The affiliation of emotion with something bad or good is only an action of thought. As William Shakespeare said: "Nothing is good or bad, only thought makes it so." Why does it matter, and how does meditation comes in? For me, understanding I do not experience a word, but a pattern of energy changes the way I looked at my experience of the moment. Understanding I am you are not in fact “sad”, but am actually feeling a pattern of energy changed the actions I took as a response to it.
Instead of saying “I feel sad” or “I feel hurt”, I just stop at “I feel”.
Not identifying with words and definitions of words is very releasing - the actions one takes at the moment of sensation will be profoundly different. Normally - more productive and proactive actions will be involved, such as doing or acting, and less reactive actions, such as victimizing will be removed from the lexicon. It is important to say that one time of correct diagnostics isn’t enough to make a difference, and to actually manage to do this in a sea of emotion is something that is by no means an easy task. In order to gain this "diagnostics tool" and use it in a consecutive, efficient way, we need to create a habit of practice. More so, What to practice?! Getting angry and "picking up on it" doesn't sound like fun. You guessed it! Meditation is the answer!
In meditation, we practice the ability to sit and watch ourselves. Kind of like looking out the window at a view - you’re not actively searching for something, you’re just looking. Once we take this time in the day to sit and observe at what’s going on within our mind, we slowly develop our own sense of awareness. We become sharper in recognizing mental and physical sensations and become more proficient in just being alongside them, not trying to analyze or change them. This is not some kind of philosophical hippie mumbo jumbo. Science today is fascinated about the idea of meditation, specifically mindfulness meditation - a method of meditation practicing exactly what I’m talking about in this article. Some researchers even demonstrate actual changes in brain structure on veteran meditators (people with over 5000 hours of meditation), not to mention lessened anxiety and decreased levels of stress. In one study, veteran and young meditators were required to read out loud difficult mathematical calculations while standing in front of a large audience all while being attached to electrodes that measured their brain activity. Results were quite interesting. The veteran meditators’ “anxiety markers” were much lesser than none veteran meditators. The idea of mindfulness is now being incorporated into leadership programs in corporations and large companies as a means to train more efficient workers, leaders, and managers. In summary:
In order to become productive, and take control of one’s life in all aspects one must master oneself. Mastering yourself is not about struggle or control, it is sometimes just about the sheer presence. Sometimes, all you need to do to break the cycle of “This sucks, I suck, Life sucks” is to stop and ask “Wait, what is it that actually sucks? And is it even real? Is it even me?”. The answer is almost always “no”. It just takes a bit of practice to see it clearly. And meditation is just that practice.