“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.
That being said, the answer to questions such as the ones opening this article, and many more is quite broad since meditation is an activity that can affect our lives in so many areas, starting from our training and diet, through development of relationships and business, and all the way up to our sex life.
Let's focus today on productivity though, and how sitting in silence for a few minutes a day can make you more productive in life.
We are choiceless in a way in how or when we experience an emotion. And sometimes feelings that we 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”. This is an issue that can block us from many productive activities like eating healthy or keeping a steady workout routine, especially if it happens too often. In some extreme cases it can even cause us to seep into depression for a prolonged period of time, rendering us completely useless to society and ourselves. I’m not negating sadness of course, I believe balance is something important in life and that it is crucial to be constantly aware and feel all aspects of life - not to stack the ones we like such as happiness and pleasure and avoid the ones we don’t like such as anger or the occasional blues. Low points in life exist so we can appreciate the high points. Although it is important to sometimes be sad, lot of times feelings we label as “negative” can cause us to be counterproductive methodically, and keep us from activities that are quite important for our own personal advancement.
Imagine this next scenario if you will:
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 lovely healthy breakfast, drink your morning coffee, and are feeling generally good about yourself. You decide to go for a workout. So you put on training clothes, pack your bag, take whatever else you may need and off you go, still feeling pretty damn good. You get in to your car, and drive to the gym or wherever it is you like to train, 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. And 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 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. And it is not “good” or “bad” energy - it’s just a different kind of energy.
But before we get to the “energy discussion”, let’s take a step back and analyze this situation for a second. You were exposed to some form of external arousal (a song that reminds you of your ex). That arousal triggered something in you - a memory, normally. The reaction to that memory triggered some form of emotion in you, something you can feel physically. You take this emotion, and think about it. You ask “what is it that I feel?”. 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 sometimes quite difficult to pick up on it when it occurs. 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 thought or a word (which is basically a thought) to the sensation.
But what you can also do is understand that what you experience is just thoughts, and that before and underneath those thoughts lies the raw emotion - the raw energy. Before our own interpretation of it. Before calling it “Sadness”, there was “X” - 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 think in term of naming and defining everything that is around us, but in fact, any wording of an emotion is just describing it insufficiently or inaccurately. The affiliation of an emotion with something bad or good is only an action of thought, as William Shakespeare once said “There is nothing good or bad, but the thinking that makes it so”. (Yeah, I just quoted Shakespeare.) Making the separation here is crucial. Understanding you do not experience a word, but just a pattern of energy, changes the way you look at the current experience of the moment. Understanding that right now you are not in fact “sad”, but actually you have some energy that is to be moved or handled in the body, changes the action you will take when you feel this kind of energy.
Instead of saying “I feel sad” or “I feel hurt”, just stop at “I feel”. You can then take this undefined, raw energy and use it!
Not identifying with words and definitions of words can be very releasing - the actions we will take 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. But 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 use this diagnostics tool in a consecutive, efficient way, we need to create a habit of doing this. The habit, or action that is being used to practice this is called, you guessed it - meditation.
In meditation, we practice the ability to sit and watch ourselves. I don’t mean watch as in “supervise”, I mean it as just observing. 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 body, we slowly develop our own sense of awareness to it. We become sharper in recognizing this 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 idea. Science today is fascinated about the idea of meditation, especially mindfulness meditation - a method of meditation practicing exactly what I’m talking about in this article. Some researches even demonstrate actual changes in brain structure on veteran meditationists (people with over 5000 hours of meditation), not to mention lessened anxiety and decreased levels of stress. In one experiment, the test subjects 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. That’s pretty mean, I know, but the 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 means to train more efficient workers, bosses and managers.
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.