I usually mediate over three hours a day.
Phew. I feel like I just gave a confession at my first alcoholics anonymous meeting: “I’m Sam…and I’m a meditator.”
As I’ve been getting deeper into my practice, exploring the vast possibilities of paying attention to myself by simply sitting and breathing, certain things are becoming clear to me about what the meditative process really is.
For one, although there are many different approaches to meditation (i.e. following the breath, scanning the body, eyes closed/eyes open), the fundamental quality is always the same. In other words, no matter what approach we might take to make that inner connection, it always feels pretty similar. The feeling is a kind of relaxed focus, where we are both sensing the aliveness of the body and are moving beyond our thoughts as we sink into wonderful abyss of the present moment.
Empty mind, open body. It’s a beautiful feeling.
Here’s another thing I’m learning: meditation is pure hell. There’s just no question about it.
To uncover that beautiful feeling of oneness and harmony within ourselves, we must trek through the muddy swamps of our conditioning. Almost everything in the modern world is completely antithetical to meditation practice, and being that we happen to live in the world, our mind is a product of its environment and prevents us from engaging in practices that induce stillness.
Society is too fast-paced and ego-driven to care much about silencing the mind, and that’s to its detriment.
I think many people would be surprised how unimaginably difficult it is just to sit and be quiet for an extended period of time. No wonder “time-outs” were the bane of our existence when we were kids (I actually quite enjoyed them, but still, they were meant to be bad).
The mind doesn’t want to be still, because this puts into question the very nature of its existence. The ego, like anything else, wants to survive, and when we just sit still and breathe, it will probe and scour for anything to keep itself functional. Our thoughts do not like to be sit idly by, if you haven’t noticed.
To clarify, the ego, the mind, and thought are all intertwined for me.
The ego is the isolated “me” entity that comes from our identification with thought. “I am a good person.” That’s just a thought, and then we identify with that thought and it becomes part of our sense of self. You might be a complete piece of sh*t, but it doesn’t matter. The ego does not deal in truth. It deals in power. I feel that this identification with the movements of the mind is the source of most of our problems.
So, meditation is pure hell—because it goes against the tide of everything we’ve been taught and everything we do. That being said, it’s something I believe to be entirely necessary in becoming the best version of ourselves that anyone has ever seen.
The more I meditate, the more connected I feel with life.
It’s like the universe is constantly supporting me, while I’m moving closer and closer to nature—both my nature and the nature of things.
Although it’s incredibly difficult, I know that I’m opening up that holy space within myself that’s the root of all religious experience. Besides, I like pushing the limit and putting myself in uncomfortable situations—when it’s for a good enough reason. In meditation, we just need to find that reason, whether it be self-healing, understanding ourselves better, or improving our relationships. There is no limit to what’s possible.
Conor McGregor, mixed martial arts champion and the Irish Bruce Lee, once said that, “When you seek out the uncomfortable, you are always comfortable.”
I like to make a little game of it. I see if I can go deeper into the practice, do a longer session, or be more comfortable down the stretch. It’s the last few minutes of meditation that are really the most important to me. This is when I just want to get up and my mind is starting to get really anxious (also bare in mind, I have a severe illness and my symptoms make the process much more difficult).
When I get to that point, I tell myself that this is the real test of how comfortable I can be. Let’s see how relaxed I can be. Let’s see how calm I get, even when my mind is moving a million miles per hour. This is graceful endurance under pressure—being comfortable in an uncomfortable situation.
To master this skill is to master the human experience—I really mean that. The ability to stay composed and at ease under significant stress can be carried to all parts of our lives, from business to relationships to public speaking. Self-knowledge and supremacy of focus can spread through our lives like a wildfire once we begin to cultivate them.
The cool thing about meditation is that we all meditate in some way in our daily lives, or rather, we show glimpses of that fundamental quality of calm alertness that is embodied through meditation.
Maybe when we’re talking to a friend and we take a gentle breath in between words, or when we’re playing a game or a sport and are trying to get “in the zone,” or maybe just when we’re waiting in line for coffee and are taking a moment to notice our surroundings.
Meditation is not for the faint of heart: we face our demons and are forced to contend with the neurotic impulses of the mind. It’s a bit scary sometimes, because for many of us, the past was not particularly present. Still, it is our responsibility to navigate our consciousness through this life, and if we can learn to skillfully meet the present moment through meditation—we are taking the steps to live up to this tremendous responsibility.
It’s worth it. It’s all worth it.