Meditation is hard. I’ve been meditating on and off the last 10 years, and contrary to all blogs and books I read, I’m yet to reach, “enlightenment,” or have some grand realisation as to what I’ve been put on this earth to do. I only meditate because it makes me feel better, except when I spend 20 minutes cross-legged on the floor thinking about all the things I should be doing other than meditation.
So all that said, I went to a teacher last week who gave me some simple, powerful advice. Again, this advice helped me feel clearer in the head, and meditate a bit better. It didn’t transform my life but improved it a little bit through some simple actions and basic perspectives. It was just what I needed.
Here are the three things he shared with me.
1. Meditation Works Because Your Brain Is Stupid
Let me paint a picture. This guy is exactly what you’d expect to see when you think of, “meditation teacher.” With long hair and a beard, he spoke so softly I had to lean in as if I was trying to kiss him. Then he starts off by telling me I’m stupid.
He went on. “Your brain has to focus on something. Whether it’s the activity you are participating in at the moment, thoughts of what you would rather be doing or guilt as to why you just cheated on your wife. The purpose of meditation is to distract your stupid brain by giving it something to focus on that doesn’t require any thought or emotion.”
He went on to explain that this was why focusing on breathing or a simple visual stimulus is ideal.
“Your brain doesn’t differentiate between a complex mathematical equation, and staring at a television. As long as it’s focused, it will be happy.”
2. Meditation Isn’t about Getting Anything
I told him how my results from meditation were less than consistent. He smiled in the same way I smile and my daughter when she asks me if she can have ice cream for dinner.
“The outcomes you get from meditation are incidental occurrences in the process, and are not to be confused with the process itself,” he said. “If you have a goal in mind, other than meditating for the sake of meditating, then you are acting counterintuitive to the overall mental goals of meditation. You see, we seek clarity through the removal of grasping at various goals, and attempts to push away anything that is perceived to be negative. When we are no longer grasping and avoiding, we begin to notice things as they really are. Noticing and being present is the only thing meditation can really offer you. Whether it is good or bad is down to your perception, and just another attempt to avoid something bad, and grasp at something good.”
“So these shouldn’t be my goals?”
3. Be Comfortable. Breath In. Breath Out
I asked about technique and I’m pretty sure I saw the teacher roll his eyes.
“Sometimes it’s better to know less, rather than to study other people’s opinions. Your practice is your own, and while a book may have been written by someone else who claims to have had a wonderful experience, there’s nothing to say that their technique will work on you. You are an individual, with different experiences and life choices. While we exist as part of the same ever-changing universe, it would be arrogant of anyone to tell you how to think – which is meditation advice. If I were pushed, I would offer the following advice: be comfortable, then breathe in and breathe out. Focus on the breath, whatever form it takes and keep going until you stop.”
I think I’ve probably received this advice from others, but the teacher shared these thoughts with me as a conduit, rather than an expert. He was not attempting to sell me anything or encourage further action beyond the personal. In fact, when I asked about his courses, he suggested I try out what he had suggested during our conversation, and then get back in touch in a few months.
So for the simplicity and integrity…thanks.