Let me tell you a story.
It’s the story of a young man. A young man with big dreams, not much wisdom, and a whole bunch of what I like to call idiot energy!
Yes, you read that correctly—idiot energy. Idiot energy is the kind of energy idiots have!
After leaving art school to go live with a Tibetan lama, this young man went on his first meditation retreat.
It was the kind of retreat that meant he would be sitting on the floor crossed-legged for twelve hours per day, for 21 days straight.
And despite the fact he’d never sat like this for more than one hour, he was excited to be doing something significant with his time and his life.
Like an idiot, this young man truly believed he would gain profound insights into the nature of reality during these 21 days of intense meditation practice. He was so confident, he could feel it in his bones!
Now, week one of the retreat passes, and he is feeling good. The insights have not yet come, but that’s ok; he remains confident they are just around the corner. He only needs to try harder, he thought!
Week two comes and goes, and still nothing! But this only reinforces his determination to win over his stubborn mind.
Then, in the middle of week three, and with only a few days of the retreat to go, the young man decides, just like the Buddha, he would remain seated until insights come.
So after the last session ends, and everyone leaves the meditation hall for food, rest, and sleep—just as rational people do—the young man says to himself, “I will not move until I have gained insight into the nature of reality.”
One hour passes, and his knees are screaming in pain, but he does not move.
Hour two passes, and now he is hungry, sleepy, and utterly discouraged.
He flops to the side, releasing the tension in his body and mind, and gives up!
And yes, the idiot was me.
Suffice it to say; this is NOT how one should begin a meditation practice.
Not only is it not healthy, but it’s also not productive.
But in making such mistakes over the years, I’ve got a few lessons I can pass on to those willing to read, watch, and listen.
So I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to start a morning meditation practice.
In the article I cover:
- Key Reasons to Begin a Morning Meditation Practice
- The Compound Effect of Meditation
- How Meditation Sets the Course for Discovery of the True Self
- How Meditation Lessens the Impact of the Dysfunctional States of Mind
- Physiological, Psychological, and Spiritual Benefits of Meditation
- Overcoming Obstacles to Meditation Practice
- Creating a Daily Habit of Meditation
- Meditation for Balancing Your Body and Mind
And there is a guided meditation included as well.
But the article is not your typical “how-to” meditation guide. I want to give you a fuller understanding of meditation and how it fits into our western culture.
Because of this, I often attempt to incorporate not only science in the discussions of meditation but also western philosophy, psychology, and traditional sources, in a fusion of all to deepen one’s knowledge set within the context of our own culture.
I do this not to water down the practices found in the East by mixing them with those of the West. I do this because I believe in the power of meditation to transform lives. And I believe you and I deserve a richer, more intellectually stimulating discussion about the efficacy of meditation.
Meditation Sets the Course for Discovery of the True Self
Personal identity is a deep philosophical problem, both East and West. And philosophers have been arguing about these questions for thousands of years precisely because they are essential to our well-being.
In my article on personal identity called The Cartography of Persons: Setting a Course for Self-Discovery, I explore the ideas of synchronic and diachronic identity. These are philosophical terms of art that boil down to who we are in the moment and over time.
These are important questions to seek an answer for because there is freedom in understanding. And meditation gives us first-hand access to the answers, such that and over time, freedom arises as we discover the true self, or come to know thy-self, as the Greeks would say.
Moreover, the methods used and the benefits gained from such philosophical seeking is how I like to think of meditation more generally. For me, meditation is not something we do to make us calmer, remove anxiety, or lower blood pressure. These are side effects, or by-products, of practice and not the purpose of meditation. Meditation is an analytic, diagnostic, and therapeutic tool used to consciously evolve—what I like to call the enlightenment project.
The enlightenment project is a project of the evolution of your consciousness. And the evolution of consciousness is key to living a good life. If you can make this idea of the development of consciousness central to your life, then your life’s direction moves you to a deeper quality of well-being, regardless of circumstance.
By understanding who we are and how we are, we are able to live to our fullest potential. Indeed, our fullest potential is expressed from within the view that is an understanding of who we are really, in truth.
And from a different section of the article…
Overcoming Obstacles to a Morning Meditation Practice
The mind is a tricky thing. It will find ways to derail you from developing a daily practice, and some of these methods will be cunning. In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield calls it, The Resistance.
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
Pressfield believes the Resistance is a universal force that is actively working against all things good. He claims Resistance is the most dangerous element to one’s life as its sole mission is to keep you in your place. To crush dreams by undermining any project worth doing. It sabotages aspirations with a heart as black as a cold winter’s night!
Whether you prefer to relate to this Resistance as some kind of external force with the “sole mission to sabotage aspirations,” or simply as your own psychology pushing back against change, the same method for overcoming Resistance to meditation is necessary—ignore it.
Yes. Ignore it. Sounds easy but, it’s not. However, you simply cannot listen to the voice that tells you, “I’m too busy to meditate today!” It’s simply not true. Even if you are extremely busy, it’s not that difficult to find ten minutes. The Resistance, however, will provide a laundry list of things you should be doing, or could be doing, or have to be doing—anything but meditation.
This feeling of no time can feel very real. But if you are to gain the benefits of the compound effect of meditation, you need to learn to ignore the Resistance. And I say learn to ignore, for you will, at some point, fall prey to the Resistance masquerading as logic. It will happen. And when it does, be gentle with yourself.
The next obstacle to meditation I hear a lot is, I cannot sit still. This one is very real but also quite easy to overcome with some simple breathing exercises and a little bit of patience. But it is Resistance, not logic, that is telling you that you cannot sit. And it will fight you like a four-year-old on a long road trip.
The last common obstacle is, my mind never stops thinking. Believe it or not, this is actually a sign of progress. For your mind has not changed; you’ve simply become more aware of the contents of your mind due to the opening and expansion of your awareness.
If you get impatient with yourself or try and push the thoughts away, you are preventing the development of your practice. The trick is to learn to allow the mind to settle in its natural state. To simply allow the thoughts to settle on their own. By focusing on them, you give them energy. And by giving them energy, they will continue to torment you.
This is not something you can force. It is not something you can create. It’s not what you are not doing that is preventing your development but rather what you are already doing that is preventing you from going deeper in your practice.
As with the above piece of advice, the method for overcoming excessive thinking is quite easy with some simple breathing exercises and a little bit of patience.
Click here to read the article in full – The Ultimate Guide to Morning Meditation
Till next week.