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Meditate - You Can Thank Me Later

Breathing in, I smile.

Breathing out, I smile.

That is a meditation frequently given by Thich Nhat Hahn.

If you are new to meditation, interested in learning more, and never read Thich Nhat Hahn, I encourage you to do so.

Meditation is the single best thing ever. I have been meditating regularly for almost 15 years. Y’all - I don’t have words.

It’s not a miracle, it doesn’t change the circumstances in your life. But the grace, peace and clarity that you can gain from it is unbelievable.

Today I want to talk about how I meditate, how I learned about meditation and a little bit on the different ways to meditate.

Disclaimer - I am not a master meditator. I know what I know but I’m not a monk nor have I had extensive training in this. I simply read a lot, think a lot and practice...a lot. And even THAT will change your life.

I do want to get one thing VERY clear though. Meditation is not mindless. It isn’t about “emptying” your mind. It’s about clear deliberate focus of the mind. It’s not about “tuning out” or “zoning out”. It’s about tuning in and becoming aware of the process of the mind.

I first learned about meditation about 16 years ago through a little bitty book and accompanying audio track from a library. The book is long gone now and the audio track as well, but that little green text was my first introduction to meditation. And the first thing I was surprised to learn was the idea that it wasn’t about “emptying” the mind. It’s about focus. It’s about awareness. It’s about paying attention.

That seemed silly to me but research showed that it helped with managing stress and anxiety. And I struggled with both. So I did the exercises. I started with breathing meditation. This is the simplest meditation I know about and it’s where you simply follow the breath. Literally the way it feels in your body to breath. You become aware of your body.

This meditation was profound because I didn't realize how much I wasn’t paying attention to how my body felt. There was discomfort sometimes, other times there was comfort. Sometimes I didn’t feel much of anything except the tickle of cold air at my nose. I could feel that sensation so much that it could make me sneeze. I became hyper aware of how deeply I was able to breath. I learned about the weird idiosyncrasies of my breathing. I naturally exhale longer than I inhale. Belly/diaphramic breathing was always pretty easy for me to pick up (probably because I was very asthmatic as a child) though it can be surprisingly difficult for some. I became aware of what needed to happen for my body to pause between the inhale and exhale. And I became aware of when I couldn’t do it. More than anything though I became aware of how incredibly difficult it was for me to focus on my breathing for even just 2 minutes without getting lost in thoughts.

This is the profound teaching of meditation I think. How busy the mind is. How easily it gets derailed. If you have ever heard the phrase “monkey mind” but you haven’t tried to meditate, the practice gives the phrase a powerful meaning. The mind is literally like a parrot or monkey that just doesn’t shut the fuck up! EVER! Now the trick is to not get frustrated at the fact that you can’t silence the mind. The technique is to just simply become aware of that fact that you aren’t paying attention to breathing and go back to paying attention to breathing. That’s all.

No judgement.

No frustration or anger.

No expectation.

Just - “no, I’m breathing”.

In the beginning I couldn’t take 10 breaths without getting lost. And the most powerful thing was learning the nonjudgement of that. I can get lost in 10 breaths...that is all. No ridicule. Just breathe again. Part of this is because there is a reason the brain isn’t silent and it’s important - but that’s off topic for today. :)

After doing this simple breathing meditation I tried others. Vipassana. Mantras. Walking. All of them centered around the idea of focusing on a single thing and redirecting yourself back to that thing when your busy mind shows up.

This is not something you can be told about. It must be experienced. Slowly, a little bit at a time, you start to realize how little attention you pay to things. Then you begin to realize that you really don’t think very nicely about yourself very often. Then you become aware of why your brain is feeding you all this “noise”. And then one day - something happens in your life and you “hear” your thoughts before you say them. You become aware of a tiny little pause, a breath, in between what you are thinking and what you ultimately do.

My friends, when you hear, feel or sense that pause, hold on, your life is about to change.

That pause has magic in it. Let me say that again. The pause you become aware of in your thoughts is where magic is.

Getting to that pause took a long time. But there are steps in between that keep you practicing. Each one offers you new insight into yourself. These are the things that help make phrases like; learn to fall in love with yourself, make sense. This is where “know thyself” happens. You begin to learn about what you need to feel and ultimately behave or act in a way that is helpful and healthy not destructive and self-sabotaging.

When you get here you are thinking differently about life. And you begin to love spending this time with yourself. You begin to need it to feel centered and calm. You look forward to it.

Currently I practice several different types of meditation depending on how I’m feeling and what I need. Most recently I’ve been listening to rain while I just breath. But I think it’s important to know that meditation really can be anything. This is when meditation blends with the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is just paying attention.

Thich Nhat Hanh talks about meditation and mindfulness a lot and I’ve read many of his books. I’ve also read books by Pema Chodron, Deepak Chopra, The Dalai Lama and many more. I’ve just recently finished Jay Shetty’s book “Think Like a Monk”. All of them talk about meditation just being about focus. What that means is that you can benefit from meditation by simply focusing on doing the dishes while you are doing the dishes. Become aware of the way your body feels while you are exercising, even at the gym. Be present with the smell of cooking food when you prepare a meal. And focus on what another person is saying while they talk. Don’t get lost in the noise of the mind - listen to your life, it is speaking to you.

Feel your shower. Hear the birds. Focus on your experience during the experience. Trust me - you will still have plenty of time to think. LOL

Slowly things shift.

I think outside of the general sense of calm I have from practice some of the biggest benefits for me have been:

Patience - I trust the process more given enough time

Appreciation - I notice little things that make me smile

Independence - I am better able (not perfectly) to let others do their own thing without interfering

Impermanence - I realize that everything ebbs and flows, that this too shall pass, and nothing lasts forever or indefinitely

This very simple practice of just noticing how my body feels when I breathe in and when I breathe out has been profound for my life.

If you have never tried meditation before I VERY highly encourage it. Just this one thing can make shifts happen for you. I have a few other videos on meditation and there are tons and tons of books on the subject. There are videos on meditation all over the internet. There’s research and study tips and guides and all kinds of information. But to get started you just need to pay attention, focus. Just breath. And then smile.


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