To me, meditation feels like SEO. You read about these simple steps that will bring you a never-ending list of benefits—but when you implement them, there’s no way to tell if you’re doing it right, and you have to wait indefinitely to see the results. Sometimes it seems like it’s not worth the effort, but all the cool people are doing it, (cool=people I respect) and I desperately want those results that all the science is proving.
I’ve tried it using Headspace, I’ve tried using guided meditation audio from Youtube (the kind with the tinkling nature sounds) and all sorts of other ways. It’s frustrating when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, and you’re not even sure where you’re supposed to be going.
Whenever I’ve asked for advice on how to meditate, I usually get an answer like this: “You just do it. That’s how Steve Jobs was able to be so creative. Just sit there for 20 minutes and clear your mind. And don’t stress yourself out over it.” So I can just sit cross-legged on my floor for 20 minutes every night and become the next Steve Jobs?
I appreciate the effort, guys, but I need more detailed instructions.
Finally, something clicked from one of the books I’m reading. The book describes meditation as a way to train your mind to acknowledge stimuli and impulses without responding to them. You feel an itch. You acknowledge the itch, but you don’t scratch it.
It’s the ‘it itches, I must scratch’ reaction that is at the root of most of our suffering. But you can just notice that it itches and not have to do anything about it. You can realize that you are having a conditioned reaction to a sensation. You don’t have to take it personally. You don’t have to react to it.
If you learn once that you don’t have to react that way, you’re free of it. You prove to yourself that you won’t die and you won’t go crazy and parts of your body won’t fall off. You can just be there and be perfectly fine. Then something hurts and you can sit through that. It just becomes interesting. You’re not resisting it anymore. It’s just kind of fascinating how it hurts there and pretty soon it hurts here and then it doesn’t hurt at all.
Eventually, it all beings to quiet down.
I think that’s what freedom is. The freedom that gives you the power and peace and compassion to be the kind of person you want to become. Imagine possessing that.
Maybe everybody else already understood this and I somehow missed the memo. Nevertheless, I’m glad to be on the right track now—and we’ll see what kind of mental traffic increases this gives me.