I'll be the first to admit meditation sounds a little wonky. Whenever I thought about the idea of meditating I always imagined a monk in a temple wearing a robe going “ommm” over and over and over. Or I thought it was for people who basically just lost their minds. I mean, no way in hell was I going to be caught doing it. I really didn't see the point.
And reading Siddhartha sophomore year in high school definitely didn't set me on the path to enlightenment. If anything, I was on a path to wanting to take a nap in class. I was definitely way too young to take it seriously or care to understand what the book was even talking about.
The only person I had read about up until then who practiced meditation was Steve Jobs, and let's be real, he was a little off his rocker sometimes too. I mean, the dude would soak his feet in the toilets in the early days of Apple to relieve stress and think. Sure he didn't really stick with meditation and didn't necessarily use it to become more Zen, but the idea of what its purpose was admittedly intrigued me much more than I thought it would.
I personally turned to meditation while I was seriously burning out at work. Because of the ridiculous transportation problems I ran into on a daily basis, I ended up commuting most days to and from work 2 hours each way. Literally, 4 hours of my day consisted of commuting. Sometimes it was worse.
Oh yea, and on top of that, I was staying late at work and getting up super early to get some exercise in, since I knew I'd be too tired when I got home. I would wake up at 4:45 AM and wouldn't get home until 8:00 PM at best. I pretty much had 15 hour days. The aggravation of not knowing if my train was going to get canceled every day was unbearable. And I'm not a morning person! It killed me. I literally had 30 minutes to myself each night to decompress and start all over again. Oh and also I had pre-hypertension during all of this. At the ripe old age of 26. Yayyy.
So naturally, I started to look for any solution to get me out of this hell hole that was my own mind. I became so desperate, I bought Mindfulness for Beginners, Mindfulness in Plain English and Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. And it's not like I was desperate in the sense it was a desperate choice or something. It's just if you knew me, this is the last thing I would think to do. Usually, you would find me going for a 6-mile run. The complete opposite of sitting still.
Now, I will say, I've read it's pretty common for those who are burnt out to turn to meditation as an escape, but it hardly works. This is because we try to use meditation to escape from reality, and we get impatient when it doesn't immediately work, making everything worse. It becomes a vicious cycle.
That happened to me. Every time I heard someone coming up the stairs I thought they would come in my room, or if someone knocked on my door while I was trying it, I would get pissed off that 1. someone interrupted me, and 2. that meditating didn't work for what felt like the millionth time.
There were some occasions I felt like I benefitted from it, but I pretty much stopped for the last 6 months I was at home because it only made me more impatient in the end. Now that I moved out, I have the peace and quiet to give it a try, usually at night. And now I notice how much more relaxed I am even that same night I meditate and also going into the next day in the morning. Things seem to slow down and I don't get as bothered by the interruptions and daily annoyances that pop up at work.
These books seriously began to get me to think about the idea of meditation and mindfulness and how I can apply it to my own life.
Practicing meditation really made an impression on me this week actually. Hence why I'm writing this post! I'm currently reading Tim Ferriss' Tribe of Mentors. In the book he sent 11 questions he was personally interested in, to 140 people or so that he thought were leaders or top performers in their respective field.
The one thing he found that 90% of the people had in common was they took time out of their hectic schedules to meditate. It could be for only 5 minutes, say in the car or the train, but they all said it set them up for the day. Just some type of mindfulness or meditation practice in the morning or really any time of the day made all the difference for them.
Tim Ferriss believes meditation has a branding problem. Which is really the exact reason why I was so hesitant to even give it a try in the beginning. But, to Tim, “meditation is a simple practice that is about training the mind's control over its emotions.” And when you think about it if you've tried it yourself, that's exactly what it is.
He says he meditates every morning for about 20 minutes.
The most surprising person I found that meditated was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He says a year of Transcendental meditation in the '70s changed his life. After habitually practice for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night, within three weeks he could disconnect his mind and calm down to focus better. He doesn't combine everything that's going on into one huge problem. He takes everything step by step.
So, I figured if even the Terminator practiced meditation, then there's literally no reason why I shouldn't give it another shot. I tend to either practice mindfulness meditation or a guided meditation from a smartphone app. The current app I'm using is Aura.
Here are the top meditation practices I've found people practice:
- Transcendental meditation
- Vipassana Meditation
- Heart Rhythm Meditation (HRM)
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Guided Meditation from a smartphone app
I've tried other apps other than Aura, but I don't feel like paying for any of the other ones at the moment. This one is free if you only use the shorter meditations and wait for a certain amount of time to go by before the next session is available. Sometimes I prefer mindfulness meditation anyways because it doesn't require you to follow an instructor. You just pay attention to your surroundings, your breath and try not to let your mind wander. You don't need an instructor, so it can be really nice and peaceful if you find a quiet spot.
Here is a list of some of the people who use meditation practices to set themselves up for the day with meditation:
- Jeff Weiner – current CEO of LinkedIn
- Arianna Huffington – founder of the Huffington Post
- Ray Dalio – founder of Bridgewater Associates
- Jerry Seinfeld – Seinfield
- Russell Simmons – founder of Def Jam Records
- Oprah – It's Oprah, you know Oprah
- Marc Benioff – founder of Salesforce
And before I go on, here is a list of the top meditation apps you can choose from to download:
- The Mindfulness App
- Relax Melodies (not necessarily a meditation app, but the nature sounds have the same effect; I loved this app before I even burned out and turned to meditation)
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 18 million adults in the United States practice meditation. That's only 8% of the adult population. That means 92% of adults in the United States don't practice some form of meditation. If you want to get ahead of your peers at work, I'd highly suggest giving it a try.
The Harvard Gazette reported a study was conducted where participants practiced meditation for 8 weeks. After those 8 weeks, there were literal structural changes in the amygdala, which is part of the brain associated with processing emotions. Participants who reported a reduction in stress were correlated with a decreased gray matter density in the amygdala, which plays a crucial part in anxiety and stress. There was also increased gray matter in the areas of the brain involved in learning and memory, regulating emotions, sense self and having perspective.
Another article in the Harvard Business Review reports meditation among CEOs is growing in interest to build leadership skills. A few of the reasons is because it has shown to decrease anxiety, regulate your emotions and even boost creativity.
Here is a list of ten more positive impacts you may not have realized meditation can have on your mind and body:
- relieves pain better than morphine
- prevents you from multitasking too often
- reduces the risk of heart diseases and stroke
- affects genes that control stress and immunity
- reduces blood pressure
- reduces the risk of Alzheimer's and premature death
- helps prevent asthma
- Click here to read the rest of the benefits
Meditation is definitely not something I would have thought I would try to make a consistent practice. If you had asked 14-year-old me what he thought of 28-year-old future me trying out meditation, he would've told you I lost my damn mind. It's seriously underrated. Get past the part where you feel weird trying it out and just give it a go. I promise if you stick with it for a few weeks, you'll notice a positive difference. Don't try to do 20 minutes at once. Do only 3 minutes if you want. The point is to just start and see how you feel. You've got nothing to lose!
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