I’ve always had a hard time meditating. I would sit down and attempt, only to spend the allotted time thinking about random things. I would get frustrated and give up because I wasn’t able to focus on my breath, the mantra, or whatever it was that I was “supposed” to be doing. (As you read on, you’ll soon realize that because of this, meditation was exactly what I needed.)
I would find myself always coming up with an excuse as to why I didn’t have time for meditation, and this lack of time was usually because I was simply wasting it doing unnecessary things.
This past summer was a really hard one for me. I was constantly living in my thoughts, and they weren’t being kind. I had a lot of things thrown at me in a short period of time, and with that, came a lot of emotions. I was stressed out, angry, filled with grief, and running on fumes.
After a particularly rough day with a lot of tears (and I mean the snotty-nosed, choking and coughing kind of tears… yeah, not pretty), a friend said to me “Danielle, I really think you should meditate.”
I remember brushing it off, thinking “what’s that going to do? Sitting around isn’t going to solve my problems, I need to be doing something!” but the advice continued to pop up in the back of my mind each day as all of my “doing” was burning me out and I was getting nothing done after all.
Now, if you’re like me and you consume any form of media these days, you have likely seen a lot about meditation, and it’s not just the yogis or monks who are practicing; everyone from athletes to CEOs to celebrities meditate… So, what is there to it then? What is this not-so-secret daily ritual all about, really?
I’m a big fan of Tim Ferriss podcasts, and in his interviews, Tim regularly talks about meditation with his guests. (Note: if you haven’t heard of TF podcasts, here is a description from his podcast site: Each episode, Tim deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas – investing, sports, business, art, etc. – to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. This includes favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.) What I’m trying to get at here is that if these world-class performers meditate AND still do amazing things with their lives, with essentially the same amount of time that I have… what’s my excuse? They clearly can find the time, and many of them even attribute meditation towards their success.
Hm, maybe I should give it a go after all…
For the past few months, I’ve made meditation a part of my morning routine. Nothing gets done until I meditate. I wake up, drink a glass of water, and I sit for at least 10 minutes. And I have to admit, this simple daily act has been life-changing. I used to sign up for 21- or 30-day meditation programs, and I would semi-commit for the duration of the program, only to then stop after it was done. But this time, there’s no program involved… I am committed to ME.
I have stopped living in such a reactive state. I have stopped letting little petty things upset me, especially when they’re out of my control. I have stopped being so hard on myself. Now, I will admit that every day isn’t perfect… there are definitely still times when I get upset (I don’t think you would be human if you didn’t), but they’re getting fewer and far between.
For Christmas this year I received Tim Ferriss’s new book, Tools of Titans, which has even more detail about his most life-altering podcast guests. There is a section in the book called “Mind Training 101” and I’m going to give you a few excerpts from it:
- “More than 80% of the world-class performers I’ve interviewed have some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice. Both can be thought of as ‘cultivating a present-state awareness that helps you to be nonreactive.'”
- “It is a ‘meta-skill’ that improves everything else. You’re starting your day by practicing focus when it doesn’t matter (sitting on a couch for 10 minutes) so that you can focus better later when it does matter (negotiation, conversation with a loved one, max deadlift, mind-melding with a Vulcan, etc.).”
- “Perhaps you’re a world-conquering machine with elite focus, but you might need to CTFO (chill the f*ck out) a few minutes a day before you BTFO (burn the f*ck out). Meditation allows me to step back and gain a ‘witness perspective,’ so that I’m observing my thoughts instead of being tumbled by them. I can step out of the washing machine and calmly look inside it.”
“Whacking trees with a blunt axe is no way to go through life. Try meditating and sharpen your mind.” – Tim Ferriss
So, have you tried it and you spent the majority of the time thinking about your to-do list, things you should/shouldn’t have said or did, or anything else that randomly pops up? Does that mean you “can’t” meditate? No. The real practice of meditation is being able to notice those unnecessary thoughts and then bringing your attention back to where it matters (your breath, your mantra, whatever). If we can practice this while meditating, then we can practice it in our daily lives when it matters (when we’re getting annoyed in the long line-up at the grocery store, when someone is frustrating us, when we can’t concentrate on the task at hand, etc.).
As Tara Brach pointed out on the Tim Ferriss podcast, “the muscle you’re working is bringing your attention back to something.” Most people’s sessions are 99% monkey mind, but it’s the other 1% that matters. One of my favorite meditation teachers, Elena Brower, has said that we should notice the thoughts that keep popping up, as they are there for a reason, but after hearing what they have to say, it’s up to us to choose to bring our awareness back to the present.
Often times, if you find yourself getting frustrated with your meditation practice, it’s likely because you’re setting the standard too high (you think that you’re only “good” at meditating if you have zero thoughts the entire time), or perhaps your sessions are too long. Try scaling your time spent sitting down to something more do-able, and then slowly work your way back up. As TF says, “the goal is not to ‘quiet the mind,’ which will give your brain a hyperactive tantrum; the goal is to observe your thoughts. If you’re replaying some bullshit in your head and notice it, just say ‘thinking, thinking’ to yourself and return to your focus.”
I can’t say enough how grateful I am for finally finding my way to my meditation practice. I believe that all things happen when they’re meant to, and this was my time to finally start. As with anything, you have to be ready and willing before the real change is made.
So just start. Just sit. Don’t worry about being “good” at it… and in fact, I want you to be bad at it when you begin. When we have a lot of thoughts constantly swirling around, when we don’t have time to sit, when we can’t breathe deeply… that is when we need to meditate most.
Practice and patience. Wait and see the magic that will occur.
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Want to check out the Tim Ferriss Tools of Titans book I was referring to? We would so appreciate it if you used this link, which will help us by giving us a small commission of the sale (at no additional cost to you).
Want to check out some guided meditations? Tim Ferriss (and many others) recommend Tara Brach’s meditations, which you can follow along with for free on her website. I personally enjoy Elena Brower’s meditations, and you can download a few sample ones, or purchase her programs.
May you find your solace within ♥