Serenity Now, Bitches!

One of the no-brainers about starting to de-stress my life was to start meditation. Shit, now there are like a million studies and research projects showing how people who meditate in the long term are healthier and happier. Their brains actually look different than non-meditators. And polls have shown that the number of Americans who include meditation in their daily routines has jumped dramatically.

I figured, “Cool, it doesn't require my fat ass to get on a treadmill. I'm just exercising my brain, right? I can do this.”

Shit was harder than I thought.

There are a million YouTube videos, books, DVDs, articles, and classes that you can use when trying to learn to meditate. And I started by reading/watching a fuckload of them. And I learned pretty quickly that there's a lot of crap out there. There are also a lot of different kinds of meditation. The other thing I learned pretty quickly is that I needed to put together my OWN style of meditation. So like a Christian and the Bible, I cherry-picked the stuff I wanted to adhere to and ignored the shit I didn't care about.

It took me about a year of fairly regular practice to nail down my own meditation routine. I know, right? I can hear you saying “A fucking year? but I have the attention span of a fruit fly in a farmers' market. No way will I be able to hang with this for a year!” Yeah okay, fair. The only reason I kept at it is that almost immediately, I noticed a difference in myself and my anxiety and anger levels on the days I didn't meditate and the days I did. Days I meditated I didn't want to rip the heads off of every driver in front of me not going at least 10 mph over the speed limit. Seriously, shit worked. 

What a lot of books and videos fail to state is one of the most obvious questions: why meditate? And you'd be surprised how many teachers don't answer that question for beginners. I think when people start meditating, they think that the idea of meditating is to make and keep your mind completely blank and, if they know a little bit more about meditation, they get that they're supposed to concentrate on the breath to keep them focused and centered. When their minds start to immediately wander, they get frustrated and angry at themselves and think “Well fuck this, I guess I'm just bad at meditation.” And then they quit.

But see, letting your mind wander is sort of THE WHOLE POINT OF MEDITATING. Of course your mind will wander! How could it not?! It doesn't make you bad at meditation, it makes you a normal human being. When you take away TV, iPads, phones, and any other distractions, your mind will start zinging all over the damn place. But here is the key:

The key is that when you finally do catch your mind wandering–whether it's 15 seconds or 5 minutes into your wanderings–bring it back to your breath. The other key is to do so without judgement. When you find yourself obsessing, in the middle of your meditation, about how you're going to pay for a new washer, you simply, without recrimination, say in your head “thinking” and return to focusing on your breath. And you'll start thinking about the act of your breath moving in and out again and soon your mind will wander again, and again you say “thinking” and go back to the breaths. But don't kick your own ass over it or anything. You don't need to say “thinking” followed by “goddammit” through gritted teeth. It is what it is. It's imperative that you recognize it without judgement and just move on. 

So why this practice? The idea is to get your inner self to do that bringing-back-to-the-present trick when you're NOT meditating, to do it when you're in real life, to do it when you're dealing with an asshole of a coworker or a kid in the middle of a tantrum. To be able to say “thinking” when you're in a situation is to realize you have a CHOICE as to how you react next to bring you fully into that present moment so that you will act in a way that is advantageous to getting what you want and not just acting out of fury.

Most meditation books tell you that you either need to sit or lie down in a quiet room and to sit still and quietly to best focus on your breaths. Yeah, I don't do that. When I wake up every morning, I go into my home office, which has space on the floor, lay down a pad, and I stretch when I meditate. I have a series of stretches I do when I meditate, still focusing on my breath, still quiet. I ease into the day with stretches and meditation. Some days I do that shit while still in bed. I only stretch/meditate for about 10 minutes. It's not something you need to carve out a huge chunk of time for or anything, and it's a great way to propel you into the day. 

One of the things most important to me about this blog is to use it to illustrate the shit that has worked for me. I am about the most skeptical, cynical, lazy, unmotivated bastard on this planet. I want y'all to understand that if I can do all the things I'm gonna be talking about in this blog, you can too. I am a ball of fury and fear and anger, and for the last several years, those feelings have made me approach life in a way that doesn't please me. Carrying around this shit all of the time is exhausting. It's exhausting to be mad and frustrated with the world and everyone in it. That's not life, that's just passing time til you stroke out. 

So ya know, just try this shit for like a week. Light a candle, put some new agey tinkly music on, burn sage, smoke a fatty–do whatever feels the best for you–but just try sitting for 10 minutes–hell, 5 minutes–and spend time focusing on your breath, in and out, in and out, and everytime you catch your mind jumping like a bean, simply say “thinking” (or really, you can use any trigger word), and bring your shit back to the breath. Yeah, it's hard at first, but it's like any other thing–it gets easier. 

What? You think inner peace is a cakewalk, bitches?