63 straight days of meditation and the false expectations of the art
Andy Puddicombe speaks to me in the mornings and evenings. His voice plays in my head, even as I write this. 63 straight days, 115 sessions and 20 hours of hearing him give me instructions cross-legged in my bedroom is in theory weird. In practice, …!
I had always been an advocate for the practice of meditation. You would think it was my father that started meditating first, passing it down to me as the family’s secret spice. And here’s why!
In my first year meditating, it dramatically helped me with depression. I wrote about it here. It opened the door of my mind to the wonders and the power of the mind. Many days I would lay in bed, launch that meditation app and fall asleep listening to guided meditation. That’s how I learned to sleep within three minutes at will. Soon enough I was this very calm person under pressure. I once heard my driver tell people that my calmness was communicable. In the heat and chaos of the cursed Lagos traffic, my patience would be palpable, I could feel a lot of empathy when people made dumb decisions.
I had done a 30 day meditation challenge that rewired my perspective of a lot of things. Including my sensitivity around people. I was now able to feel people’s energy(no, my screws are still knotted).
I use the app, Headspace for meditation. It’s probably the best app out there for meditation. The fact that I can track my daily streaks probably makes it easier for me to be more committed. It’s that commitment that finally opened my eyes to the misconception of what meditation actually is.
Misconception #1: Meditation will ease your stress
I recently made a life-altering decision. One that changed my entire trajectory. It didn’t leave me without worries and stress. When people would open up to me about some stressful situation in their lives, I would normally just smile and give a non-empathetic comment like ‘awww poor you, you need to know how to meditate’. 50+ days of meditation switched on the lightbulb in my head! It was never the meditation. It was the proper understanding of what meditation is- which is just watching your emotions without judgment! I wish I could describe this realization better! Meditation will not take away the stress. The observation of what your mind is doing when it is stressed is what helps you manage stress. That is the real art of meditating. Sounds like a foolish statement but if you get it you get it!(This is just like when I found out your hunger level is not directly proportional to the time you stayed away from food. When you feel hungry it’s literally a hormone called ghrelin just marking register. Nothing more. But I digress).
Misconception #2: When you meditate your mind is blank
I look at pictures of people who meditate and just envy the peaceful state that I can see- after all, their mind is BLANK and mine is a minefield of detonating explosives(pun intended). Is it possible for you to have a totally blank mind- where you’re not thinking about anything? Technically, that’s bullshit. Technically. Technically!
But hey! The sooner you realize that you can’t quiet your mind, the sooner your mind gets quiet. That’s the real paradox of it all. For most newbies and inconsistent meditators, the time you sit to meditate is the time your mind jumps out of the box making a mess of your internal state. This is a phase called ‘Monkey Mind’. Noticing this mess is in fact productive meditating.
Misconception #3: People and Monks who meditate are saint-like. They never get angry, sad etc.
Have you heard about the Buddhist monks in Myanmar and how they are currently persecuting the Rohingya minority and muslims? It’s one of the saddest happenings of this decade. This says a lot.
The human race is innately wicked and selfish! We all need Jesus!
That firmly said and out of the way, it’s interesting to know that people think that those who mediate have learned to suppress anger, sadness, disappointment, heartbreak. Fun fact: suppressing the negative emotions would make you worse and the potential outburst and backfire is nothing different from pumping a bottle of Coke with mentos.
To properly deal with anger and all those negative emotions, you have to take a constructive approach: discuss it, let it out, go to a confession booth, use the app Whisper(lol. you’re on your own), see a psychiatrist, talk with friends.
The art of meditation is the easiest form of self-mastery, yet the hardest. It’s the simplest way to rewiring your biology yet the most complex. It’s the most straight-forward way to read your mind, yet tricky!
I no longer ask people to get into the habit of meditating. I now tell them to research. Hopefully, someday they would hear a voice like Andy’s saying “Welcome to day …”