Blog #13 – Are You Meditating Yet? / Oh, the Benefits!
May 19, 2017.A Friday.
It’s been over two weeks since I last posted a blog and the reason for that is pollen. May not look like much to the world, but this way too literal take on “love is in the air” isn’t for everyone. And certainly not for me. My nose turns into a faucet, my eyes burn and my mind gets unbelievably foggy. Fascinating stuff!
And a challenge.
A challenge to keep the vision alive, but mostly to not be too hard on yourself when you’re not as able as you want to be.
It’s a frustrating but valuable experience.
And a perfect “excuse” for some mental vacation – or in this case, to discover meditation!
What made me finally check out meditation was this podcast I was listening to with Tim Ferriss, talking to Tony Robbins. Apparently 80 % of the world-class performers that Tim Ferriss have interviewed through out the years practice meditation in some form. From thinkers, to entrepreneurs, to athletes.
And if all these amazing people are doing it, there has to be a good reason. Otherwise, they would have just spent their valuable time doing something else.
So, what are the benefits of meditation? Why spend your time doing “nothing”?
Well, it turns out the benefits are many. In fact, if all the science checks out, they’re just way too many to mention in this little post. But nevertheless, here are the things that I find most interesting (and fascinating!) about meditation:
• It literally changes your brain, by increasing your gray matter and the volume of the brain in areas that are known to have to do with self-control, emotional control, and positive emotions in general
• It makes you more productive by increasing your ability to focus, your attention span, your memory, as well your creative abilities
• It makes you feel more connected to the world, and as you do you become more compassionate. And the sense of connection also makes you feel less lonely
And as if that isn’t enough, the Nobel Prize winning molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn from the TED 2017 conference, said in her talk that meditating makes you age noticeably slower during times of stress than you would have if you didn’t meditate (that talk isn’t posted online yet).
This has to do with the length of the telomeres (the “end caps” of your DNA, like the plastic bits on your shoelaces – according to Elizabeth) not shortening in their normal hastened “stress-pace.” The pace of which our telomeres become shorter is a major factor in our aging. Grey hair, for instance, has significantly shorter telomeres than the original colored ones.
Have I experienced any benefits so far, in my two weeks of meditation?
Although I haven’t experienced the long-term benefits, as the long term hasn’t happened yet, the immediate benefit has been a series of wow-moments related to focus and creativity.
Let me try to explain.
For some reason I have a very visual mind. And the picture/movie-thingy that pops up is that of wild, untamed horses, running on a great field. These are your thoughts. And when you meditate, you sort of corral them.
And get them ready for a race.
This imagery sums up my experience of meditating so far, with three distinct phases almost:
First phase is getting your mind into the meditating mood. And with thoughts like wild horses, running free, you see the challenge: Preparing yourself to do the hard (mental) work of finding them, and keeping them all in order.
Second phase is literally to not think. This is the actual mediating. And every time one of your horses get agitated, that’s a thought that wants your attention. The challenge of this phase is to keep all your horses calm.
And the third phase sort of happens on it’s own, if the second phase went well. The image has now changed from calming the restless, to horses that are focused, all facing the same direction.
Ready to go.
Ready for you to release them.
And as you open your eyes, you let them go. And in that exact moment you just sort of know your next move. And you feel motivated since the “horses” really are ready to go from being held back like that. So you get to it.
I have to say that almost every session so far has been a very motivating experience.
Now I meditate for 12 minutes in the morning, getting my mind focused and efficient for the day. I also do a quick meditation for 7 minutes if I have to switch tasks. And at the end of the day, I do a 20 to 30 minute session to get all the “horses” calm and ready for sleep.
And a final thought:
In the podcast I mentioned earlier Tony Robbins said that he didn’t meditate. That it wasn’t for him. That he has tried it, but couldn’t do it – but that he gets into “that” state of mind when he does an event.
This got me thinking.
Having meditated for a few weeks now, I start to get the hang of it – and to recognize how it feels when you’re doing it right. And that is an experience very similar to playing music, or even Guitar Hero. A sense of being 100 % focused on one single thing. And most importantly: there are no thoughts, because when you think, you’re off beat.
So, can playing music substitute meditation?
Or is meditating actually the same as being “in the zone,” from a benefits point of view?
Food for thought.
Thank you for reading!/Filip
Picture credit (horses): B. Lyata