I need you to completely throw away the perception you have of meditation because it’s highly likely that you’re thinking about it wrong.
Throw out the woo-woo spiritualist who is seeking enlightenment, not because they don’t exist, but because it’s tainting your perception of meditation in a negative way.
You don’t have time for enlightenment. You have a job you need to go to, a partner who you want to share your time with, and even maybe some offspring that need raising.
In fact, forget meditation altogether, let’s talk about mindfulness.
Mindfulness: not as lame as it sounds
Let’s cut straight to it:
Mindfulness is being aware of the world around you as well as the one inside you.
- It’s about observation and awareness.
- It is the ability to concentrate on subtle feelings and thoughts.
- This then helps understand how things are affecting you in different ways.
How this helps you is:
- You become better at responding to the events in life.
- Your increased ability to concentrate on subtle things helps you to be more focused and attentive.
- All this helps you notice the details of everyday life that you normally miss.
You as a system
What is powerful about mental awareness is that when you focus on feelings (such as fear, anger, arousal, etc) you tend to notice something about them. The emotion that feels very real and solid inside you, actually comprises of a few things:
- There is the raw inputs of the event (sounds, sights, etc)
- There is the perception of the event, how you translate it into concepts.
- There is the emotional reaction.
- There is the physical reaction that your body is having to the emotion.
- There is likely a narrative that is being played along to try make sense of it all.
Awareness as a dissolvent
So how does awareness help with this?
Normally we feel like emotions have a very strong grip on us. The event and our reaction are tied together under one concept. We are angry because he is an asshole.
When you start to view yourself as a complex system made up of these different parts, you notice a few things:
- There is a lot of room for ignorance – you could be mistaken how you perceived something, you could be mistaken about the narrative you’re telling yourself. Your emotional reaction could be founded on misconceptions, etc. Since there is sooo much room for things to be incorrect, you can’t be so sure that things are the way you see them to be.
- See things as they are – Rather than directly perceiving the feeling as your chest as the anger itself, you see each part of the system as distinct. The feeling in your chest is tightness, not anger. This helps to weaken their power over you.
- Glimpsing the causal chain-of-events – When you are able to observe the complex system in action, you see the causality between one part and the next. “Oh, I’m angry because I’m jealous.” Understanding this alone helps to free yourself from the anger.
- Everyone is a system like me – when you are aware of the things happening in the outside world, and stop abstracting them behind concepts like “asshole” then you realise how everyone is like yourself, an information system built on ignorance, striving for happiness.
A better way to think of meditation
Now coming back to meditation.
- Meditation is just concentrated mindfulness. It’s a period of the day where you are being more mindful than the rest.
- So yes it’s mindfulness training, but the whole day to greater-or-lesser extents is too.
- Sit-down meditation is a peak in a day of mindfulness.
- So if you think about your day as a graph, this spike at the beginning is a sit-down session of meditation, but ultimately the whole day is to some degree meditation.
HU;IS – Hurry up; I’m skimming(?)
And so the point that I’m running circles around is this:
- Meditation is a way of living life, rather than an activity you do every now and then.
- It’s about awareness of your mind.
- It’s about awareness of the world around you and the causal relationships that govern it.
- This helps you better understand reality and hence make better decisions in it.
- When you adopt this way of living (a very aware one) you become amazed at how you managed to navigate reality effectively before (or whether you even did?)
- You notice how many events, situations, relationships were affected by your inability to understand what is going on within your own mind, let alone the world around you with all the other minds contained in it.