Why is everyone meditating all of a sudden?
While travelling through Peru I was determined to get a hair wrap. I wanted to embody my carefree adventure with colourful, impossible-to-remove thread in my hair. It would go perfectly with my new Alpaca wool jumper, I thought.
While in a popular backpacker town called Cusco I came across a guy doing hair wraps in the street. As he picked out the thread to go in my hair we were chatting about this and that. He was Peruvian but from another town and made all his money from doing hair wraps for over eager travellers like me. Somehow we got to talking about meditation.
‘What do you think meditation is?’, he asked me.
My only experience of it at that point in my life was seeing posters of smiling, cross-legged Buddhists with their eyes closed at my local community centre back home. It all seemed a bit weird to me.
‘I think its trying to stop your thoughts’ I told him. ‘What do you think it is?’
And he said: ‘Meditation is everywhere, it’s everything, it’s everyone. I am in meditation now.’
Well safe to say I put him in the weirdo box and left that conversation 10% intrigued but 90% confused.
‘What is meditation and what is the point?!’, I wondered.
I first started meditating 2 years ago. It had little to do with my conversation with the Peruvian nomad - I’d quickly forgotten about that. No, I started because I noticed lots of successful people were doing it. I was reading ‘The Success Principles’ at the time and Jack Canfield reiterated it’s importance.
I’d heard of the Headspace App and loved how cute the animations were and how clearly they explained things. So I signed up for the 10 day free trial.
I sat down for my first session - 10 minutes just me and my brain. Most of that first attempt was spent in la la land. My brain would not stop wandering. I thought about what I’d do if someone walked in while I was meditating. I thought about what I was going to have for dinner. I thought about whether Chuck and Blair would ever finally end up together in Gossip Girl.
I did a lot of thinking!
But I sat down for the second session. And the third. And I thought and thought and thought.
Fast forward to now, and I have been loyally using the headspace app for the last 2 years and sitting down almost daily (I’m still working on my consistency - hey I’m human!) for 20 minutes.
Over this time I’ve no doubt felt the immense benefits from meditation and seen how it’s effects carry through into all aspects of your life. Since my conversation with the Peruvian hair wrap hippie, I’ve developed a new explanation for what meditation is all about.
Lather Rinse Repeat
Have you ever had one of those magical showers? The ones where you step out after 15 minutes having become really clear on what you have to do that day? Or you’ve come up with a solution to a problem you’re having? Or you’ve created a really cool idea?
I have, but they don’t happen often. Just occasionally when I’m in a good mood and not particularly stressed about anything in particular.
This is what happens when you’re away from distractions and you’re focusing on an instinctive task. Your mind has room to get to work on the important stuff, the creative ideas or the problem solving. This is what meditation can do for you.
Breaking the thought cycle
Meditation is taking your mind to a place in your head that doesn't judge and opinions are not required. Thoughts constantly come in and out of your mind, but meditation is when you intentionally refocus your mind on simpler things, such as the breath.
It is an extended period of time where you give your brain a break from the constant reel of thoughts. It interrupts the continual conversation you are having with yourself when one thought leads to another and another. It breaks the cycle and focuses your brain, resulting in a calmer, energising, less stressed and more focused state of mind.
With practise, meditation helps you find a quiet gap in the constant stream of thoughts and opinions you have rattling through your mind. Finding the gap brings a moment of peace and rejuvenation. With fewer thoughts there are fewer opinions or expectations of what’s happening. Less violence or anger. Less confusion or hurt. Less disappointment. Primarily what is there is peace.
And doing this on a regular basis has a broader effect.
The bigger picture
By creating that peaceful state of mind on a daily basis you feel it carry through into other situations. If you struggle with depression it is a break from the sadness you feel. If you have anxiety it is a rest from your worry and fear. If you live a non-stop, hectic lifestyle it is pausing your to-dos and responsibilities. When practised everyday, it reduces overall stress and gives your adrenal glands a break too.
It increases your self awareness and acceptance of the world around you. You will act out of generosity and not out of selfishness. You will accept other people and not try to change them. You will enjoy the process of queueing instead of getting angry about it. Everything softens and things become, just fine. Your overall wellbeing lifts.
The reason so many successful people are doing this is because when you practice regularly, you are left more alert and focused afterwards. You are like the version of you in those magical showers. When given the space to do so, the brain solves problems. Your mind chatter has been interrupted and what’s left is focus, creativity, peace of mind and contentment. The world’s most successful people have learnt the power of a focused mind and channel this extra concentration and creativity into their work and remain calm while doing so.
So my idea initial idea of meditation was very wrong and I now understand what that Peruvian hippie was talking about, albeit it was a pretty abstract description. Thoughts do come in and out of your mind in meditation, and that’s just part of the process.
When you do this for 10-20 minutes on a regular basis, you are overall calmer, more peaceful, and therefore, happier. You are clear minded, creative and focused, and as a result achieving more of what you want. In those 10 minutes you go back to a human-being instead the human-doings we have all become.
As my pal the Dalai Lama says:
‘Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.’
If that hasn’t convinced you enough to give meditation a go or you just want to learn a little more, check out my book review on ‘I Met A Monk’ here.
And if you’re ready to give it a go you can have a look at the Headspace App here. I just did the 10 day free trial for about 6 months before I actually shelled out for the app, so I recommend giving that a go and saving your dollar until you’re convinced.
Good luck and let me know how you get on in the comments below.