Why I meditate
I feel kinda ambivalent writing about this topic. You see, I love science and technology. So every time I talk to people about meditation I always get this paranoid feeling about what people might think of me. Like I'm some kind of crazy pot-smoking hippie believing in flying unicorns and magic fairies.
Also, I know this way of thinking because I usually think this way myself when someone starts talking about something odd and far-fetched.
What got me started
I was browsing youtube someday and came over a Google Tech Talk video about meditation. "What the ...?" was my fist response, wondering why Google would have a video about meditation.
Well, they must have had a good reason, so I watched it.
The selling point for me was that the guy talking was an American, not some Indian guru talking about spirits and the divine oh-whatever. No, he could describe the concept of meditation in a way that makes sense to me. He visualised mathematics as a fundamental building block for which many other topics builds upon. If you mastered math, you managed a lot of other topics easier. Using that same model, he placed meditation under mathematics as a wider foundation, stretching beyond even more topics. By mediating you could improve your concentration and get better control over your emotions. Both perks important for many things in life, not only mathematics.
After doing some research I was curious. This was something I wanted to try for sure. I bought an audio book with guided meditation. I remember sitting in my living room and closing my eyes and following the instructions coming from my headphones. It was exiting to do something I've never done before, and at the same time a little scary pushing the limits for what I generally considered new age bullshit.
I could feel the difference after just 30 minutes of guided meditation. My body was relaxed and my mind was calm. I wanted to learn more! What long-time benefits do I get if I meditate regularly? How do meditation affect my personality? Do I get superpowers? So many questions.
After some experimenting with guided meditation and some reading on the net, I decided to take a mediation course. I wanted a more solid understanding of meditation and meet people who was interested in meditation too. I didn't wanted this to be a half-assed attempt at trying something new. I wanted to understand this as a science, and not just as something religious or magical that can't be explained by logic.
That's why I'm glad I found Acem, a Norwegian organization started in 1966 offering meditation courses where I live (Bergen, Norway). Some points taken from their webpage:
- Developed by medical doctors and psychologists
- No mysticism, neutral technique
- Taught by non-profit organization
- Guidance by experienced instructors
- Evidence-based meditation
Holy macaroni — it was just what I was looking for! Not only is it evidence-based, but I get to socialize with normal people, even medical doctors and psychologists with years of meditation experience. I attended the next course right away. Since then, I have meditated regularly for the past 2 years. 30 minutes, two times each day (some days, that's not always possible, of course).
The technique goes like this: I sit comfortably (usually in a chair, I don't need to look fancy — that's not the point). Close my eyes (to better focus on myself and not my surroundings). Then I repeat a predefined neutral sound in my head, over and over, as effortlessly as possible. Thoughts and feelings come and go without me trying to manipulate or stop them. If I forget to repeat the sound, I softly come back to the sound without forcing it.
This is an important point to make: meditation does not add anything to your mind or personality. You do not sit and summon spirits to fill your body with magic powers.
Put simply, what it does is to make an environment for your mind to express itself freely. Usually in our daily life we are constantly being bombarded by external impressions and distractions. You don't get much room to focus inward. Stress and other mental problems can build up over time, if it does not get time and space to process. That's why vacations are so damn good for your mood.
But it's not only external distractions that's problematic. You criticize yourself all the time, and have low and high expectations about everything. You see yourself and the world around you through these "filters", when the reality is quite different.
Meditation is kinda like workout. You train your brain. But also, it's like therapy, because you let your mind process thoughts and feelings. You progressively get more aware of your own filters and learn how to adapt.
What keeps me going
I can go on and on about the benefits of meditation (you can do your own research), but that's not the point. It sure was a good motivator for starting meditation. But what got me starting is not what keeps me going today.
As I meditate I get more aware of my own thoughts and feelings. I get to know myself better each time. It's a never ending story, because, as you know; the world keeps changing — and so do we. Meditation (Acem meditation, specifically) change my attitude towards life. The challenges and experiences feels ever so lighter. By gradually accepting myself and the surroundings, slowly, the potential to act and do something about it increases.
I won't get any superpowers. But at least I will get closer to what I really want in life. And that is worth every second I use meditating.