Change is odd, isn’t it? I think there’s a biological inconsistency in humans and it really bugs me. We’re almost programmed to crave new experiences aren’t we? For example we like to meet new people, try new food, listen to new music, change jobs and relocate; we need change or else life gets stale and us along with it. However because we’re a deeply flawed species we also sometimes get really fucking scared of change, especially the kind that wrestles control over your life away from you. We hate having to make these leaps of faith because although we like change we only feel comfortable embracing it if it’s safe to do so. If change is thrust upon us we get all confused, enter Peacock mode and find a nice pit of sand to bury our heads under. All of this is bollocks if you’re the type of person who appreciates life’s tendency to disregard stability and I say you’re probably wasting your time reading the ramblings of a man currently sat on the train going to his new life in London trying to make some sense of what’s going on in his mind.
I’ve said to myself for years that I really need to be more in the moment, I always think about what I’m going to be doing in the future, that could be either the week ahead or a year from now. I like to keep things safe, to know exactly where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. I don’t like not having control over what’s going on around me so I craft routines and a life for myself that minimises risk. Recently though I’ve realised that trying to control your life is like trying to handcuff the ocean, you’ll spend so long trying and trying but life can’t be shackled. One day the universe may just throw you a curve ball but because you’ve put all your efforts into trying to keep life safe and comfortable you’re not at all equipped to deal with it or learn from it and that’s when your life becomes stagnant. The universe might even throw an opportunity your way but if you miss it because you’re too busy trying to arrest the Pacific then just imagine what you’ve missed. What mistakes will you not make? Who are the people that you won’t meet? What lessons will you not learn? As scary as change is, imagine what you might experience if you just let the universe do its thing with you. Someone much smarter than me said to me that we start out as a block of stone and everything we do in life chips away at our edifice until eventually we get an opportunity to stand back and look at what statue we’ve created. I don’t want to reach the end knowing I didn’t embrace change because I knew it would make me feel uncomfortable for a while. I’m going to get off this train, have a really good go at my new life and hopefully add some good strikes to my statue.
It seems like there’s a meditation for just about everything: you can meditate to clear your mind and simplify your thoughts, or you can meditate to help yourself drift off to sleep at night if you find yourself restless. If you’re stressed or angry, you can meditate to soften your emotions to prevent an unwanted lash-out. If you want to you can even meditate during sex so you can feel more. Meditations can suit different needs and can be built into your routine in pretty much any way you want, you can meditate daily or weekly or just to stop yourself from putting out an angry Tweet about your ex. From conversations I’ve had though it seems a fair few people think meditation is something they can’t really get into, either because they don’t know how to do it or they lose focus halfway through etc etc; it’s almost as if there’s a meditation club that you can’t be a part of unless you possess the ability to induce yourself into a coma. Yeah sure for the majority of us the chances of being inducted into a Buddhist monastery to spend our days contemplating is pretty remote. Thing is though we don’t need to be pros to enjoy the benefits of meditation. I want to use this scribble to share a few things I’ve learned about meditation and how I use it in my day to day life.
I’ve tried a load of meditations, some guided and some just by myself. I can’t sit cross-legged in the “proper” way and my back is more akin to that of a hunched gamer than a well-postured meditator. I first tried meditating out of pure curiosity for it and I remember sitting in my room with my legs crossed and my back straight thinking ‘is meditation meant to make me feel uncomfortable?’ I’ve heard that if you do meditate in this way, your body eventually gets used to being in that position so I’m not knocking that kind of practice, it just didn’t work for me and it really put me off, that was until I found guided meditations. I downloaded the 10% happier app not long ago and accidentally dropped £89 on a years’ subscription so here I am now with a resource I may as well use. I perused the app and I tried a few sleep-oriented meditations, usually from the same person. I must admit I didn’t take too well to them at first because I usually prefer to sleep with the sound of a fan nearby, not the hushed voice of someone trying to get me to sleep. After a period of doing the same few guided meditations in rotation I started to notice that I was dropping off to sleep quicker than I usually do; more importantly, as I got more and more used to the meditations I noticed my mind was quietening down a lot more. I’ve always had a loud mind especially at night, I’m the type who makes up scenarios and plays back old memories over and over again. I also tend to get more anxious at night, so my mind gets louder and more negative when I turn the lights off. However as I followed these meditations I started to enjoy moments of quiet and those moments are really all we need to drift off. As you can probably tell I’m more of a sleep meditator, but to return to my earlier point you can see now that I found a clear purpose for meditating. When I was sat cross-legged in my room I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing or why, I was just breathing deeply and hoping for enlightenment to come. Now, I know exactly what I’m doing and why and that’s probably the biggest thing to bear in mind as you start to get into meditation: look at what’s out there and think ‘what am I hoping to achieve here?’ If you don’t you won’t have the motivation to focus and you’ll quickly stop trying.
I haven’t exactly branched out yet beyond meditating to help myself get to sleep but something I want to make a point of is how good apps are for helping us get into meditation. As I pointed out earlier, I fumbled my way into a paid subscription to 10% Happier and although it’s costly I would highly recommend paying a subscription fee to either that app or others like it, I’ll drop a list in at the end of this post. The good thing about these apps is that there’s a lot of guided meditations and even talks which tend to be categorised so if something interests you can just look around and try different things to see what you might chime with; I’m going to try morning meditations next because snooze is like opium to my sleepy head, and I found out that they exist just by looking around an app. That being said you can absolutely just go onto YouTube and look up different meditations rather than spending your money, I bet if you can think of a theme there’s probably a meditation for it somewhere on the internet.
Lastly you don’t need to be a pro to get something out of it, there’s many nights where I’ll finish my meditation and I won’t be asleep or even relaxed and that’s fine. Meditation isn’t something you need to get right all the time in order to get something out of it, at the end of the day it’s a way to train your mind and your mind isn’t always co-operative. If you put pressure on yourself to get results you’re not going to be focused on the meditation; one thing I would definitely say is just try to enjoy the moment rather than worrying about whether it’ll work or not. As we get tangled up in day to day busyness our minds can become noisy and congested but the good thing about meditation is that you can learn a few simple mindfulness techniques pretty quickly and even they can help quieten your mind and slow things right down. I think it’s so important to quieten your mind sometimes because in those moments that’s when you get better at sorting the important from the unimportant, like taking a few minutes to appreciate the greenery you never see because you’re too busy looking at social media or taking a second to text your mum back instead of thinking about the things you need to get done. I hope this post makes sense, I didn’t really plan this in any way because I just felt like posting something. I hope it helps anyone looking to get into meditation.
Here’s some of the apps and resources I’ve come across:
-10% Happier (I use this app)