This post is the fitting follow up to one about physical exercise. As stated in one of Sam Harris’s theory lessons within his mindfulness app, Waking Up, meditation and the practice of being mindful is exercise for the brain no different than running is for the body. That is not a direct quote, but the point is correct.
I have believed that the practice of mediation could be beneficial for me for several years. It goes back to a professionalism training we hosted at my former employer. In it, the trainer singled me out for a moment and asked if I ever sit and open myself up to what is around me with no distractions. The easy answer was “no”, but I gave some response about occasionally relaxing on my balcony in Sacramento…with a drink and some music and/or a book after a long day at work. She simply smiled at my response and we moved on.
First, how incredibly insightful on her part that she knew nothing more needed to be said. The fact that my response was a list meant that the answer was “no.” She knew, I knew it, and likely the whole room knew it. But what did I do about this possible opportunity? At the time, nothing.
I eventually tried using Amazon Alexa to “play a guided meditation” from time to time. It was never consistent and felt more like an obligation than anything I was benefitting. In fact, this is how I started off my 2020 foray into meditation, with Alexa; it lasted less than 3 months.
Late this summer, I heard about the app Waking Up and decided to try again. The app’s combination of a 28-day starter course, daily meditations thereafter, theory lessons on demand, and recorded conversations around meditation and mindfulness is working for me. I am not at a daily habit, but am typically five of seven days with a few theory lessons sprinkled in. Ten minutes is also my minimum time where with Alexa, I groaned inwardly if a meditation was listed as being seven.
My benefit is a better understanding and control of my thoughts. Through meditation, I have learned to trace a thought back to its origin, and in doing so, I am no longer beholden to the thought or emotion itself. Another benefit is that I am more deliberate and considerate in my responses. I can also better control urges to interject into conversations.
I know there are also people who spend over an hour every day in meditation which is incredible to me. The discipline required by themselves and the people in their life is admirable. It seems to be a luxury that few can have, but ultimately it is a choice. And maybe we would be a better society if everyone practiced for at least ten minutes a day.