I’m a sucker for list articles. Especially ones providing tips for fostering personal growth. The more I’ve clicked on these stories, the more I’ve noticed a recurring suggestion: meditation.
I’ve been intrigued by meditation for a while now. I’ve even tried it out a couple of times, always without direction, and I never found success.
In my experiments, I’d sit for a few minutes, attempting to think about one thing explicitly, or nothing at all. The goal varied on the technique I was trying, often something I’d read online or my mom had seen on Oprah’s channel.
And inevitably, I’d go insane. I couldn’t get it right. When my timer went off, I was more tangled than when I started.
The problem was clearly me, not meditation, which is why I decided to sign up for a class. I figured the structure and guidance would give me a chance to get out of my own way. I was right.
For more than a year now, I have been meditating daily. The results have been so positive that I’ve come to view meditation like any foundational health block, such as quality sleep or a nutritious diet. It impacts everything. It makes it a little easier to be me.
Although it helped to find a technique that fit, the difference has come from my commitment to show up consistently and remain open to whatever happens.
Because once you do that, the benefits are boundless. Here are three.
1. Meditation has helped me be myself.
I admit it: I have road rage. Which is uncharacteristic, because when I’m anywhere else, (I like to believe) I’m easy going. It’s not the kind of rage where I confront fellow commuters, but it’s arguably as hazardous.
Every day I navigate two rush hours, and every day I’m faced with offenses that drive me to exasperation: people not letting me merge, people driving below the speed limit, people cutting in at the lip of a freeway exit so they don’t have to wait in line (as if the rest of us want to either).
I sit there seething, banging my steering wheel, as the tension inside simmers. My only recourse is pulling along the offending vehicle to give its driver the turn-and-look treatment (which is never as satisfying as it should be).
But since I’ve started meditating, I’m not pushed beyond my boiling point as easily or as often. Don’t get me wrong—the aforementioned misdeeds are just as unacceptable; I’m just not as affected.
As handy as this composure has been on my commutes, it has also permeated other areas of my life. I still feel impatience, anxiety and fear; they’ve just been dulled to a more manageable level.
It’s as if the daily meditations have doubled as dress rehearsals, allowing me to practice being calm and even-keeled, reminding me that the extra four seconds I have to wait for that guy to go when the light turns green aren’t worth being a jerk about.
For the first time in a long time, I’m more capable of behaving like the person my parents raised me to be.
2. Meditation has given me new perspective.
In the Seinfeld episode “The Pick,” George doesn’t know how to handle a particular situation, so he asks Kramer for advice.
“What does the Little Man inside you say?” Kramer says. “The Little Man knows all.”
“My Little Man’s an idiot,” George replies.
Like Costanza, I struggle with my Little Man—that inner narrator who critiques everything I do, say and think. At different times, he’s instilled fear, shattered confidence and sabotaged attempts I’ve made to move forward.
So naturally, my meditation was ripe for invasion.
When I first started practicing, the Little Man would grade each effort, not just after I was done, but as I was doing it. Going full backseat-meditator on me, he’d judge how well I was connecting with my mantra or impatiently whine, How much longer?
Finally, the teaching kicked in. My class taught me that there’s no such thing as a good or bad meditation session, because each one gives you what you need: Sometimes that’s the chance to learn or process stresses; other times it’s the chance to relax or gain critical insights.
And really, the same can be said of any experience I have. Too often, I’ve gotten hung up on what I could’ve or should’ve done differently, or how I was victimized by an unfortunate fate.
Now, no matter what comes my way, I’m much quicker to accept it. I recognize that whatever happens, for better or worse, is what was supposed to happen. And it’s up to me to acknowledge it, learn from it and trust that it provides the building blocks I need to progress.
With an outlook like that, the Little Man has no retort.
3. Meditation has made me tougher.
My family and King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls aside, my two passions are writing and golf.
As a writer, I often like having written something more than I liked actually writing it. The destination can be more enjoyable than the journey.
Staring at my computer, the screen is as blank as my brain feels. I either have no words and no direction, or a million words I can take in a million directions. The net result is the same.
There’s also that blinking cursor, like a tapping finger, taunting me with its I’m waiting! impatience. It doesn’t matter how many times I fight through this inertia; there’s at least a part of me convinced that this time I’ll be exposed as a fraud.
In golf, every shot you face can be as intimidating as that blank screen. On the first tee, your round is unwritten, and though there are outside forces like wind and water, the story that unfolds is ultimately up to you.
The ball is just sitting there, waiting for you to tell it where to go. And when you give it bad directions, there’s nobody to blame but yourself. Do that enough during a round, and it’s not long before you’re overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy.
Fortunately, meditation has made writing and golf more manageable, even more enjoyable.
I once heard someone describe meditation as a shower for your brain. That’s a good characterization. My daily practice helps cleanse the filth—fear, anxiety and self-doubt—that derails me. This keeps me calmer while also making me tougher and more resilient.
When I can’t think of what to write or when I’ve banana’d my Titleist into somebody’s swimming pool, instead of my mind turning in on itself, I now have the energy and clarity to absorb the hit, put the past in the past and get back into the present.
The results prove it. Since I began meditating, I have lowered my golf handicap by salvaging numerous disaster-destined rounds, and I have been more productive as a writer.
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