Skinny Dipping, Polar Bears, & Debunking Common Myths of Meditation
Updated: Mar 31
DISCLAIMER: Recommendations to find a Yogi, wear Spandex, or claim your membership for Hot Yoga are not part of this story. However we do include skinny dipping, polar bears, oh and one more thing:
...How to finally and easily practice Daily Meditation!
Yes, this is a story about the simple practice of meditation.
But, therein lies the issue…
First: meditation has a HUGE “image” problem. Which we will poke fun at today.
Second: If you're like me, you've probably tried meditation many times before. Actually make that many many times before, with this unfortunate reality:
"I was no good at meditating."
I'd close my eyes waiting for a euphoric experience to kick in, waiting for answers, waiting for something that just never happened...
So, I'd try again. And still, no luck. Meditation for whatever reason just didn't 'take' for me.
I felt no different after. I couldn't get inside the experience.
If anything, laying still, I started to wonder if instead I was turning into a zombie?
So, I took a long pause from meditation, promising one day, to try again. But only if I could find an approach that worked.
I knew eventually I'd have to give it another try. After all, when it comes to the practice of regular meditation, scientific evidence keeps pointing to these hard facts:
Meditation helps improve your sleep.
Meditation provides a greater sense of inner peace.
Meditation reduces stress and anxiety.
Meditation slows and potentially even reverses the aging process.
Now, for those who have never meditated before and think it's just for hippies, new age whatever-you-call-thems, or people who like to grow out their beards and move to remote mountain tops like this guy…
A few questions for you, those who have yet to try meditating:
1. Could you use a better nights sleep?
2. Do you have stress or anxiety in your days you'd like to learn to manage better?
3. Would you benefit in learning how to reduce your stress?
3. How patient are you with life, your family, your friends?
4. Are you good at controlling your emotions?
5. Do you blast out your thoughts and feelings, as soon as they hit you, at the detriment of you and those around you?
There are many reasons to meditate, and yet, most of us fail to do so regularly.
The problem is, we've all heard so much about meditation we think we know the script.
We think meditation goes a little something like this:
Step 1 - Take the classic seated yoga stance with your legs folded and hands in the upward pinched finger position. No idea why we sit like this, but the pros do it, and so should you.
Step 1 alternate - Put your hands in the prayer position and close your eyes. Again, let's try not to question this and just keep going.
Step 2 - Put on a Spandexy outfit. Yes spandexy is a word, if we all start using it enough, that's how new words work. As for the colour of spandex, avoid earthy neutral to not look like a novice. Aim instead for a bright pastel blue or florescent plutonium glow orange.
Step 3 - Now the easy part - close your eyes, and empty your mind....
Step 4 - Still haven't emptied your mind? Go on. Empty it. Make an effort to focus on nothing. Ready set and go... Really concentrate.
Step 5 - Meditation is now underway. Hold for 30 to 45 mins of amazing inner peace. Oh and don't forget to feel the sensations of your toes and all the way up to your head, which is what you're always told to start with. And definitely breath deeply. But make sure not to breath deeply all the time. Just try breathing deeply at the beginning.*
*Note: Actually, breath deeply throughout. Wait...ok well no one really knows how you should breath. So just roll with it.
The funny thing is, most people who try meditation for the first time think meditation actually goes something like above. At least partly.
And if I'm being honest, I too thought many of the steps above were correct.
I've read many of articles on meditation, and watched the youtube videos. I've even listened to many guided meditation session podcasts like the one Sam Harris has on offer called Waking Up, but none of them allowed me to get into the full swing of it, not every day, and not without fail.
The problem I found with many guided meditations was just that - it was guided.
I didn't want a voice interrupting my session. In fact that guided voice brought me out of what might have been, finally, a good to great meditation session.
For me, guided meditation defeated the whole purpose of meditation.
I wanted the ability to meditate on my own.
So my search continued. I still wanted to find an easy way to meditate
While I knew meditation was good for me, I was lacking real knowledge on the area, or at the very least, a simple technique that consistently worked.
Until one day, everything changed.
It was the day I joined the Jokhang Temple and Buddhist monastery in Tibet.
Now after 20 years of training, meditation comes easy...
Ok I'm kidding.
What really happened was I watched a TEDx video by Light Watkins.
Yes, slightly less awe inspiring then my first answer, but that said video removed the many myths of meditation I thought were true.
Most importantly, most amazingly, that video from Light Watkins showed me, and the 400K + of it's viewers, an easy, repeatable way to start and keep their meditations going each day.
Meditation is now finally a part of my daily routine.
Now, not only do I meditate every single day, but my wife does too, which if you know my wife, was no easy feat of achievement.
You see, if you're extremely intelligent like my wife, note bonus points earned here, then you also likely have more thoughts racing through your brain than say the average joe, like me.
And more thoughts, as you probably already know, means more chaos.
And more chaos is even more reason to meditate - daily.
My observation: Ironically though, it seems as if those who need meditation the most have the most difficulty finding it, practicing it, embracing it. My wife, like me, just couldn't find a meditation technique that actually worked.
But now, thanks to Light Watkins, after many years of stop and go meditation attempts, my wife and I are not only meditating daily, we actually both look forward to our sessions each day.
My wife typically meditates at night before going to bed. I meditate in the mornings before going to work, and some days I'll do a double session, in the mornings and at night.
On busy days my meditation sessions are only 10 mins long.
When I have more time, I extend those sessions to 20, 30 or even 45 minutes.
The length of my meditations vary. And that's all okay. The important thing is I'm meditating each day.
Wait...where did this polar bear come from? Which brings us to the last part of today's article.
Now, a few of Light Watkin's key concepts and one big myth revealed, starting with an experiment:
As Light Watkins does in his video, lets do a meditation experiment Together:
1. Close your eyes and for 10 - 15 seconds and try to imagine a white polar bear. You can only imagine a white polar bear and nothing else. And go...
2. How did it go. Did you get distracted?
3. Now close your eyes again and try NOT to imagine a white polar bear. Do this for 10 -15 seconds. Ready and go.
4. How did it go? Did you still see the white polar bear?
Which leads up to an important myth revealed...
Meditation Myth 1: I'm a bad meditator if I can't quiet my mind.
A Harvard study found if you try to focus on anything for 5 -6 seconds your mind will naturally be diverted to another thought. And if you try to suppress that thought you will naturally have more of the thought you didn't want to have.
Therefore not being able to quiet your mind does not mean you are bad at meditation.
It means you are human being, and you have many thoughts racing through your head, like everyone else.
Anxiety and stress comes from the constant insurgence of ideas, problems, issues, schedules, people, priorities, obligations that overloads our emotional and physical wellbeing.
When these many neural networks fire, and the thoughts pour in, some we naturally focus on and magnify. But before we can resolve any particular idea, 5-6 seconds later, a new idea floats in, over top of the last one.
Which stirs up self doubt that we are bad meditators:
We may think we fail during meditation in attempting to quiet and stop this process.
We think we've failed at quieting our mind.
In fact, and surprisingly, believing that you need to "quiet your mind" is the problem and major misconception with modern day meditation.
It turns out the best meditation is all about the process of training your self to simply relax your mind and to "allow ideas to flow in and out" without being pulled into them.
One of the simple goals of meditation is the ability to not focus on any one particular idea, but to allow all ideas to flow.
Light Watkins points out that the Norwegian University of Science and Technology studied something called "Non Directive Meditation," a very old meditation technique. What they found was once we allow our mind to float from one thought to the next, we end up with a very high level of mental and emotional processing.
As concluded in the study within The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Nov 2009: "Nondirective meditation techniques alter theta and alpha EEG patterns significantly more than regular relaxation, in a manner that is perhaps similar to methods based on mindfulness or concentration."
High levels of mental and emotional processing is good.
As Light Watkin puts it, the thoughts you have during meditation are therefore not a problem or hurdle to the meditation, they are actually a symptom of your mind attempting to work through the problems or issues in your life - when you allow your mind to go on auto pilot.
Meditation is a relaxation response. Free flowing ideas is your brain on auto pilot.
Meditation is about allowing our mind to enter into a flow state, one of the most peaceful and awe inspiring states the mind has to offer.
But that awe doesn't have to come from climbing a mountain or watching the most amazing of sunsets, incredibly, it all can come from within, if we're willing to train our minds into action.
Close your eyes one last time. Notice your breathing. In your next meditation session focus on that breathing when you start, and go back to your breathing when you find your mind has wondered.
Breathing is key to the process.
Try to allow thoughts to flow in and then out as quickly as they come.
Expect and understand that it's absolutely 100% natural for your mind to wonder off. It will happen. And when it does go back to your breathing, and allow your thoughts to flow out.
Try this meditation technique for three weeks, yes even on weekdays and weekends, and see what it does for your sense of peace in the morning, or how better rested you are at night.
DAILY MEDITATION HACK :
If you want to try meditation in the morning, try setting your alarm clock for 10 mins earlier than you usually rise, and then once you're awake, hit the 10 min snooze button which will allow you to jump right into meditation without any pre-work or prep. Focus on your breathing taking deep breaths in and out for the full ten minutes. Allow your mind to flow, never concentrating on any one idea. If you get lost in a specific idea, as mentioned go back to your breathing and allow the idea to just go. During this daily session your job is NOT to try to solve any particular problem, other than improving your general sense of well being.
Then watch for the results...
Sometimes it can be difficult for us to see small incremental improvements in our lives.
Therefore, be sure to do this next thing too:
Ask close friends or family if they've noticed anything different about you after the 2 or 3 weeks has passed.
I'll bet they'll have noticed a change.
I'll bet they'll have good things to say.
Oh and on the subject of skinny dipping…Watch the video Light Watkins for the story and more myths of meditation revealed!
Debunking the 5 Most Common Meditation Myths | Light Watkins | TEDxVeniceBeach
Thanks for reading, and for more great stories to help unlock the ultimate you, be sure to visit us at www.the-inspired.com