Why I Started
I didn’t start meditating to find God, improve my health or take a few strokes off my golf game.
I started meditating to escape from pain—mental, emotional and spiritual.
Never mind that I was the one causing all that pain.
In my thirties, if my life was a boat, it had capsized. And I was drowning.
I didn’t know what I wanted, why I was here or where I was going.
I managed to find a way to make myself miserable despite having wealth, privilege and opportunity. I was squandering it all.
I know, cry me a river, right?
Back then I didn’t think I’d live to be 40. I don’t know why, exactly, I just couldn’t see a future beyond that. And I didn’t see a point.
I’d separated from my wife, and I’d moved out of the house where we’d had three kids together.
I’d sit in the garage in a townhouse I’d bought in an old, white wooden rocking chair. I’d smoke and I’d read. Anything to take my mind off the mess I was making of my life.
Steve Jobs died right around this same time. I read his biography and an article about him in Rolling Stone.
By age 24, Steve Jobs’ net worth was $10 million, and by 25 it was $100 million. He had his flaws (don’t we all?), but something about his life was working.
But it wasn’t just Jobs’ material success that fascinated me, it was the fact that he’d made a difference for so many others—put a dent in the universe—and also his single-minded focus and detachment.
There’s a story in his biography about a birthday party his friends threw for him at a fancy hotel in San Francisco. They brought enough gifts to fill a hotel room.
He didn’t take any of those gifts when he went home. He didn’t even look at them. He knew he didn’t need them, and he didn’t want them. So he left them.
Evidently, when Steve was a teenager, he read a book that had inspired him to go to India, and he read it once a year for the rest of his life.
It was the only book downloaded on his iPad when he died, and he arranged for it to be given to everyone who attended his funeral.
“What’s the book?” I wondered, and, “What’s in it?”
I found the book, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, and I read it.
It inspired me to begin a regular meditation practice—something I continue to this day.
And that practice changed my life. Not overnight, but by degrees.
The biggest thing meditation has done for me is to help me see what an asshole I am.
What I mean by that is that it helps me to see, in a way I didn’t before, my judgmental and disempowering thoughts, unkind words and hurtful actions as—or sometimes even before—I think, say or do them.
I get plenty of other benefits, to be sure—my resting heart rate is in the high forties, my (undesirable) stress level is almost zero no matter what’s going on, and I usually fall asleep easily and sleep soundly through the night.
I don’t know if meditation is for everyone. But it’s helped me to live a deeper and richer life than I would otherwise.
And it’s a life where I can see past age 40—and I’m grateful for what I see.
Why It’s Easy for Me to Do Twice a Day (No Matter What)
I meditate twice a day—once upon waking and again right before sleeping—for about 21 minutes each time. I haven’t missed a day in years.
It doesn’t matter if I’m sick, where I am or what time zone I’m in, how early I have to wake up or what’s on my calendar that day.
For me it’s as essential as eating, showering or sleeping.
First, I enjoy it. Those 21 minutes are a blessing that I wouldn’t trade for any other activity.
I didn’t realize how restless I am until I committed to stillness. The peacefulness I feel when I sit in meditation is its own reward.
Second, in virtually every meditation, my unconscious mind gives my conscious mind many gifts. As I observe whatever thoughts and feelings arise without needing to do anything about them, I gain insights that I don’t think would come in any other way. Answers to questions, solutions to problems, clearer priorities and deeper trust in my intuition.
Third, I remember life before I meditated regularly, and I don’t want that life. I don’t want to be that person. It’s with the certainty of a death row escapee that I say, I am never going back. Meditation reinforces the barricades between me and the chaos and uncertainty that used to be my life.
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