If you have been Exploiting October with me you will have now cleaned out some part of your house and your body. It is now time to clear your mind. The method I am using to clear my mind is ten minutes of meditation every morning. Now, before you freak out, meditation is not as scary as it seems. In fact, all you have to do is sit down and do nothing for ten minutes. Having said that, I do still find meditation very difficult and I have practiced it in many different ways for many years. I thought I would tell you a bit about the experiences I have had with it as it may help you to give it a try.
I first tried meditation at university. Well, I guess I tried a lot of things at university, some things stuck and some didn’t. Meditation definitely did not stick. I thought it was kind of ridiculous and I thought all the people at the meditation class were kind of ridiculous. I immediately quit meditation class and went back to being a judgemental little twenty year old who knew everything about everything.
I tried meditation again when I was at the height of my workaholic ways. I was working in management consulting in London, travelling to a different city every week, running three projects and going out all the time. One morning someone handed me a flyer when I left the tube station that said ‘do you need a break?’ with a picture of a lake and a mountain in the background. I thought it was a flyer for a weekend getaway and decided I needed to go there. When I got to the office I read the flyer to find out where the lake was and figure out which EasyJet flight I would take to get there. It turned out the flyer was advertising a meditation course that took place every Tuesday night for six weeks near my office. Despite the fact that I knew I would miss half of the classes due to travel something made me sign up.
This meditation course was almost a worse experience than the one I had been on a decade earlier. I sat there while everyone discussed the deep experiences they had while meditating during the week and wondered if I was on a different planet from everyone else in the room. When I actually bothered to practice meditation it was anything but deep. It was a painful experience of sitting waiting for the timer on my phone to go off while I went through my to do list over and over again in my head. If I momentarily forgot about my to do list I would think, I don’t have time to sit here, why am I wasting my time doing something that is obviously of no use whatsoever. I decided that meditation was a bit like horse riding or playing the flute. Some people were just born to meditate or ride a horse or play the flute and I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t going to waste another minute of my very precious time sitting around with strange people feeling like a failure as I couldn’t get ‘deep’ into my meditation. I quit meditation class and went back to being a judgemental thirty year old who knew everything about everything.
When I arrived in Sydney I decided I wanted to have a more balanced life. I wanted to surf and do yoga and hey, while I was at it, I was going to learn to meditate. I decided that mediation must be like learning to ski…if you don’t get your technique right at the beginning it is very hard to do it well. After some research I signed up to a transcendental meditation course. This course cost quite a lot of money, it was underpinned by all sorts of research and was recommended by Hollywood stars like Hugh Jackman and Cameron Diaz. If I was every going to learn to meditate ‘properly’ then this was surely this was the way to do it. Obviously that is why it had never worked, I had never learned how to do it ‘properly’.
I completed the course. I immediately stopped the twice a day meditation routine they recommend and decided that once in the morning was enough for me. I have meditated pretty regularly since then and found that it is extremely useful in quietening my mind and helping me stay focussed throughout the day. The biggest thing I have gained from meditation is learning that I am not my mind. That took a while for me to understand but I do now see my mind as a tool that can be used or abused as my body is a tool that can be used or abused.
If you are struggling to quieten your mind, give ten minutes of mediation a go. You don’t need to pay for an expensive course there are plenty of applications on your phone that will guide you through a mediation. Headspace is one of my favourite. If in doubt, remember that even sitting still for ten minutes is helping to quieten your mind even though you feel like it is of no use at all and you must be doing something wrong.
Originally published at elwinelliot.com