That’s where meditation comes in.
It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that you’ll brush your teeth tomorrow morning. You don’t squander precious mental space evaluating whether or not brushing your teeth is worth the opportunity cost of let’s say, another five minutes of sleep. The same is true for showering, going to the bathroom, grooming your nails and facial hair. We clean our homes with a myriad of dust-sucking devices and chemical concoctions, or hire people to do so more thoroughly than we can. We even make sure to detail the car every so often.
As a people, we seem to be pretty vigilant about physical hygiene. We clean and cream our bodies, and take them our for a walk, much like we do for our dogs. We do so robotically, without wasting time in evaluation. “Should I take out the trash today?” Even if we don’t do it today, you can bet it’ll be done before the week is out. Sadly, the same cannot be said for our mental hygiene. When’s the last time you really cleaned the crevices of your mind?
And in this day and age, boy, do we have dirty minds. Between jobs, responsibilities at home, nights out, baby-talk and toddler tantrums, must-read blogs, email upkeep, spritely posts and timely tweets, we’ve stuffed our minds with more content than it can hold. Our minds run a marathon a minute. We swallow countless videos, movies and whole seasons of television shows with abandon and these stimulating stories stick to our soft and once supple consciousness. It’s a more-more-more world and our mind’s had enough. Simply put, we are mentally obese.
And then we wonder why we can’t still our minds and find some semblance of peace. We read self-help manuals, eat more leafy organic greens and practice various forms of sweat-inducing Yoga. We buy softer clothes, sniff scented candles, wear noise-canceling headphones and track our daily step count. We run away to exotic islands and true stillness evades us even under the palms.
The ubiquitous sentence we’ve all uttered, heard and repeated — “I’m so tired.” We keep going like that poor energizer bunny, but deep inside we feel kind of exhausted. Even the pursuit of higher echelons of fun becomes somewhat tiring by the time you’re thirty-five. And if not by then, by forty-five for sure. “What’s the point?” we start to wonder.
And this is precisely where mediation saved me. Some people meditate with a mantra from a Master, some listen to meditation music, some watch their breath until they can override mental chatter, while others go for a nature walk. Even big shot billionaires meditate with requisite meditation apps on TV these days.
The result is the same — in meditation, we do absolutely nothing for a few moments. We achieve nothing, we stop trying so damn hard. And unlike in sleep, we are restfully awake to witness the passage of time. We are completely present for ourselves — for doing absolutely nothing with ourselves — much like we make sure to be present to watch our children play soccer or perform in a school play.
In meditation we become the witnesser. We become the one who watches patiently as time marches on, moving and twisting as it does. We don’t react or move an inch. We watch our thoughts go by like trains at a busy train-station. We don’t hop on board. Like the statue of Buddha, we learn to embody peace and let go of past and future worries. We are the now. Like rock climbing, scuba diving, skiing, or even learning to read as children — learning to meditate takes some level of dedication and practice.
It’s a skill worth acquiring as soon as humanly possible. Even a momentary brush with wakeful nothingness — doing nothing, being nothing, wanting nothing, all while being there with the Self here and now — is a deep clean steam shower for our mind. It refreshes us considerably and reminds us that there is more to life than chasing more.
Originally published at medium.com