Are you too cool for meditation?
There are many reasons why some of us avoid meditating. Some people don’t want another discipline in their lives. Aren’t flossing and going to the gym enough? Others simply do not understand or “believe in” the value of meditation. But a girlfriend of mine gave me some insight into another group of non- meditators when she said, “I know I need meditation. My mind is going around and around all the time. I worry. I have trouble sleeping. I feel stressed from the moment I wake up.”
“So why don’t you learn how?” I asked, since it seemed like a no-brainer.
“I don’t want to be a dork,” she replied.
I laughed until I cried, but I understood. For some of us, meditation comes with a load. When we hear the word meditation, we visualize monks with shaved heads banging tambourines on street corners, or groups of people chanting OM together in large gatherings. Some of us think of the friends we have who, after a few meditation classes, held our hands tightly, staring us in the eyes with a look they may have thought conveyed rapture, but was only scary.
Is it worth keeping your cool, if you are dragged around by your mind?
If you have avoided meditating because of how it looks to other people, I promise you, this concern is keeping you from having a happier life.
“How do you know?” you may ask. I know because we all have one thing in common – we spend most of our days being pounded by our minds. We call this thinking, and have labeled it a good thing, but by and large, it’s not. Much of our thinking is highly overrated – automatic, deceptive, self-destructive and often, out of control. In fact, thinking is our greatest addiction.
Here’s the story. As humans, each of us is the very proud owner of a brain. This brain does wonderful things, many of which keep us alive. Thank you, brain. But that part of the brain we call the mind, produces thoughts the same way the heart pumps blood and the liver and kidneys detoxify. In fact, thoughts are often nothing more than waste product. Now, that’s scary. It is when we stop thinking that we often access our most creative solutions. Einstein knew this. So do most great artists and inventors.
Thinking is far more insidious than you ever imagined. Studies at Stanford University indicate that we produce as many as 150,000 thoughts a day. Before the techno-revolution the number was lower, but now we’re thinking about the lives of everyone on Facebook, as well as our own.
We describe this constant flitting from thought to thought by saying “my mind is wandering.” That makes it sound cute and harmless, but remember, the vast majority of these thoughts are not in our own best interest. This fact was recently illuminated in a New York Times article by John Tierney aptly entitled, “When the Mind Wanders, Happiness Also Strays.” Having spent decades observing my own thoughts, I have reached the conclusion that if I went to a restaurant and a couple were talking to each other the way my mind talks to me, I would get up and leave.
Don´t meditate to be trendy, meditate to be happy.
So if you were to ask me, “why do you meditate?” my answer would be, “because it allows me to recognize that I am thinking, that my thoughts are not the same as reality but only one mind’s interpretation, and that I can choose whether or not to listen to them.”
The result of having this choice has increased my happiness beyond my wildest dreams. How huge is that? You can’t even know until you give yourself the experience. Even if a few people “think” you’re a dork, it’s worth it. Even if you have to explain to your children, your parents or your dog that you are simply quieting the mind and cutting the number of thoughts in a day to, say, 99,000, it’s worth it. That’s a third less than you’re thinking now.
And if, along the way, you manage to become more familiar with the Eternal, hey, that’s great! But for starters, wouldn’t you like a little more happiness?