It’s like magic
You get an exponential, aggregate benefit
The physiological effects are so fascinating
My cortisol level dropped, I was easy to lose body fat more easily
It feels like dropping from 200rpm to 150
Like a warm bath for your brain
The effect of training is settling ever more fully into one’s own skin and suffering less there
What are all these quotes referring to?
I’ll give you a hint: it’s a performance-enhancing habit shared by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kobe Bryant, Paul McCartney, Russell Simmons, Howard Stern, and Dwight from “The Office”.
“It” is meditation.
I just got done listening to a Tim Ferriss Radio Hour that focused exclusively on meditation, with some great interviews and quotes with Chase Jarvis (CEO of CreativeLive), Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute) and Arnold Schwarzenegger, all on the topic of meditation.
You can listen along to here, but below are some of favorite quotes from the show, as well as some of my own commentary and experience.
To begin with, Sam Harris describes thinking he was meditating for about a year, even sitting up to 1 hour per day, but really he was just “sitting there thinking.”
“It’s so hard to notice that you’re lost in thought.”
– Sam Harris
“In the beginning, people THINK they’re meditating when they’re just lost in thought.” I’ve found this to be incredibly true, and it’s one of the reasons that guided audio meditation or multi-day meditation retreats are so helpful when you’re starting out with this practice.
Here’s more Sam:
“In the beginning, using a guided meditation can help cut through the chatter in a way that many people can’t do on their own.”
There are a lot of guided meditations for free on the internet, of varying levels of quality. I’ve experimented with the Headspace app, but found the guy’s voice distracting and not soothing.
Regardless of whether your meditation approach is simply mindfulness-based stress-reduction (MBSR) as taught by John Kabat-Zinn of UMASS, Transcendental Meditation (very popular with the Hollywood elite because it is sold for $2,000+) , Vipassana as taught by the Goenka foundation, there are two common threads amongst all the ‘approaches’ I have explored:
- Present moment awareness
Meditation trains you to become more fully aware of what is happening, Here and Now. (That is Presence).
The second part is that you suspend judgment on what is happening (Good and Bad).
Much of our suffering comes from judging and assigning labels. As Sam Harris says in his interview, “We all want to be as happy, fulfilled and free of suffering as we can be…ALL of our suffering is a product of how our minds are in every moment.”
The mind is our Heaven or Hell, and it is entirely up to us. Meditation helps you turn the Hell into Heaven.
“The general effect of meditation training is of settling ever more fully into one’s own skin and suffering less there.” This is why I meditate daily. In the past, when I missed a day, I could tell instantly — the whole quality of my day is affected.
Tim Ferriss and Rainn Wilson agree on this in the podcast — “If I have just 2 minutes out of 20 where the mud settles and I get calm [in my mind], that has an incredible effect on the day.”
Tim and Chase Jarvis explore the scheduling and timing of meditation. Making it part of a morning routine has been most successful for me, and most people I’ve spoken with, but what about adding a second session to your day?
Chase says “I’ll take it whenever I can get it” in regards to afternoon meditation, but in my experience, this doesn’t work — a 2nd session of meditation has to be scheduled and adhered to just as closely as a first session. For me, my 2nd session is the absolute last thing I do before I go to bed — I find it helps clear out the events of the day and prepares me for success the following day.
“I experienced an extended period of calm and ease in decision making.”
– Tim Ferriss
As you get more experienced with meditation and consistent in a daily routine, a meditation retreat can be a huge boost to your practice. Tim also says that a 4-week meditation retreat he went on had a “tremendous effect on me — very similar to my experiences post high-dose hallucinogens”.
What about when you can’t afford to take a 4-week break from life to go on a meditation retreat? You can find meditation retreats as little as 2-3 days. I can attest that the 10-day Vipassana retreat is quite powerful enough — I can’t imagine what a full four weeks would do.
Arnold Schwarzenegger describes how he began meditating during a time in his life when everything was going right. He was preparing for a bodybuilding competition, buying real estate, filming a movie, filming a documentary, and “everything was clustered into one big problem, rather than separating it out into having calm, peace and being happy.”
Arnold says he started meditating and “I saw the effect right away.” He continued to do meditation for about a year:
Even today, I still benefit from that, I don’t merge and bring things together, I don’t see it as one big problem, I take on one challenge at a time. I do one thing at a time.
– Arnold Schwarzenegger
Ah, to do one thing at a time — the Holy Grain of our multi-tasking obsessed Facebook culture.
How much of your life are you missing because you’re not in the present moment?
How much better do you think you could do in life if you had present-moment awareness, non-reactivity, and less judgment of self and others?
What could you accomplish with focus?
Also published on Medium.