A new year is here and more so than ever, we are surrounded by Shnoise.
Shnoise- /schnoiz/ noun. 1. shit noise 2. endless chatter that constantly invades our eyes and ears in an attempt to sway us mindlessly one way or another. It does not matter if you are a Libtard or a Trumptard, a person who prefers Coke or a Pepsi. Shnoise attacks all tards (us) equally. It can be hard for us to remember who we are, what we value, what inspires us, and what we want to incorporate into our lives. Sometimes we just need some peace, quiet, and time to think.
Meditation can be a very useful technique to shut out the shnoise and focus on our own core thoughts and emotions. It also has well-documented positive results against anxiety, depression, stress, poor health, memory loss, and much more. Good Stuff
However it can also be very intimidating. Most humans (probably justifiably) don’t instinctively relax when they start hearing a British woman using voice effects telling them to channel their animal aura while wind chimes are inner mixed with sounds of seagulls fighting over crackers at the ocean. To some who had a rough ferry ride on the English Channel, it may even constitute PTSD. If you are on the beach and a British woman comes up to you asking ‘what color your spirit is’, you would more than likely move your towel.
It is understandable and a very common reason why people automatically think meditation is useless or quickly turn away from it after a few encounters. Unlike most humans with jobs (that pay real salaries) I had the absolute pleasure of going to college (for the first time) for an undergraduate acting degree. While this did not give me a plethora of transferable skills (note- It was the best thing ever by the way), it did desensitize me to phrases like ‘inner child’ and ‘breathe with your whole body’. This allowed me to jump in and try these with less awkwardness than a truck driver in Ohio (who may also have a fine arts degree). Regular meditation (several times a week or even multiple times a day if a very challenging time) has helped me as much as any other practice I have incorporated in my life over the last few years. Yes in the beginning they will seem ridiculous, but it does have real value. Even beyond exploration of thoughts and feelings (some of you cringed just reading that.. admit it), in the end it comes down to a simple question. Don’t you deserve 10 minutes a day to just sit and be still. Not to check your phone or watch tv, to just sit and stop. That is all a meditation practice needs to start with. Give yourself that right. We need life time outs.
When are you most at peace now in your life? When does your brain just pop up with a new idea or new way to think about something? Think about anytime you have ever escaped into the bathroom. Taking a shower just to have a break from kids to a little extra reading time (careful hemorrhoid sufferers) just so you didn’t have to come out so soon. That escape (without needing an excuse) is what meditation can give you. The best example I can give for folks who like to remember an indestructible life is cigarette breaks. Workers being able to just leave their desk to go outside and smoke a cigarette was amazing. What were they doing? Nothing. Smoking was accepted as being a thing so that was the answer. Sometimes it was social, but most of the time it was just being outside for 8 minutes staring at the sky and not having to listen to Janet in the next cubicle talking on the phone to her ungrateful son. It was just a life time out. Meditation is that without that pesky cancer and yellow teeth.
To start I suggest just trying any of the free apps on your phone. There are so many and some of them are really well made. Start there and just use trial and error until you find one that seems to work for you. Don’t get frustrated if the first few are not what you are looking for. There is literally so much out there. You can also just do a search on youtube for “guided meditation__________”. Fill in a word that describes what you think you need, ex. relaxation, forgiveness, new beginning, letting go, etc. Again trial and error and before long you will have a few favorites that you can go back to. All of these may probably start with a vibe that may feel too intensely hippie for some. So for anyone who is thinking of trying meditation for the first time, I thought I would help you learn some of the vocabulary and concepts they refer to in most meditations so that it doesn’t feel like the British voice you are hearing is asking you to believe in UFO’s.
The first is the concept of YOUR TRUE SELF or your inner self. Many meditations will refer to this voice you are supposed to hear that will reveal all of life’s mysteries. Which also indirectly implies that if you don’t hear it, you must suck at meditating. So what is this voice?
I did one meditation where the narrator explained it very well. When we were all born, none of our infant (childhood it is already quite apparent unfortunately) brains would attack us. They wouldn’t think or say: “you stink, you are the worst, or nobody likes you.” Any of that type of talk is a learned and conditioned cognitive pattern. That is one of the ego’s many voices(a whole other post). We all have that critical voice and others as well, but we get to choose who gets the microphone. There is a quiet voice deep inside all of our thoughts that knows at our cellular level we are trying to be good, caring, helpful individuals. One that forgives us for making mistakes and for being human. One that knows what gives us joy and how we like to be loved. However that voice is very difficult to amplify, especially with all these judgement-filled loud mouths in our skulls. The hopeful purpose of meditation is that you can learn to quiet the judgement chatter, just enough so that the true self can be heard. Have I ever had it happen? Yes. Often? A dozen times or so over 2 years. How do I know? Because I knew that it was saying the truth (not necessarily what I wanted to hear), it made me feel like myself, and at times it was an Aha moment that gave me the ability to move on.
Checking in with your breath- Now here is a big one. ALLLLLLLLLLL meditations are going to have you focus on your breathing. Now this may seem like the most ridiculous of all things to have to focus on because no one has ever died from forgetting to breathe (in the short term). However this is where your ability to increase your self awareness actually begins. Yes we all know how to breathe, but do you actually realize when you are holding your breath in life? This takes some practice at first, but start really trying to realize when in life you hold your breath.
Ask yourself that question constantly. When I started doing this I realized I was holding my breath all the time. You might be amazed at what you find. Do you hold it when you drive? When a certain name appears on your caller ID, when you eat, during meetings, when you are at a party and others are dancing? Don’t judge any of these moments. Just recognize this. Be very curious about yourself and enjoy learning new information. Instead of “Damn coward, what the hell are you nervous about, just relax!” reaction, try “Wow, I had no idea I was doing that. How long has that been happening? I wonder what that is about.” Here is the chain of clues to look out for. Holding breath——-Sign of Anxiety about something——— Mind uncomfortable———-Causing Tension in the body——–Making it harder to feel like(hear) the TRUE self. The Patterns will start emerging. Remember your job is to recognize not to make it go away.
Giving Yourself Permission to Feel something- This one has to do with judgement. The ultimate goal is to just get a few minutes of piece and quiet from the parts of our brain that fight us. If you can do that and just sit still while focusing on your breathing, certain things are going to start popping around your brain like jiffy pop. This is totally natural. Your brain’s natural job when it has time to relax is to sort through all the information it has been observing, processing, and keeping track of all day. It starts to file away distractions and nonsense so that it can focus on what is important. This is what happens when you sleep. It’s why we dream. Now you are doing this in a state of being awake on the edge of the conscious and sub conscious. After the initial popcorn pattern, it will slow down.
The meditation guide will always remind you to just come back to focusing on your breath. Don’t dwell on any specific thoughts. You will start to relax when your brain begins sorting all the things that don’t matter for the next 10 minutes. The fact you are out of milk, didn’t pay the electrical bill, need to drive someone somewhere. All this will fade out and you will start being aware of different items. More significant items. Maybe you overreacted at someone during your morning commute. Perhaps the feeling when your partner said goodbye that day felt extra heavy or perhaps empty. Maybe the way you were treated by someone else was hurtful and you can still feel it. This is where you need the permission to feel. Give your brain and soul time to explore it, dig through it, and see what is really there. You will hear those ego voices poke through. Telling you to get angry, offer excuses. These are defenses. Or they may go on the offensive and attack you- identify your weaknesses and poke them. None of these are the truth. Keep breathing. Give yourself more permission to dig deeper- to sort through these clouds. To try to hear the message your true self wants to tell you. You will make new discoveries along the way, and when you hit something you will know. How? There will be a release. Like a massage where they work over a tight knot. Breathing will be easier, a certain muscle may feel looser, there may be crying and emotional intensity (not a goal just a possibility). Just keep breathing, releasing, and giving yourself permission. That is where your answers are.
Will you then be fixed? If only it was that easy, but with time you will see an even more important truth. None of us are broken. We are just out of tune. Like an emotional engine on an older car. Certain parts straining to make up for others. We need to take some elements apart, clean out the years of built up gunk, and rebuild them. Meditation is another tool to help you as your own emotional mechanic. Learn to enjoy the process and be proud of yourself for devoting a few minutes each day to whatever your heart, and body know you need to focus on.