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Reconnect, wake up

Waking up isn’t something that happens once

Sorry for the long delay between posts. I’ve been very focused on myself (I’m so selfish!) and have been diligently practicing being present, meditating and making mindful life decisions. Waking up is harder than I thought.

Waking up isn’t a singular event.

In my guided meditation practice (Tara Brach), something that comes up often is the idea that when you brain drifts into thoughts, all you need to do is “come back” and that act is in fact, “waking up.” What’s incredible about that is that it means that the act of waking up isn’t a singular, massive, black and white event.

Waking up isn’t binary.

Waking up is a constant battle. It’s a war that is waged in micro-moments, minute by minute. Day by day.

I journaled recently that “being present is a verb” and that it requires energy and focus. It’s not a natural act. For some it may be easier, but not for me. My natural tendency is to zone out, live in virtual reality, tune the world out and retreat into my own thoughts.

I think I see where I got off track. I had been looking to attain a sort of “god-like” presence, some moment in time when I can proclaim that I am “living in the moment!” And in that fantasy I would leave my present, unhappy existence and enter my dream world. A dream world where I get to sing and dance and skip off into the future a happy, fulfilled human being.

But it’s not like that at all.

Waking up is more like slogging through the Fire Swamp in the Princess Bride. It’s a step by step realization that I am either present or not. Awake or asleep. In control or on auto-pilot.

Waking up and being present is a battle, waged every second of every day – in every big and little moment of our lives.

The Meditation Diaries – Questions Volume 1

QuestionsIn a previous post, I mentioned a bunch of questions I had during my first 30 days of meditating. I had never committed to actually meditating before, and while I’m still new at it, I learned a lot about myself and about the practice and art of meditating.

If you have questions, please let me know your thoughts me at or post them below and let’s talk about them!

Without further adieu, here is Meditation Questions, Volume I

Am I meditating or am I just sitting here talking to myself?

I hadn’t thought much about this until I was listening to Sam Harris on a podcast talk about his early days of meditating. I had never thought about it this way – and started thinking about this a lot. I’m not sure how to answer the question because clearly, some (most?) of my time meditating was spent lost in thought, or sound asleep. As a novice, it’s good to simply remember to keep coming back to focus and to not give up. For me, the answer is both – sometimes I am literally just sitting there talking to myself. Other times, I can say happily that I was deeply meditating

Do I have to sit crosslegged on the ground?

I fought this for a few days and got tons of advice from friends and people on Reddit. Tilt this way or tilt that way, sit on a pillow, sit up straight, use a chair. You name it and I was told to try it. In the end, I made the decision to sit however the hell I want to, close my eyes and focus. That’s it. Simple. Maybe one day I will be ready for some sort of advanced meditation techniques, but for now all that matters is that I actually meditate. So the answer is for me, I sit how I want. That said, I can’t lay down while meditating because that’s called sleeping.

Why does my back hurt so much when I meditate and why can’t I just sit in my comfy chair?

I have no idea, see the question above. Some people are built for sitting cross legged on hard floors with a straight back. I am clearly, not. Yes, sit in your comfy chair, close your eyes and meditate. No points off.

Why is it so hard to stay focused?

You tell me! For me, I can’t stop thinking about the past and the future. I spend so much time living in the past and the future that I am hardly present in my life. It’s hard to stay focused because I’ve managed to not be focused on anything except multi-tasking for years. Thanks to my smartphone, the Internet, Youtube, Netflix and a pile of books, I am a poster boy for distraction. Meditating has helped a little, but even as I write this I’m checking my Twitter and email. What should have taken an hour is taking two because I can’t focus. The more I meditate, the calmer I get and the more I can focus. It’s like doing curls or sit-ups, I need to train my focus muscles.

Do I need incense?

No. Stop it. Same goes for crystals or goofy music.

Can I meditate while exercising?

I’m not entirely sure of the official answer to this one, but I did try to walk on the treadmill one day while staying completely focused on my breath, and then on my arms swinging. It was an interesting experience for sure. Not sure it counted as meditating, but I did 20 minutes of walking this way in any case. I’m going to say yes, you can meditate while exercising, but it’s an intermediate or advanced power move. I’m sticking to sitting for now.

What questions do you have about meditating? Have started the 30 day challenge? Let me know how it’s going by contacting me or leaving a comment below!

The Meditation Diaries: 30 Days Later, Can you #win Meditation?

Constant low-grade panic

This post is all about the last 30+ days, my trials, tribulations, insights and challenges through my experiment in meditation.

As you may have read, I took a self-imposed 30 day meditation challenge in an attempt to find focus, allow myself to hear myself thing and because it has some noted health benefits. As I outlined in my challenge, I gave myself some rules to follow:

  1. I must meditate every day for at least 5 minutes, 10 is better, 20-30 is best
  2. I am allowed to use any guided meditation I want, or none at all. But no music or other sounds.
  3. I must follow the directions of the guided meditation at all times
  4. I must do this for 30 days in a row, if I miss a day, I must start over!

Before I go into detail, let me summarize by saying that I have a completely new outlook on meditation. I had resisted for years because I thought it required special gear, or the ability to sit cross-legged on a hard floor. Or that it was for religious people. Or Monks. I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, and had never bothered to really look into it. I’d have to say, I didn’t think I was going to love it as much as I do. You mileage may vary.

I’ll be publishing a follow up blog to this that starts to answer some of my own common questions about meditating, stuff I didn’t know about before I started, along with some additional insights I gained while talking to people who meditate, and from some articles and papers that have been written.

First and foremost though, I really love it. I love taking a moment, in the middle of my day, or in the morning and literally just shutting it all down in favor of being quiet and breathing. For the pat 30 days or so, I’ve done guided meditations that I’ve downloaded from iTunes. I’ll post the two different podcasts at the bottom of the post. These guided meditation “tours” really helped me a lot in keeping me focused and because they are so well done, often gently reminded me to “come back” to focus when I drifted off into the past, or the future. Or when I fell asleep, which happens frequently. I plan on continuing to meditate daily and have already experienced missing a day and feeling like I was missing something important.

As for the experience, I’d classify myself as a drifter. What I mean by that is even after 30 days of meditating, I can still only really focus for a few minutes without my brain taking me places, back to odd memories, or to my task list for the day. However, within just a few sessions I was starting to see how fast my brain was racing and doing everything but staying focused. I’d be happily focused on the guided meditation and suddenly have a vivid memory of a childhood experience, or start thinking about an upcoming meeting or e-mail I needed to send. Thankfully, the guided meditations always remembered to remind me to come back, to focus on my breath, or on a specific part of my body – my shoulders, arms, legs or fingers.

Apparently, that’s the key – it doesn’t matter much what you focus on, but you have to focus singularly. It’s freaking hard. And can be frustrating. And I fall asleep. A lot. I don’t know why, but the sleep sometimes literally overcomes me in a wave and bam, I’m sleeping just like that. I think that I’ve fallen asleep at least 60% of the time while meditating, usually for just a moment or two.

One of the most important discoveries I made happened about a week or so into the 30 days. I started to focus on my body parts, looking, scanning for tension or any sort of sign of pain. After a few minutes of this deep body discovery, I realized I had what I call a “headband” across the top of my head – a sense of pressure covering my skull. As I focused on it, it would literally go away, I could feel it dissolve as I focused on it and it felt amazing. I can’t explain it exactly, but I am pretty sure it’s important.

Sometimes, while mediating I’d get super itchy and try to focus on the itch. Sometimes the itch would go away, but other times, it would be so frustrating that it would break my ability to focus. So I’d just freaking scratch. And then try to refocus.

“I feel like most of my time meditating was in fact, me realizing that I was in my own virtual world, and then trying to refocus.”

I almost quit after just 3 days because I was in so much physical pain. For the first 3 days, I sat on the floor, legs crossed sitting up straight. After a minute (it may have been 30 seconds), I’d be unable to sit up straight. I figured maybe I needed to do some stomach crunches or somehow get into shape for meditating and googled around a bit to see what I was doing wrong. I didn’t find anything useful to help me and finally talked to some friends about my problem. I found out that it doesn’t matter much if you are on a comfy couch, your favorite chair or hell, lying down in bed. The point is focus, not good posture. That was a huge, massive relief for me for some odd reason. I believe that I’d have quit because of the discomfort, but instead, now I grab my comfy chair, or just sit on the couch and get to it.

So now that the challenge is over, I am really pleased that I did it, and that I stuck with it. There were even days when I did 2 sessions! I felt consistently like I had a burst of energy after a session, and that I was much more focused, and creative in thinking for the few hours following meditating.

I’ve also been able to tap into this ability to “feel” my body at some new level. The “headband” thing was just the beginning, my latest efforts have me focused on my shoulders and letting them “release” tension by just focusing on them. It’s an odd feeling, I feel like Magneto or some superhero – simply focusing on a body part makes it somehow, come alive. Hard to explain, but easy to feel.

I also get this sense of my breath that I never had before. I can feel that I am breathing differently, deeper, somehow fuller on a regular basis. I’ve even been able to self regulate my breathing during stressful times at work which can be super helpful in terms of maintaining my composure in stressful situations.

One misconception I had about meditating was that it was a way to tap into big ideas and that I’d emerge from these session with big, or new ideas about things. But instead, what I emerge with is a sense of calm and a feeling of being centered.

I captured my meditation notes and thoughts on coach.me and wanted to share the full log here with you to get a sense of how I was feeling during the 30 days. Excuse the crappy grammar, spelling and any confusing remarks.

2/10/15 1
2/11/15 2
2/12/15 Accepting sometimes my practice stinks, fell asleep twice and was unable to relax today. Meditation on a commuter train can be hard. 3
2/13/15 4
2/14/15 5
2/15/15 Very short 10 min guided by Sam Harris from his podcast 6
2/16/15 7
2/17/15 Stop falling asleep but love this 8
2/18/15 9
2/19/15 Was doing well until the last 5 min of a 35 guided session when I either fell asleep or got caught in the future 10
2/20/15 Today was ok. Fell asleep shortly while meditating. Guy behind me laughing like a schmuck. Wondered what to do with it and just tried to hear him and let him go. It was annoying. What is he watching anyway? 11
2/21/15 Really good session despite falling asleep for a moment. 12
2/22/15 Short and so sweet. This felt so good. Don’t know what if anything change but, I really enjoyed that session. 13
2/23/15 Hard time staying focused but had a few really good moments today. My breathing is shallow, stressed. 14
2/24/15 10 excellent minutes- was having a really really negative self hating day and was surprised I was able to stay mostly focused on my breath. 15
2/25/15 On the train and really got into it. I opened my eyes and someone I knew was starting at me! I sensed that I was being looked at. Odd. 16
2/26/15 Meditation on a commuter train can’t be ideal. Got smacked in the head today by the arm of a coat. 10 minute Sam Harris guided meditation. 17
2/27/15 Awesome session even though I slept a little bit in the middle part. Feel like this is really making a subtle difference in my daily life. Calmer. Feel like I can step back and look at life with some perspective. Maybe. Let’s see what happens next time something bad happens 🙂 18
2/28/15 19
3/1/15 Literally cannot believe it has been 20 days. Wow. 20
3/2/15 Short and sweet. Too much caffeine. Mind and heart racing. 21
3/3/15 Awesome, almost fell asleep but had a really peaceful, quiet moment and felt some how transported. Was odd and different. Like. 22
3/4/15 Double meditation today. Just did another 10 min and loved it. Focused on a heavy feeling in my head and really felt calm. Odd feeling. Almost fell asleep but didn’t. 23
3/5/15 Sminreally love the Tara brach guided meditations. 20-25 min and themed. Great today on happiness. 24
3/6/15 Wow great until then end of 25 min and I got lost in some thoughts about work. Resized it just as the end of the session bells went off and realized I was half meditating and half nappingz 25
3/7/15 Tried to meditate while jogging today by focusing on my breath and arms moving, was interesting. Followed up with 25m guided and really invited the moment. The more I do this the more I like it. 26
3/8/15 Gentle 10 minutes mid day got me feeling less stressed. Ok, now I am good. 27
3/9/15 Fell asleep a few times. 28
3/10/15 Really good, found space to meditate on the question of my purpose. Something I have been sorely lacking. No real answer other than… I want to make the world a better place. 29
3/11/15 Double shot today 2x meditation and feel good after a very lousy night sleep 30
3/12/15 Woke up at 3:30 am so I knew I was gonna sleep for part of today’s mediation… And I did! About half. The em rest was really pleasant. 31
3/13/15 First time meditating on a flight. Had to do it. Great session all alone in my little world 30k feet up. 32
3/14/15 Guided + 2 minutes of affirmations on my own 33

So mark the challenge as complete! And a new habit is formed…

Do you mediate regularly? For how long? What kind? How do you sit? Leave a comment here, or email me at searchingforsuthin@gmail.com.

Resources

  • Tara Brach has some incredible guided meditations that range from about 20-30 minutes.
  • Sam Harris has a great 9 minute, short meditation, and a longer 25 minute one that are excellent.

Fake it til you make and why even fake Gurus sometimes have wisdom

There has to be a way. I will find a way. The way. My way.

I will find a way to be the person I am destined to become. The true me. I know he is in there somewhere.

I watched a movie recently called Kumaré about a filmmaker who impersonated a fake guru and built a following of real people. The filmmaker Vikram, pretends to be a guru who recruits followers into his entirely made up, fictional world. He invents chants that mean nothing and creates fictional yoga moves. He immerses himself inside the guru and what he comes to know, ironically is himself.

The lesson which after seeing the movie seems so obvious, hit me hard and I lost my breath for a moment. What the film reminded me of was that the answers are already within each of us. Our own path is there for us to discover if we only just listen and believe that it is waiting for us to discover it.

“The answers are already within us” feels like a cliche – but it isn’t. It’s true.”

People are searching for answers in the wrong place. We are numbed by social media, and by the toxic culture we’ve built around us. It’s everywhere and yet, we do nothing about it. We get caught up in “living” and forget to listen to our truth, to our inner voice. How to do that comes soon, but first, let’s start with the basics.

I’ve always been fascinated by how the mind works. If you haven’t seen this experiment before, watch this video now:

Ok… did you see it? Did you see the obvious?

No?

Watch it again. Look closely.

See it yet? It’s right there! If you were like me (and like most people) when I first saw this experiment years ago, you should be stunned. How is it possible to miss something so obvious. It’s the same thing for finding your own answers. You don’t need to be told, because the answers are already inside you. It’s that simple, and that obvious.

That should be a head slapper for you. If it isn’t, think about the video. The very first moment realized what you had missed – how did you feel? For me, it felt ashamed – I mean, the freaking thing is right there – hiding in plain sight! Not even hiding… not even trying to hide!

The mind sees what it wants to see. 

In Kumaré, Vikram (the filmmaker and the guru) quite literally tells everyone around him he is a fake, and yet the telling of that lie fortifies his appearance as a guru. He literally tells people he is not a real guru.

“I fake so much, I forget who I was before.” Vikram Gandhi

Vikram, and his alter ego Sri Kumaré show us this fundamental truth in a way that our egos do not like. I’ve seen comments on blogs about the film that it was cruel for him to make this film. That people aren’t mice and shouldn’t be experimented on. That he fooled his disciples into thinking he was someone he was not. Don’t we all fool each other about who we really are every day?

I still feel like I’m a kid, dressing up in adult clothes doing adult things.

This comment from ragnaROCKER on Reddit gets to the heart of the matter (unedited for grammar, spelling, content):

“I thought he was kind of a dick. I mean i get that he was trying to prove that gurus can be spewing bullshit and people will follow them, but when it got to the parts where people really opened up to him and asked him for advice on important life issues (like the lady with the marriage problems) i think he went to far in maintaining the charade. He should have at least pointed those people to places where they could get help.

Overall i think it was a good idea/ bad in practice kind of thing. You can even see how he is in over his head at the end and scared to reveal. It came across as “hey, these hippy people will believe anything! That’ll be a funny documentry!” But once he(and the audience) come to realize these are real people and not just carictures caught in the 60’s it takes on a meaner tone that i don’t think even vickram was ready for.

I came away thinking, these people are gullible, but kumare is an asshole.”

SPOILER ALERT, THERE IS A GORILLA IN THE VIDEO WALKING AROUND

Once you see the Gorilla in the video (you did watch it didn’t you!), you have glimpsed the first secret: “The mind sees what it wants to see.”

Each of who discover this secret must make a decision. You must decide to start to wake up to the world around you. This is is Neo in “The Matrix” deciding to take the red or the blue pill. It must be a conscious choice or it doesn’t count.

If you were surprised by the gorilla video, ask yourself “what else am I not seeing that is right in front of me?”

Are you in a broken marriage?
Are you unhappy at work?
Are you miserable with your life?

Your brain will lie to you – it will disguise the signal in the noise. You must find a way to turn the volume of the noise down, at least a little, and you need need to be honest with yourself.

Sri Kumaré did not give his followers a choice, there was no blue pill or red pill. Even as he literally told everyone he was a fake his followers simply feel deeper into the trap. Him “saying” he was a fake only served as further proof of his authenticity. Kumaré’s followers were so desperate for answers that they believed what he said, believed what he said because they were looking for answers outside themselves – they needed someone to tell them how to live.

They didn’t see the Gorilla.

When I started this blog I promised myself to never write trite, stupid top 10 lists. There are no shortcuts to waking up and living a fully conscious life. There is however, one thing that I started a few weeks ago in earnest that does seem to be helping me, bit by bit.

I invite you to try it with me now…

Breathe. It doesn’t matter how – through the nose, out the mouth or reverse. How you breathe is not important. Just breathe. Think to yourself, I am breathing as you breathe. You don’t have to say it out loud, just take a breath and think “I”m breathing.”

Breathe in and hold it for a long second or two. And blow it out. And all the while, think “I’m breathing.”

Do it a few times. 

Yes, you, sitting there at your computer or on your phone. No one is watching. You don’t even have to close your eyes. Just breath in, hold it, and breathe out. Slowly.

I just did it to try this for myself. For real. Just now as I was writing this. I’m on a commuter train. No one knew. No one noticed.

Did you do it? Do it. You know you want to.

So here’s what you just did. You just created a tiny crack in the universe. You allowed yourself to stop thinking for just a tiny second. And if you can do it for a second, you can do it for more. And the more you do, the more room you can make to think. And listen. To listen to yourself and to see the obvious. To glimpse the Gorilla. Congratulations

Also, you just meditated. Yea, I know, you don’t meditate. But you just did. That’s it. That’s the basics of meditation. Nothing else needed. No yoga pants or sweaty, smelly rooms fully of people. Congrats, small victories eh?

I need to hear from you, I need to you to share how you feel, and what you think. Tell me  in the comments, or email me at searchingforsumthin@gmail.com. Make up a name if it makes you feel better. Just tell me. I’m here and you are not alone. Thanks for reading.

The Matrix

Wake Up from the Matrix – your entire life depends on it!

Life should not feel dull. In order to live your life wide awake, you need to avoid becoming a zombie. You need to “Wake up from the Matrix.”

A note about this post: This post is the original spark for this blog. I posted it originally to Reddit (it’s been slightly altered and edited based on feedback I got). You can see the original post here. I also guest posted on High Existence where there is yet another slightly different version of the post called Stop Bullshitting Yourself If You Want To Wake Up (From The True Matrix).
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