What I’ve Learned about Meditation

It seems like almost high achiever I know finds the time to meditate and lift weights. Those are two fairly different activities which are usually associated with disparate stereotypes, but tons of high achievers do both. Not only do they do both of these things, but they ascribe some of their success to them.

Because of this observation, I’ve tried to meditate several times in my life. I went to a Vipassana retreat and left after two days. For a month I meditated for twenty minutes every night. The habit never seemed to stick, probably because I didn’t know why I was doing it and didn’t see any results.

Then I read a book called the Willpower Instinct. It said that both exercise and meditation increased will power. Further, it said that five minutes of meditation a day was enough, and that it would take two months for it to pay any dividends. Okay, I thought, I’ll meditate every day for five minutes, and not quit for at least three months.

My technique, as outlined by the book, is to close my eyes, focus on my breath, and think “breathe in…. breathe out…”. After a minute or two I stop the silent breathe in, breathe out chant and try to just focus on my breath. I used to find this process very frustrating, because I thought that if I strayed from thinking about my breath, that meant that I wasn’t getting the benefits of meditation. It turns out the opposite is true– meditation is supposed to be difficult, and it’s this very straying and regrouping process that builds willpower.

It’s probably been around four months now, although I’ve missed some days while traveling. Sure enough, somewhere around two months in I started to see benefits. Specifically, I notice when I’m about to follow an impulse to be distracted, and I have a second to try to reign it in. So instead of finding myself frustrated with coding one second, and then browsing Reddit the next, I now get frustrated, realize that I’m about to go to Reddit as a result, and have a second to decide whether that’s something I’m going to do or not. I haven’t eliminated all distraction, but simply being aware of that impulse has greatly reduced the amount times I give in to it.

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My sweet Japan trip is officially over. I think I’ll be in Korea for the day when this posts, then a few days in Vegas, then back to SF!

Sorry to everyone waiting for SETT invites– we’ll be doing a big batch within the next week for sure.

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