I like to ride my dirtbike as fast as I can. I like to do this because when I’m floating down a fence-line at 150kmh the rest of the world disappears and the only thing on my mind is the 100 meters of dirt in-front of me, the bike between my legs and the flicker of shadows that keep looking like the movements of a kangaroo on a warpath to my front fender. This is a high speed version of what it is like to meditate. It’s commonly referred to as a state of “flow”. You get it when you swing a golf club, bake a tricky cake or do anything else that demands 100% focus. Meditation is a way to get the benefits of “flow” to manifest in your day to day life.
Sometimes I do dumb things. Like sometimes I will kick the ball to the opposition in-front of the members stand, or change out an expensive car part that turns out to not be part of the problem, or get really drunk and make a complete….fool of myself. When this happens I think about it over and over again for days. By Tuesday its like watching a bad movie for the tenth time. It weighs me down to where I can’t sleep and I’m hardly focusing on what’s in front of me, because I’m so lost in the tangle of my thoughts.
I’ve learnt how to fix it. When it happens I sit down, take a deep breath and take notice of what is on my mind. And then I do a “brain dump”. I write in my journal every conceivable thing thats rattling around in my head. From needing to apologise to my coach for not turning up, booking Christmas holidays, putting fuel in my car all the way down to buying new jocks and putting the bins out. Every.single.thing. I spew it out on the page. I immediately feel better.
But if thats all I do, by tomorrow its all back in my head. So I’ve learnt to then take my diary and work my way through the list, putting everything on to-do lists, until every item has been allocated to a day when I can do it or noted in my journal as an interesting thought that I don’t need in my head right now but might be of use later. The key to this system working is constantly checking that diary every morning to keep on top of those things. Instead of being in your head its on the page as a to-do item or dealt with in your journal.
This sets me up better for the meditation part. All meditation is, is sitting down and paying attention to those thoughts as they spring into your mind(Eyes open or closed doesn’t matter though closed seems to be less distracting when starting out). Noticing the “put the bins out” and the “why on earth did I say that” as they come bouncing back around on repeat every 30 seconds. After a brain dump there are normally less of them to deal with.
Instead of focusing on the thoughts I focus on something else. Could be my breath(the popular one), could be the feeling of my watch on my wrist, could be the rhythmic thump of a generator. Best if its constant. I focus on that thing, and for a few fleeting seconds the annoying thoughts go quiet…its just me and the breath. And then they come pouring back in. But because I am sitting down and concentrating, I see them spring up, and I shift my focus back on to my breath again. I do this process again and again for ten to twenty minutes. On the good days the mindful(focused on breath) moments last ten or fifteen seconds before being interupred. On a bad day a few seconds. Everytime I notice thoughts arrising and refocus on the breath, the thoughts melt away along with the stress they bring. Thats a bicep curl for my brain. It gets stronger the more I do it.
Although it might not seem like it, our default setting can be a state of clear headed, emotionally neutral calm. In order to be angry it is necessary to constantly revisit thing that made you angry in your own mind. You must replay the event that causes the anger again and again, keeping the fire burning. Its the same with sadness and anxiety. When you are mindful you can notice this anger inducing thought popping up again for the 50th time in an hour. Simply by doing this, you can stop it.
This applies to pain as well. Say you know you will be getting an injection later today and that the injection will cause you pain. The period of suffering caused by the physical act of the injection will likely be less than 30 seconds. But by dwelling on the thought of the injection all day you can stretch the period of suffering out to hours! Notice these thoughts arising during the day, refocus away from them, and you can reduce the period of suffering back to the mere 30 seconds that it should be.
I find guided meditations the best. You can type in to youtube “Sam Harris Meditation – Short version” for a free and simple one to try. I used that single track for about 6 months over and over again. I would encourage anyone to try it.