How to Meditate as a Beginner: A Guide for Gangsters

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Dr Tobias Fox

Human Psychology, Philosophy and Human Potential.

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I’ve had a few messages from people lately asking me about meditation. My guess is that people are interested in what I have to say about it given that they know I’m not a ‘spiritual woo-woo’ person but rather am someone who is just more interested in the practical ramifications of it.

There’s a lot of information out there on this and people will tell you different things about it depending on who you’re talking to, and you can either make meditation really complicated or you can make it really simple.

The people who already do meditation, most probably for the ‘chilled’ kind of benefits that you get from it are all ready converted on the idea and so they’re not the people I would necessarily like to relate to in this post. The kind of people that I would like to relate to are the people who want to become more successful, earn a lot of money or just generally be a cool person.

This is really going to be a beginners practical guide as to how you can get started and will really just be me sharing my opinions on it. I am not going to be going into the neuroscience of meditation too much, although I may do this in a future post.

Let’s get rolling… 

Rolling on skateboard with vans on

What is Meditation?

Meditation is very simply the idea that you spend about 20 minutes a day doing nothing. You don’t think about the future, you don’t think about the past, and instead you just rest you awareness on the present moment.

You don’t need close your eyes and cross your legs, and you don’t need to do anything with your hands. I like to sit down in a chair, and I do it with my eyes open; I feel this is more comfortable for me. Then when I do it, I just rest my awareness on the present moment and just sit there for 20 mins. That’s it. That’s meditation.

BUT, if I ask you not to think, what’s the first thing that is going to happen? You’re probably going to be self-monitoring to see whether or not you end top thinking.

The dialogue might be something like…

‘’Damn it, I’m thinking’’

‘’Now I’m thinking about thinking’’

‘’How do people do this for 20 mins’’

…and this is typically what it’s like when you first start doing meditation.

A better way of approaching this to begin with is, rather than having the goal of ‘don’t think’, you want to shift your awareness to something else.

Some of the things you can shift your awareness to

  • The breath (most common)
  • Sounds
  • Feelings in your body
  • What you can see in front of you

The key is to just pay attention to that one thing and if you do have a thought, you want to just let the thought go. When the thought pops into your mind, rather than analysing it or clasping onto it like a pitbull, you want to just let it breeze by and then bring your awareness back to what you had it on before.

A good way of thinking about it is like the lens of a camera zooming in and out. When you’re thinking about the past or thinking about the future the camera lens is zooming into the body of the camera, and when you are present to the moment the camera lens is zooming out. This is essentially what you are doing with moving your awareness.

If you start doing this for 20 mins a day, you’ll probably find that you have a few seconds or maybe a couple of minutes where you are just very present to the moment. How does it feel? You feel very relaxed, very calm and very clear.

It’s very unlikely that I’m not thinking for the full 20 minutes, I’m not perfect with this. But usually around the 10-15 minute mark I start to become very present and ‘in the zone’, so to speak.

I also like to do it with my eyes open as I find this trains me to become more present in real life where the environment is dynamic and changing.

I also like to set an alarm when I do it so that I’m not wondering how much longer I have. I also like to do it in the evening because I’m more of an evening person as that’s when I tend to be the most awake.

It’s completely up to you to decide how long you want to do it for; there are no rules. I like to do 20 minutes because I find that anything less than that, then I don’t have enough time to fully slip into the right channel of being present, and any longer means that I’m spending huge chunks of my day trying to become more present and that’s just not something I’m interested in doing.

Some people meditate as being part of a subculture do it to work on becoming more ‘spiritually enlightened’. I think that’s cool if you want to do that, but for me, I’m more focused on what the day-to-day practical benefits are that I can get out it. 

What Are Some of the Practical Benefits?

1. It Trains Process Orientation 

Meditation trains your mind to stay in a different zone. When I was in Guatemala, I did a lot of volcano hiking and something noticed is that when I first started climbing the volcano, I would resist it for the first few miles, thinking about how far I’ve gone and how much longer I have left, and then eventually I just get into it and are just focusing on the next stride I’m taking. What I personally found was that by focusing on each stride, it drew my awareness out of the mind and immersed me into what is in front of me. 

Doing meditation regularly, for me, is similar to doing the hikes that I did, where for the first few miles my brain was still caught up in the mode of trying to get to the next outcome, but then after a few miles it broke me down to the point of complete surrender where I just started enjoying the hike itself.

I’ve found that it’s the same thing when building a business. To get to where we want to get to its going to take at least a decade or two, but if I start thinking about how far I have to go still, I’ll drive myself crazy. 

You want to be thinking to an extent as you want to think about what the end goal is, what your plan is to get there and to make small tweaks along the way, but then once you’ve done that you want to come back out of your thinking mind and just stay present to what is in front of you.

Sometimes after work I’m exhausted and I know that I have to work on the business as well as make food and go the gym and I think to myself ‘how am I going to do this?’. But what I’ve found is if I just melt into what is in front of me and just merge into the process and stop thinking about the outcome, I start taking joy in the process itself. 

2. It Trains You to Be More in ‘Proactivity’ Rather than ‘Reactivity’. 

Meditation also teaches you to stop being addicted to stimulation and forces you to break the cycle. Instead of things coming at you (social media, TV, social influences) and you being at the ‘effect’, it forces you to create your own centre of gravity and be at the ‘cause’. It stops you from being the coloured pool ball and forces you to become the white pool ball. You go from being in reactivity to being more in proactivity.

3. It Trains You to Become ‘Outcome-Independent’

Meditation reminds you that no matter how hectic things get in your life, you can return and be at peace inside yourself and so you’re no longer desperate for an outcome as you can be happy either way. Therefore, whether you are having a good experience or a bad experience, it isn’t as relevant anymore.

Some people say they just like being motivated by results, but I would say that that is probably getting identified with stimulation and its not hitting those deeper levels of satisfaction that you can have, and you’re essentially trapping yourself in a less mature paradigm of life.

4. It Induces the ‘Relaxation Response’

Dr Herbert Benson wrote a book called ‘The Relaxation Response’. In the book he talks about the fight or flight mechanism that exists in our bodies and how this is responsible for releasing adrenaline and cortisol when we are under stress. He explains exists because of an evolutionary selection pressure and that inducing this response in the body would have been beneficial if we were running away from a lion in the jungle, as an example. 

In modern day society, the threats that we encounter are vastly different can be anything from stress at work or a from certain types of social scenarios. Consequently, the fight or flight response can be more subtle and can be like a refrigerator hum in the background of our lives that gets mostly unnoticed. This kind of stress is bad stress and is what leads to burn out and can comprise our immune system.

What Dr Benson explains in the book is that meditation induces a relaxation response where it flushes out the body’s build up of adrenaline and cortisol. 

So these are just a few of the practical benefits that I’ve found from doing meditation. If you want to be someone who is effective then you want to be immersed in whatever you do. A lot of smart and successful individuals do this and it really is one of those elite level habits that they have. It’s pretty gangster (not real gangster). 

Try different stuff, see what works for you.

Take the time to learn it.

Look to other sources.

Look to other people who have different opinions than mine.


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