Updated: Nov 9, 2020
As a meditator, one of the things I find most difficult isn’t finding the time to do it or struggling to get into the right frame of mind, or even finding a quiet spot, it’s actually getting other people to give it a real try.
Not because I am on some crusade, or that I’m religious, I’m not in a cult, but because meditation has revolutionised who I am and all I want is to be able to show and teach others to do the same.
The more I study and practice meditation the more I understand it’s power, how it can help anyone to become happier, more confident, healthier, well-balanced, kinder, more generous, more empathetic, the list goes on. It has led me into studying neuroscience and psychology in my spare time so I can better understand how the brain works, why it does the things it does and with that knowledge, I can become a better meditation teacher.
So as part of my goal to inspire others and hopefully be able to teach more people to meditate both for my income and as part of a life goal (as why can’t I have both!?) I am going to tell you how meditation changed me from a directionless, unconfident, unsure, self-doubting and unmotivated teenager and young man, into a confident, kind, generous, caring and purposeful nearly 40-year-old.
The first change I noticed was my maturity. Until I started meditating in my early thirties I had always felt like an imposter, a teenage boy inside a man’s body. No matter the situation, in my mind I was still a 15-year-old boy, trapped in some Freaky Friday life. I believed everyone saw me as I saw myself, as a teenager. Looking back it sounds bizarre but I genuinely felt like when someone looked at me that they saw 15-year old me. Not the 25+ year old I was.
This meant I felt I could never stand up for myself, I never felt like I was talking to peers, I was talking to adults and they were talking down to this child who had no right to be there. This belief massively damaged my self-confidence, contributed to my depression and negatively affected all my relationships both personal and professional.
Meditation taught me how to grow up, to recognise what I saw in the mirror as who I was, not as an imposter but as a thirty-year-old, with a lot of life experience, a sharp mind (when applied) a good team player, tall and worthy of respect. I cannot tell you what a difference this made and it was the first step to all the other positive changes I am going to tell you about.
This new level of maturity brought on personal responsibility. Before, when challenged or called out I would be very defensive, try to deflect the topic or situation or try to flip it back on the person. Now, I can accept my responsibility to a situation, admit when I am wrong or have made a mistake. I can ignore my ego and accept I am not perfect and I learn from the experience rather than argue it away and dismiss the other point of view. This is still something I am working on, these things take time, but just being aware of it is a huge step forwards and it benefits my life in all aspects to be able to look inwards and own the results of your actions. It leads to less feelings of guilt, anger, resentment and stress which can only be a good thing.
It sounds very cliched, but another benefit is that it opened my mind. Not to another dimension or a higher plane, but to new ideas, complex concepts, seeing the bigger picture and an ability to see things from outside my own perspective.
This has many benefits, I can have more meaningful conversations and see situations from many different angles and consider them all, rather than doggedly sticking to my version of events/opinion, no matter the consequence or evidence to the contrary. I am more empathetic and kinder to those around me, I read body language better and can see peoples reactions to things. Previously I would have needed them to tell me something was wrong before I knew anything was up.
This makes me so much better in conversation with everyone, be they work colleagues, friends or partners. This makes me more likeable/relatable to them and that increases my confidence and self-esteem, so it's a win for everyone.
I am in more control of my thoughts and emotions (excepting for extreme situations). I can now choose which thoughts, feelings or emotions I want to engage with, I am no longer a passenger along for the ride getting swept up in whatever is going on in my mind. I can recognise feelings building within me and actively decide if I want to engage with them or not.
Meditation has taught me to see emotions and thoughts coming from far away, giving me time to choose my response with my logical mind, and not have to ‘react’ and get caught up in a negative mood or thought path. This has made me a calmer and more tolerant person.
I now rarely get angry or upset, in disagreements I discuss things calmly for longer. I can still get upset and angry, but it’s on my terms, I don’t get carried away and lost in the emotion.
I still have the emotions and there are times when I do ‘let’ myself get upset, some moments do call for it and sometimes I want to experience the feelings, but again, it is all on my terms, when I am ready I can choose to move away from them again and return to a happy, stable equilibrium.
I have never really been a materialistic person, I have little if any desire for ‘stuff’, I like nice cars and I am partial to the odd gadget here and there but I prefer memories and adventure over fancy things in the house.
Meditation has extended that feeling to being able to more appreciate what I have already, to enjoy the world around me and not care about ‘keeping up with the Jones’.
I learned that getting more things only leads to wanting more things, and there is no happiness or satisfaction down that road. Meditation taught me to accept what I have and realise I do not need ‘more’ to be happy, I only need the things that really matter - food, shelter, friends, family and my health. (World peace and an end to poverty would also be nice, but one step at a time)
One of the things I wanted to change about myself when I started to meditate was my overall health, both mental and physical. Whilst I wasn’t terribly unhealthy, I was overweight and my diet was pretty stagnant and missing several key things the body needs to be healthy (too much sugar, processed food and alcohol and not enough fruit and vegetables were the main culprits).
Meditation didn’t magically change me into a healthy person, but it helped me with willpower, and conviction in my desire to change, taught me not to beat myself up when I went wrong and ultimately made me more aware of my body and how what I put in it directly affects the way it runs.
Better building blocks equals a better body. I am more aware of my cravings and am learning to recognise what my body is asking for. I understand that whilst my body will function on fast food, it will not be efficient or healthy.
A cake made with salt instead of sugar will look like a cake but inside it won’t be as it should be, my body is the same. If I eat nothing but processed food and alcohol my body will do it’s best and function as best it can but it won’t be as efficient and it won’t be as healthy as it could be if I gave it the ingredients it wants and needs. This awareness makes me want to eat better so making food from scratch is not a chore, it’s just become how I eat.
There have been many studies that show how people who meditate become more generous and I am no different. Before starting this journey I was a pretty selfish person, I rarely thought about others first and was stuck in my own little ‘bubble’ where my own agenda was a priority.
Yet I was rarely, if ever, truly happy and when I was, it was short-lived. Since meditating I have almost completely switched to a point where I will put most people’s happiness before my own. I have discovered that this brings me a great deal of satisfaction as the people close to me are, as a consequence, much happier, which makes me much happier. It is a circle that doesn’t stop. Because I am more generous, those I am generous too are more generous and it spreads out like a ripple into the community. I am more accepting of others around me which makes them more accepting of me. I used to think that if people didn’t like me then that’s their issue, or that they were just wrong or rude, or just didn’t get me.
I have learned that whilst it is unrealistic that I would be able to get along with everyone I ever met, a big part of my likeability was being buried behind the façade I put up due to my lack of self-esteem and maturity. With those walls now demolished I am just myself around other people, calmer, happier, less judgemental, more accommodating, more helpful. Unsurprisingly I make friends much easier now!
Going back to the start of this blog, I stated that the one thing I find most frustrating about meditation is people's reluctance to try it, many people will listen and state how interesting it is, how they think they should do it etc, but they rarely follow through. Just like I used to do, I’d start something and a week later I’d forget it, or feel it hadn’t worked so I gave up.
Because I have now studied and practised meditation for several years I understand and feel the benefits every day (and because I am now more generous with my time) I want everyone else to get in on it as well. Knowing how much better people's lives could be, how much nicer workplaces could be, how much easier and kinder peoples relationships could be, how much more accepting everyone could be of everyone else.
Extend that throughout the world and you realise how quickly the vulnerable could be helped if people let go of the desire for stuff and wealth and directed their energies to help those around them rather than themselves.
Can you imagine a world where everyone, and I do mean everyone, got a pleasurable feeling from helping another person? How quickly poverty and inequality would be eradicated? It doesn’t need trillions of dollars and a massive political upheaval, it needs every child to be taught how to meditate, why it is so beneficial and understand that it is people we need in our lives, not things. If that were to happen we’d have the potential to wipe out war and poverty in one generation.
It sounds very fanciful I know, very idyllic and off in fantasy land, but the thing is - it isn’t. The difficulty is that people struggle to believe it is possible until they become meditators themselves. I can promise you I was one of those people, I’d have laughed if someone had told me 5 years ago that meditation could literally change the world, now I get sad that I cannot seem to convince others that it can! The irony is not lost on me I assure you.
Like any skill, meditation isn’t something that you just ‘do’, you need practice and commitment to get going. If you have never run more than 20 meters for the bus, you wouldn’t decide to run a marathon and the next day go and run 26 miles, you’d start off with a small jog around the block, build up the distance over time, learn where your weaknesses are, how to fuel your body correctly and with time and effort you will run a marathon.
Meditation is no different, expecting to sit down with no experience and meditate for twenty minutes and for your mind to know what to do, what it’s supposed to do and feel good at the end is unrealistic.
You need to learn what is happening in your mind, why it is happening and what you need to do about it, then, with practice, it will start to come together, you can build up your ability to meditate longer and the benefits will start to show.
It is possible to teach yourself to meditate, you can read books, watch YouTube videos etc but it’s not easy. With no interaction between you and the source you cannot ask questions, or to clarify something, you can struggle to concentrate or get distracted, you can listen to guided meditations but the true power is being able to do it yourself and guided meditations do not teach you that.
Like running, most people find it easier to get going and motivate themselves if they run with others, meditation is the same and there have been studies that show that meditation in groups is more effective than alone. This is why I advocate and provide lessons for people wanting to start, re-start or advance their meditation practice.
So, what happens in a lesson with me? Well, I do two types, 1-2-1 or group lessons. Let’s start with groups.
In group lessons, I will teach you what meditation is, how it works, what to expect whilst you are meditating, how to incorporate it into your daily routine, what to look out for and common misconceptions. There is plenty of practical practice during the lessons for you to gain experience of meditation before going home to try it yourself.
Each week I’ll cover a different element of meditation and explain the different styles (yes, there are several styles and we try them to find what you like best). I am on hand to provide support, guidance and encouragement through the course.
1-2-1 lessons differ from the group lessons because I can tailor the lesson to you. Most people come to meditation for a reason. It might be stress, anxiety, bereavement, anger issues, depression, a break-up, or it might be that you have heard great things, tried it and failed and want to get going again.
The advantage of a 1-2-1 lesson is that we discuss what brought you to meditation in detail and what you want to achieve and I will teach you how and why meditation can help you. Because if you understand what is going on, it is much more likely to work.
If someone just tells you that something happens, it takes a leap of faith to actually believe it. If someone explains to you what is happening, why it is happening and what to expect then it will come much faster and easier than trying to guess. This is the advantage of having lessons. The guesswork is taken out of it and you can progress at a much faster pace.
If you are ready to give meditation a try then please email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your lesson or to join a course. Group lessons are around £40 for a 5-week course, one hour a week (price may vary depending on venue hire fees) 1-2-1 lessons are £20. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me and I’ll help any way I can.