Sunday, June 23, 2013

The worst excuse ever for not meditating

Meet Bob: "I can't meditate. My mind isn't quiet! I have 100,000 thoughts at once all competing for attention. It's like there is a nest of bees in there, buzzing away. Forget it."

Meet Lou: "I can't eat well and be fit and healthy. I'm fat! I am out of shape! I eat like crap! Forget it."

I will assume, if you are reading this blog with any frequency, you can immediately spot Lou's ridiculousness from a mile away. There's a problem: Lou is fat and out of shape. Lou is presented with a way to defeat that problem -- let's say a paleo/ancestral lifestyle -- but rejects it as impossible to achieve because of... the problem. He can't be fit because he isn't fit. The smart people call that circular reasoning.

So... being a Fantastically Helpful And Possibly Even Smart Yourself Amateur Paleo Person, you put on your Fantastically Helpful And Possibly Even Smart Yourself Amateur Paleo Person Hat and say to Lou, "Well, duhhhh, dude, I *know* you are fat and out of shape. *That's* the problem. *That's* what I am trying to help you change." And you either work your way past that, or, else, Louie decides to stay fat, sick and out of shape.

Easy to understand, right? In fact, presumably, Lou's attitude seems so defeatist, ridiculous and obviously silly that, maybe, you are wondering if it's even possible that Lou exists.

I don't know if he does. (This is the theatre of the hypothetical, and Lou is a mere stage prop.) Lou is just here to help me make a point. So we are going to leave Lou, whom you fully understand, waiting over there....

Let's go back to the first guy: what about Bob? (People who know me well know that I have been patiently waiting seven paragraphs to say that, so again....) Yes, what about Bob? Let's see...

Bob is a modern being like the rest of us. Bob has stresses that are simply, like the rest of our stresses, unequalled in human history in terms of their *constant* nature. Everyone since the dawn of time has been worried about putting food on the table and raising their kids, but we modern folk have decided, through the miracle of TV, the Internet, scheduling conflicts with our children's Little League games and a gazillion other distractions, to *add* to all those traditional stresses with, oh, about 75,000 more.

So, really, it's no surprise that Bob is stressed-out with his brain about to explode into 100,000 shrapnel-laden thoughts. Why? Because, unless you are a very rare individual, you have all those thoughts and stresses too.

And, as I have told you so many times that I don't even want to bother providing the links (just search this blog on the word "meditation"), the only way I have figured out to manage stress properly is meditation. If you have another way, go for it, but it's the only game in town as far as I am concerned because it is the only one that doesn't *just* relax you; it actually empties your thought-clogged brain.

So you and the Bob-ster have a little talk. You explain meditation to him, and he gives it a shot.


He doesn't like it. it was "dumb." He couldn't "concentrate." His mind was full of thoughts. He comes back and hits you with that line from the beginning of all this. Bob, it seems, can't meditate and clear his mind of busy thoughts because his mind was too busy.

You begin methodically pounding your head against a wall because it feels so good in comparison to talking to Bob.

Seriously, what the hell, Bob?

Bob is no different than Lou. He has a problem, and when you suggest a solution, he tells you he can't solve his problem because he has ... that same problem. Gahhhhhhhh.... (Sound of frustration).

Yes, Bobs of the world, your heads are full of 100,000 thoughts. Your heads are beehives and the bees are busy.

The big (not-so) secret: we are *all* like that. *That* is the problem.

*That's* why you are sitting down to meditate.

I repeat: *that's* why you are sitting down to meditate.

And I know. This stuff (meditation) is hard work. Really. If you have a physical, metabolic, body-comp, etc. problem, somehow the solution -- and the critical fact that it is going to take some serious freaking work, over a period of time, to achieve it -- is relatively easy to understand. In real life, Lou generally understands that being fat and out of shape is not an excuse for not being fit and in shape. It's the problem. And it is going to take hard work.

But somehow, when the stressed-out contents of your brain are the issue, the whole shebang collapses into circular (and lazy) reasoning.

Put differently, how long do you think it took to build up all that shizz in your brain that is buzzing like an overdriven guitar amplifier?

Yeah, it's been building for a while. Like your whole life, maybe? (And by "maybe," I mean definitely). So fixing it is going to take.... (Here it comes... Wait for it...) ... a while.

I have said this one before too, but it's important, so I will repeat: the first time you sit down to meditate for 15 or 20 minutes, if you are able to get just a few clear seconds of pristine emptiness in your brain, you are a rock star of meditation.

And there are very few of those. (And by "few," I probably mean none.)

You may (will) get none at all. That "problem" may (will) persist for a while. But here is the thing: it always gets better, but there is only one way for that to happen, and that is daily meditation.

And really, while it isn't "easy" in the sense that you actually have to do it, and you can't skip it and expect genius results, isn't that true of everything that is worthwhile?

And, really, otherwise, it is pretty freaking easy. You sit down, shut up and stare at a wall. For 15 minutes. Go wild, and make it 20. Go double-wild and do it twice a day. Ditch your expectations, and your impatience, and just sit the hell down and shut up. Your mind will buzz. You will look at the clock and think, "That was dumb," or "Oh my god, it's been only four minutes so far?!" Just keep doing it. Forget about "success" or "achieving" something. An empty mind is not a state you have reached in a very long time, so, actually, you might not even recognize it if it smacked you upside your buzzing head. Just do it, and things will get quieter, and better. But it takes time. And you won't see it coming, because the harder you try and think about it, the busier your brain will be. So just sit.

I have been doing this for ten-plus years, and you know when it doesn't "work?" When I don't do it. That's when. When I am a lazy ass, and, yeah, sometimes we are all lazy asses. But it took time way back then for it to get going. (And it will for you too.) And it takes time to rekindle it when I get lazy and don't do it for a while.

I once wrote a blog piece that said, essentially, that the way to successfully eat paleo is to make sure you have paleo food accessible. Genius, huh? The way to eat paleo is to.... eat paleo. Guess what? The way to successfully meditate is.... to meditate.

And remember, just like I always tell you that I don't care if you eat paleo because that is your choice -- but don't tell me that you "can't" -- don't tell me that you "can't" meditate because you are stressed out with a busy mind.

That's the problem. Fix it, or don't. Your call. But don't make circular excuses.

Fix your head, Bob.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Truthfully, I still don't get it. Your analogy doesn't work for this reason. If I'm a fat slob, and I eat paleo, I'll get better. It might be hard, it might be really hard, I might not have enough willpower, etc. But if you locked me in a metabolic ward and gave me nothing but paleo food, I'd get healthy.

    What about meditating? If I stare at a wall for 15 min/day, I *can* do it, but will it accomplish anything? Will I get (mentally) healthier? Or will I just be wasting 15 min/day doing an unpleasant activity that gets me nothing.

    It took me years to learn to stop craving sugar and to eat well, but even when I doubted if I could do it, I never doubted the goal itself. The reason I don't meditate is that I doubt that even if I learn to be able to stare at a wall 15 min/day without hating it that I would have actually improved my life. That's what you need to address to convince somebody like me. Because all I ever see is pablum like "meditation teaches we make ourselves miserable with our negative thoughts". I know that already, and have managed to improve that a lot. Will staring at a wall really teach me that, or anything?

    It's about opportunity cost. Do spend 15 min/day doing something unpleasant, I have to expect that it'll pay off adequately. The meditators I've met have not lead me to believe that. I'd *love* to know why I'm wrong, because if it really is a beneficial activity, I'd like to do it.

  2. This is intriguing enough that I will answer you in a post. Stay tuned.