I had this nice intro in my mind of how it took me years to actually get started with meditation and how I struggle to make it a habit in my life. But it would have led me to write a different story so I decided to make this my intro. And to be blunt with a title of 4 Reasons why I was terrified of Meditation why would I need an intro anyway?
1 — Giving up Control
Back in school I was fortunate to learn about a lot of different things. One of my teachers taught us about the Roman Empire. During one of the classes she showed us a map of the Roman Empire and let us think about different ways of how we would invade. After about 10 minutes she asked us to present what we had come up with.
“Through the Alps” was my answer and she prompted me to elaborate on why I would choose this route. In my mind it was so clear why I would go with what was considered an impossible approach. If it was so unthinkable to have anyone invade through the Alps the Roman Empire would not be guarding this entrance point with the same level of effort as others. She seemed pleased with my thought-process and continued to tell us about Hannibal. This was when I discovered I had a strategical brain.
Much later I found out what I would call two different personas to my decision making process. The first one is very logic based and usually in charge, the second one is more heart based and only allowed to make very few decisions. My logical mind, the strategical thinker was terrified of the thought to give up control and let my heart take over. But over the years I was able to gather some experiences that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have my heart take over and make decisions from time to time.
Meditation is one of them because as much as I could have read and learned about it, in the end it’s a decision of switching off your logical brain and let your heart guide you.
2 — A Perfectionists Approach
When I first started working for Salesforce I was asked to build demos our sales team could use in conversations with prospects. It allowed me to use the Platform and all of it’s features. For me it was the same feeling as being a kid in a candy store. One day I was asked to build out a demo integration with Facebook. The integration allowed you to buy a service through a Facebook page and store all the information within Salesforce. It also tracked recommendations on Facebook and would give credit to your account if a someone signed up through your referral.
I could have built out this demo using screenshots and make it easy myself but the perfectionist in me had to build out a working proof of concept. It took much longer than it I expected but it actually worked.
This perfectionist approach works sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t like for a side project of mine. Instead of starting with small pieces and building on it as I go, I tried to grasp the full aspect of that side project in my head first. It was so overwhelming I never actually got started on it. My meditation practice almost had the same fate, I still remember the first few attempts on meditation. “Don’t think of anything, focus on your breath.” ran through my mind when I started out. “In and out” it continued until I had the first thoughts distracting me from my breath. I would fall out of meditation and beat myself up about not being able to concentrate on my breath.
Now I know it’s ok to have thoughts and being able to focus only on your breath for short periods of time takes years of practice.
3 — The Thought of Clouds
Not only did I have to get rid of trying to do the perfect mediation, I also had to learn how to be still. Not being afraid of all the thoughts that would cloud my mind. Having grown up with TV and internet, that was a terrifying thought on it’s own. How am I supposed to be still and not distracted? Whenever I needed to quiet my mind I would just fill it with an episode of my latest TV obsession.
Netflix and chill pretty much described the way I trained myself to fall asleep. Watching TV allowed me not to think about my day, it allowed me not to worry about tomorrow and when I got to tired to follow the storyline I would just doze off. I became so accustomed to this nightly ritual it was hard for me to fall asleep without that kind of distraction.
Without my TV I would lay in bed and thoughts of how the day went came in my mind. Replaying the conversations I had and scenarios of how they could have gone better, what I could have said differently to have more impact. I would create lists in my mind of what I was planning to do tomorrow.
Through meditation I learned to think of my thoughts as if they were clouds. Like a cloud flying by on the horizon a thought might come into my mind but I can choose to follow that thought down the rabbit hole. If I didn’t, the thought would be replaced with something else just as quickly, like clouds coming and going.
4 — What other People Think
Last but not least I’ve always feared what other people might think of me. Sitting on the train with my eyes closed was the perfect way of inviting judgement by others. It’s hard to get to a calm place of concentration if I constantly think about how other people see me. While it might be a source of fuel in some situations it was a distraction while trying to meditate and it made me not meditate a few times.
But in the end I meditate for myself and not other people. I meditate to quiet my mind of thoughts about other people. I meditate to become still and allow my brain to catch up with my heart. Now if I meditate in public, the only thing I’m concerned about is securing my backpack if I have one.
Some things come easier to me than others. I can start reading code and if I find the entry/exit point I can follow it through the different levels. Over time it started to make sense to me, and especially with programming languages like Ruby which are written very verbose, nowadays it seems like a no brainer for me to understand what the developers intention was.
It seems logical to me, the more time I spend on something, the easier it becomes. But the first hurdle I had to overcome with coding is to get started. I still remember while I was coding the Visual Basic flavor of ASP back in the early 2k, it was fairly difficult for me to jump to PHP. In the beginning especially, I’m familiar with what I’ve been doing for the past years and all over sudden I jump into new waters. It’s already hard to not immediately drown but I expected of myself to be as proficient on day 1 as I was writing code in Visual Basic. The first time I tried to make the jump I gave up after the first day, then it took me 2 days and so on until eventually I got proficient enough to just stay with PHP.
When I first started out meditating I got through a few seconds, after a few weeks when I tried it again I made it 5 minutes. It took me months if not years to actually get to a point where I can sit down anywhere and just meditate for a few minutes. That doesn’t that mean I’m not getting interrupted with thoughts anymore and it’ll probably take me the rest of my life to get to a place where I’m closing my eyes and am comfortable not thinking about anything.
I might not ever get to a point where I can sit still for a few minutes without having any thoughts. But I already reap the benefits of being on this journey.
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