We never turn it off.
Our minds, like a humming hard drive, always buzz, buzz, buzzing, jumping from one thought to the next. From a distant memory, to a worry about something that hasn’t happened yet, and might not.
It is our most-important physical asset. Nothing functions without our minds. We are not even ourselves without them.
Our minds are the things we use to experience the world. Writer and speaker Andy Puddicombe said it best during his 2012 TED Talk in London: Our minds are what we need for happiness, contentment, emotional stability. They are what we use to exhibit kindness. We require them for focus, creativity and productivity. And yet, we don’t take any time to take care of them.
We change the oil in our cars. We wash our hair. Brush our teeth. Vacuum the carpet. Mow the lawn.
We spend so much time maintaining things in our lives.
But rarely our most-important asset. We don’t take time for it. And then we get jacked up when shit goes wrong. We experience it as stress, anxiety, fear. We experience it as sadness, anger, depression.
We spend an estimated 47 percent of our waking lives reflecting on the past or thinking about the future. Nearly HALF our short lives, given to times that don’t really exist.
I want to learn how to be present.
I want to learn how to be mindful.
I want to learn how to live in the now.
At work, I sometimes get lazy and don’t shut off my computer each night before I leave. Regularly restarting my computer allows all the necessary security and network updates to load. It allows the machine to take a break and reset so that it’s performing optimally when I need it.
When I fail to restart it, the computer will often bog down. It will have trouble performing too many tasks at once, and I often am forced to restart it just so it will work properly.
Our brains function much like computers. More powerful than any man-made computer. So much to do. So much to control.
Yet, we don’t perform routine maintenance. We don’t let it rest.
Reset Your Mind
Meditation never made sense to me.
You mean, you just… sit there? Doing… nothing?
What a waste of time!
I used to think that very thing. Who has time to do… nothing?
Never mind that I’ve wasted approximately 600 billion hours high, drunk, playing video games, watching movies or television, or doing something else equally unproductive.
Over and over again as I’ve navigated this new life of mine, I’ve read books or blog posts, or listened to podcasts from people I really admire. People who are living life like how I want to be living. And over and over again, I noticed a common theme in so many of these people I respect and admire: They were meditating daily.
It was time for me to try.
Many of you may already know this, but I didn’t: Meditation IS NOT a bunch of Ghandi-looking monks sitting silently by gardens and waterfalls or in temples or little worship huts.
You CAN meditate that way. But that’s not what it is.
There are people in my life who are curious about meditation. Intrigued by the concept when they learned I was going to give it a shot. People not unlike me. People who have been through hard times and are trying to grow into the very best versions of themselves.
What do I tell them when they ask? What IS meditation?
I Found Me
In a quiet little church I’ve driven past hundreds of times on my work commute and never really noticed, I found myself tonight.
I, for the first time, subjected myself to a guided meditation I’d been curious about attending.
I was not struck by lightning. God did not audibly speak to me. And I’m no wiser about what my next major life move should be than before.
But in that quiet little church, I was ME.
I sat in a chair, and with the guidance of the woman leading the class, I was able to achieve a state of relaxation I didn’t know was possible.
I have a body. But I am not my body.
I have emotions. But I am not my emotions.
I have thoughts. But I am more than my thoughts.
And you let every ounce of bullshit in your entire life go.
And you just let yourself… be.
I can’t explain it. I don’t know that I want to try. And I’m sure the experience is different for everyone.
It was truly profound.
But not BIG and LOUD.
More like a whisper.
What is meditation?
It’s peace. And I want more.
I used to toss and turn and fret about finances when I didn’t know where my next paycheck would come from after an unexpected layoff a few years ago.
I used to sleep in a guest room and feel sorry for myself every night while I tried in vain to save a failed marriage.
I used to shake and cry because everything about my life felt broken and wrong.
All I wanted—the ONLY THING I WANTED—in those moments was to just not feel shitty anymore.
I needed all the ugly to go away. I needed to feel peace. I needed to be me again.
My little personal-life comeback tour has caught fire.
I’m making healthier choices.
Walking a higher path.
And seeing the fruits of my self-improvement efforts paying off.
I am—dare I say it?—something very close to happy. In the deepest recesses of my soul. I am close.
In the evenings, when I do the right thing and shut down my computer, my machine performs like a champ.
In my life, when I do the right things, my body gets lighter and stronger, my mind gets sharper and confident, and my spirit feels peaceful and whole.
It wasn’t that long ago: not attractive enough, not smart enough, not rich enough, not strong enough, not tall enough, not good enough.
We cannot change the things that happen to us.
But we can change how we experience them.
Just breathe. In, then out.
I’m tall enough.