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Could I convince you to meditate with a single sentence?

Post image for Could I convince you to meditate with a single sentence?

I think maybe!

I am a fan of the information-age truism called Bettridge’s Law of Headlines, which states, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” For some of you it will hold true in this case, but not everyone.

Registration for Camp Calm’s fifth season opened earlier today. Another group of eager, fledgling meditators is forming, and naturally I’d be thrilled if you would consider joining it.

Over the past two years it’s become increasingly clear to me that I’ll be spending much of my life trying to get people to try meditation. When you are an enthusiastic advocate for something, it’s easy to be long-winded. There are so many great things to say, so many reasons to give.

So I thought about how to be short-winded instead. What would I say, for example, if I had to restrict my mindfulness evangelism to one sentence? 

I think that’s a worthwhile project for a writer. I’ll be working on this important sentence for a long time. Honing, polishing, tinkering and rebuilding. In a decade or so it will be absolutely riveting.

For the moment, this is what I’ve got:

If you meditate ten minutes a day, you will freak out a little less often.

That little bit of time learning to be mindful will result in fewer eruptions of work- or school-related panic, less brooding, milder levels of dread, fewer internal (and external) diatribes, and many more occasions when things feel even-keel and a-okay.

That is a pretty good deal. Ten minutes of an activity that’s harder than watching TV but easier than most people’s jobs, and you will almost certainly experience fewer bad moods and fewer bad days.

Assuming you spend seven or eight hours sleeping (or trying to), you have about 100 or so of these “ten-minuteses” per day to invest in a lifestyle. Work and other standing obligations will claim most of them, but aside from that we still have a number of ten-minuteses to invest in whatever activities we think makes our lives easier.

So this habit we’re considering constitutes less than 1% of a normal daily schedule, and boy does it pull more than its weight. Meditation is the army ant of the lifestyle habits world.

Why ten minutes a day? Well, I think it’s a long enough session that it produces considerable benefits, and short enough that it still seems quite doable, even for those of us who insist we have no time at all (even if, while at that very moment, we are reading a blog on the internet).

Once you reach the modest but important benchmark of a solid ten-minute practice, you are a daily meditator, and you can take it as far as you wish.

If you come to this little project with the modest expectation that you will invest ten good minutes a day, and in return, avert a bad mood or three every week (although I think you will see many more rewards than that), it’s hard to argue that it’s not worth it.

I will refrain from saying “And wait! There’s more!” even though there is.

I guess I snuck a lot of extra supporting sentences in there. But that proposition can suffice on its own—you can invest that small amount of time, and gain a skill that lowers reactivity, and spares you the fallout of the self-defeating behavior goes with it.

You can register for Camp Calm hereUPDATE: Camp is full! But there will be another season this Winter. Get on the mailing list to be notified. We’ve got a good crew so far, new faces and some old veterans, already making friends in the discussion forum. The price is the same as the last time, $69 USD*. [How does Camp Calm work?]

If you would like to learn to meditate, but not take the camp, just email me and I can point you to some excellent resources in your local library. The how-to information is out there, but it’s nice to have community support and a bit of hand-holding until you are doing it daily.

***

*VAT may be added for EU residents.

Photo by Bobby Burch. Thanks Bobby.
145 Shares
Vilx- September 22, 2017 at 2:15 am

Hi, David!

Can you also summarize in a sentence or three just WHAT meditation is? Like, WHAT are you supposed to do there? Besides sitting in a lotus position with your eyes closed and saying “Ooommmmmm….”? Because that’s the part I’ve never understood, and without it everything else just seems like alternative lifestyle marketing gimmick.

David Cain September 22, 2017 at 9:35 am

In a sentence or three… hmm that would be another worthwhile project I guess. First of all, ignore all the stereotypes, they’re ridiculous.

Basically you are taking some time to dedicate your attention to observing present moment experience, including bodily feelings, sounds, and any observable mental activity like thoughts and emotions.

The idea is to simply be aware of these experiences to happen without getting lost in thinking about them, trying to make them go away, or trying to make the pleasant ones stay.

[Ok this is my third sentence, I hope I can wrap it up]

This experience-without-reactivity skill is called mindfulness, and as you get better at it, you find daily life much easier because you aren’t being pushed around by emotional overreaction, yet you remain sensitive to experience, and the overall result is that you are calmer, less preoccupied, less stressed, more able to be rational, more compassionate towards others, and less afraid of future experiences.

dh September 27, 2017 at 9:34 am

“Don’t think.”

Cubert September 22, 2017 at 5:37 am

I may need to consider this, David. Part of me wants to believe my bike commute to work is akin to meditation, but I know better.
With the blog, work, rentals, and kids, life can get pretty complicated.
I think I’m ready for the army ant!

David Cain September 22, 2017 at 9:40 am

Yeah when I mention meditation people often say things like “Gardening is my meditation” or “My coffee is my meditation”, and…. not really.

Meditation (at least mindfulness meditation) is an activity where the attention is dedicated to the experience itself. Biking takes too much spatial thinking and it can be dangerous if you’re not thinking in reactive ways. Definitely good for the mind, but I would not call it meditation.

When you sit to meditate, you realize how much there is to be noticed, even in during a seemingly simple activity like sitting. When we meditate we devote all of our attention to opening up to the bouquet of sensations and feelings that are usually totally relegated to the background.

kiwano September 22, 2017 at 1:04 pm

I meditate while bicycling, but I also do meditation in stillness at least twice a day, so i wouldn’t say that bicycling is my practice, any more than simply being alive is my practice (some of my friends are monks, and they can make that claim far more credibly than I can).

It’s possible to meditate while bicycling, and with the right focus space, may even be safer than not meditating. The focus space I use is simply to pay attention to my observations of the physical environment I’m in — to keep my eyes on the road so to speak.

The reason that I say that it might actually be safer is because I’ve spent a bunch of time noticing many of the things that distract me from my immediate environment, as I return to my focus. Sometimes I notice that my attention is on my imaginary conversations, where I’m telling off the motorist who cut me off two blocks ago; sometimes it’s rehearsing excuses for arriving late at my destination; quite often it’s on my feelings about a physically attractive person riding in front of me — none of those things are going to help me avoid a collision. So when I catch myself and bring my attention back to my immediate physical surroundings, I’m (hopefully) increasing my chances of getting to my destination alive.

So I’d encourage you to incorporate cycling into your practice, but to nonetheless avoid making it your entire practice unless you’re so crunched for time that you can’t set aside 10 minutes for sitting still.

Pedro September 22, 2017 at 6:44 am

I believe it’s something you cannot wrap in words.
That said, here are some wonderful words from Alan Watts on meditation:

“When we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point. And exactly the same thing is true in meditation. Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.”

and

“Meditation is the way in which we come to feel our basic inseparability from the whole universe, and what that requires is that we shut up.”

:)

David Cain September 22, 2017 at 9:44 am

I like Watts’s dancing metaphor. Life only happens now, but we often fail to see that because we’re lost in present-moment thoughts about future events. We don’t see that it’s a thought, that it’s happening now.

That inseparability he mentions is one thing you start to recognize, although I wouldn’t say it’s the whole point. I’m always trying to downplay lofty-sounding claims about meditation, because I think it gives people the idea that it’s esoteric and magical in some way. It’s not, it’s just a straightforward examination of present-moment experience.

Julie September 22, 2017 at 7:37 am

You convinced me already and I started small. Really small. One minute at a time. I’m up to 7 minutes and feel really ready to add more. Also to add a morning session to my usual night time one. Thanks for getting me motivated to give it a go. Cheers.

David Cain September 22, 2017 at 9:45 am

Good! The consistency is the most important part, but it does get a lot easier when you start to ramp up the time. Not just because you’re getting more experience, but because the mind has a chance to settle, and it’s always easier to meditate with a settled mind. Keep up the good work!

Jodie Utter September 22, 2017 at 9:16 am

Yes!

David Cain September 22, 2017 at 9:45 am

I agree!

Annie September 22, 2017 at 9:26 am

I’ve committed myself to ten minutes a day of meditation each morning when I wake up. At first it seemed like a chore. Today marks my 100th day and I have to add that I look forward to it now. I was doing it on and off for a few years and it wasn’t until I allowed myself to accept that even just a few minutes is okay, no need to do longer sessions unless I want to. It has helped me manage my anxiety and increased my patience. I use the Calm app and find it really helpful.

David Cain September 22, 2017 at 9:46 am

Wow, well done!

I use the Insight Timer app, which gives you gold stars for consecutive days, and they are strangely motivating.

Mrs. Picky Pincher September 22, 2017 at 11:15 am

I absolutely love meditation, so no persuasion is needed here. :) I will say that guided meditation is easier to get into than just meditating on your own. I like to find guided meditations on YouTube for free.

Eric September 22, 2017 at 12:26 pm

I try to “meditate” constantly.

By this I mean that every few moments, I force myself to:

1) Listen to sounds and identify them. Is that a dog barking? Or the sound of traffic or a distant train. Sounds work best for me, for others, it’s visual, it’s the leaves waiving in the wind, etc.

2) Ask myself to think about my thinking, instead of thinking thoughts. At least for just the span of asking that question, I am brought out of rumination.

3) I breathe deeply and exhale through a convexed cheek, like you do when you’re frustrated, just as if you were blowing out through a soda straw. This triggers the para-sympathetic nervous system by causing the diaphragm and other organs to stimulate the vagus nerve. You can even feel peristalsis kicking in as digestion increases instantly.

By doing those things as often as I can, even in the midst of work, I can stave off anxiety and depression fairly well.

I call it “Flipping the Switch.”

David Cain September 27, 2017 at 10:22 am

These practices overlap a bit with mindfulness meditation, but are not really the same. In mindfulness, for example, we suspend that impulse to think about what might be making the sound, and instead, direct our attention to the sound itself, without any analysis. There’s definitely something to be said for returning to present moment experience however.

Lori Bamber September 22, 2017 at 1:23 pm

Great sentence!

Meditation changed for me when I realized it is a practice, not an accomplishment. That is, I was always frustrated, giving up or avoiding meditation because I thought the point was to have a still mind. When I realized I will never have a still mind and the point is to notice when my thoughts hijack my attention and return my attention to now, over and over, it got 1,000 times easier and I started to enjoy meditation and look forward to it.

Bless you for everything you do, David.

David Cain September 27, 2017 at 10:25 am

Yes! It is something to engage in, not to pull off.

The mind can get *incredibly* still under long periods of meditation in a retreat setting, but generally there will always be thoughts appearing, and it does get 1000 times easier when you finally recognize that.

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Madonna Hirning September 23, 2017 at 5:37 am

You one sentence sell…and several sentence elaboration definitely convinced me to start the daily mindfulness practice I have been meaning to for ages. I am a Psychologist and tech these practices to my clients and encourage them to develop their own daily practice. your post was a good reminder of my own accountability as someone who teaches such things along with the personal benefits of adopting my own practice. I actually couldn’t believe how quickly the time passed, but note to self – turn phone off next time, txt messages are very distracting! Thank you for a really practical and well written narrative about why we should make time for mindfulness.

I recently read the book Into the Magic Shop by James Doty, a Neurosurgeon – http://intothemagicshop.com/
Have you read it? An amazing story about how he came to be taught mindfulness as a 12yo boy with a very difficult home life in the 1960s.

David Cain September 27, 2017 at 10:26 am

Thanks Madonna. I will check out Into the Magic Shop!

carolynishere September 24, 2017 at 6:34 am

I noticed the 100 ten-minuteses when I did the last Camp Calm – very pleasing, because that’s way my mind works; also because, even if I notice I have ‘wasted’ one, there’s another coming along behind.

David Cain September 27, 2017 at 10:28 am

Right, and the same principle scales right down seconds and moments. Even if you’ve spent the last nine minutes in total distraction, there is always a moment emerging now, and you can be mindful for it.

Jason September 24, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Bang on. Establishing a consistent daily practice is the way to beggining this journey. I’ve been meditating for over a year with rare exception. Once I got a taste of the benefits I sought out clear instruction for how to progress. I now sit at least 45 minutes per day.

I’d say meditation is a very good use of my time.

David Cain September 27, 2017 at 10:30 am

It’s probably the best way I use my time. I invest a fair amount of time in it now and I believe I get all that time back and more, because I waste less time and am generally less needy for entertainment/distraction and “down time”.

Michele Z September 25, 2017 at 10:13 am

David,
THANK YOU for putting it in simple words… this is SO true and I have been trying to encourage others to try it for exactly that reason, even if only 10 minutes a day. What has convinced me too (I have been meditating on and off for the past 6 years, but more consistently / daily for the last year) is how I notice the difference when I don’t meditate. Talk about being over-sensitive, reactionary, off-balance etc. etc… Listening to dharma talks and audiobooks by amazing buddhist teachers such as Pema Chödron, Miles Neale, Tara Brach has also become part of my daily routine. Thank you again, you nailed it!

David Cain September 27, 2017 at 10:31 am

Totally… at a certain point, it becomes obvious what practice does for you, because of all the trouble that reappears when you stop. So much unnecessary reactivity, stress and conflict.

Jessica September 25, 2017 at 7:50 pm

I’ve been avoiding meditation lately. Not sure exactly why the resistance but you have persuaded me to push through my resistance and begin again. Thanks so much!

David Cain September 27, 2017 at 10:32 am

I now accept that resistance will always be a part of the equation. I still feel resistance to practice almost every day. In my experience, most of that resistance is gone by the time you get yourself to the cushion. So that’s the trick.

Michele Z September 30, 2017 at 12:30 am

Jessica, i hear you! I have also found that resistance is part of the process. Observe that and see how it feels, why you might be resisting..but most of all, be nice to yourself and gently come back. After a while I believe your resistance will lessen. At least that is what happened to me. :)

Heather September 26, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Did anyone else burst out laughing when they finally read the one sentence?
I’m thinking of taping it up somewhere that it can serve as a reminder during Camp Calm.
Such a good example of why I continue to read Raptitude year after year!

David Cain September 27, 2017 at 10:33 am

I laughed when I wrote this

Alex September 28, 2017 at 1:22 am

I think we should meditate thirty minutes a day.

KG September 28, 2017 at 2:12 pm

Meditation and self inquiry help you wake up to who you really are. Answering question, “Who Am I?” is the most important discovery in one’s life.

Abhijeet Kumar September 29, 2017 at 11:07 pm

I respect you for helping more and more people in getting in touch with themselves. It can be quite hard at times to express in words something so intuitive (and simple), but sometimes it just comes out clear and crisp.

Radek September 30, 2017 at 5:59 am

Hi David.

Meditation was never something I practiced, but I feel that the moment I should start doing it, is inevitable.

I’ve been recommended to do it several times in my life by different people from all sort of fields, but it never felt like a compelling idea. Now that I’m facing more and more obstacles to overcome, and “Freaking out” happens more and more often as a result, I seriously consider giving it a go at least :)

PS. Thanks again for participating in the roundup!

Cristi October 13, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Hi David,
Is it possible to send me via e-mail a simple way to get started? you mentioned insight timer an i read your 30 day experiment on meditation.
would you say a good way to get strated is just set a timer for 10 minutes every morning and just observe environment and thoughts ?

thanks,
Cristi

Chris October 18, 2017 at 8:51 am

How about..

“If you meditate for 30 minutes a day, your life will become 50% easier”

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