We are all running different versions of the same autopilot software, one that has long since been hacked by society to not always have our best interests in mind. If you don't already know this to be true, just take a quick look around at the world and see if you can notice how few people are making the best use of their one shot at experiencing the temporary miracle that is being alive.
If you're feeling really brave, take a look at your own life.
In fact, that is kinda what meditation is: stopping to take a look at your self and connecting with the mysterious life source inside. Which makes meditation both really easy to do (duh… anyone can sit with their eyes closed) and also really hard (woah… this is getting pretty heavy). But if you can overpower your insecure ego long enough to get a daily meditation habit going, you'll slowly be able to take back some control in your life and pull your head out of the fog (go read this long but excellent Wait But Why article for an enlightening breakdown of "our lives in the fog").
In a way, meditating is kinda like micro-dosing the red pill everyday; so just think of sitting down to meditate as the method for taking the most important of your daily vitamins. And we all know how important taking our vitamins is, right kids?
Now, if your initial reaction is to think of excuses as to why you can't commit to sitting quietly with yourself for a few minutes everyday, take that as a warning sign of just how bad you need to start a daily meditation practice asap. The fact that you would immediately try to talk yourself out of trying to better understand yourself probably suggests that your true self is not the one behind the wheel, not the one choosing which radio station you're tuned into. If this sounds familiar, make a note of the realization before you mysteriously have it wiped from your memory.
Because you most definitely do not want to continue being a co-pilot in the vehicle you're navigating through this life in. I mean, the rental is in your name and you'll be the one responsible for any damages that come about when shit crashes. And shit will crash—if it hasn't already—multiple times. So take the wheel back from Yeezus before you wake up as an old and weathered Miss Daisy in the back seat.
OK But how does one get started With this meditation business?
There is a never ending pile of books and videos on meditating, so it's really easy to think that you have to "learn" how to meditate "correctly" before you can even dare to begin. But this is an easy trap to fall into and a great way to postpone the important work of just starting. Don't fall for it. Sure, it's true that there is a lot of interesting and different things to learn about meditating and the rabbit holes can run very deep, but just getting started will always be the best way to begin.
Luckily, meditation couldn't be simpler to start. You literally just sit there and be still. Every time you get distracted by your thoughts (which will happen over and over and over again, but that's ok because that's kinda the point) you recognize it happening and then you go back to concentrating on your breath. Some days will feel more "meditate-y" than others, but the important thing is setting the habit of sitting silently with yourself everyday. A lot of the learning and realizations will actual happen in your head, not in a book. That's all you really need to know to begin.
But don't take my only-been-meditating-6-months word for it, here is a video that condenses the basics down to 2 minutes of cute animation and acute narration:
The only thing I would add to this video is that you should set a timer. Otherwise, you'll constantly be thinking about whether it's been enough time yet. Trust me, once you start meditating you'll realize how many distractions your brain will keep throwing at you, so if you can take any options away (ie. I also do it early in the morning when my apartment is at its quietest and I wear an eye mask), it gives you a slight upper hand in the peaceful Jedi mind battles you'll be engaging with on the daily.
TBH, I discovered that charming 'Meditation 101' video above a couple months into already starting my own daily practice, so those weren't the simple set of instructions that actually pushed me from procrastinating to practicing. Instead, the video that initially turned the light bulb in my head was actually a lot more long-winded, but it also has some good points to make, so if you still don't feel ready to make the jump into starting a daily meditation practice, maybe watch this video too:
I think the main thing that resonated with me in the Actualized.Org video above was hearing that you can just sit in a chair to meditate (as the rigid westerner in me had insecurities about being spotted sitting in the traditional "lotus position") plus I also found the idea of setting a timer—as simple and obvious as it now seems—to be an extremely helpful technique for getting me going. This video also really hammered home the importance of doing it every day, no excuses.
Like I mentioned earlier, there is WAY more on the topic of meditation than I have shared in this post. Depending on what speaks to your interests, there will be certain paths you'll want to go down further and different meditation techniques that will feel more right for you… but the most important thing is that you just set that basic starting foundation first. Every thing you read/listen/watch about meditation will make so much more sense once you actually have a daily practice going and you can actually relate to the information being passed on to you. Otherwise, it's a bit like reading how to shoot a basketball without ever actually going and shooting a basketball. Too much theory makes Jack a dull boy.
So just start with the basics of sitting quietly with yourself every day — set your timer, close your eyes and do a little workout on that out of control distraction machine that is your mind and make that daily connection to the little light inside of you. When the timer goes off, you're done. Do the same thing again tomorrow and the next day. There will be plenty of time to kill Buddha on the path later.
I'll just add that if you want a good accompanying audiobook for those trying days of getting started and sticking to it, the voice from that 'Meditation 101' video above is Dan Harris, and he recently put out 'Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics' and—despite the sometimes cringe dad humour and personal ramblings—it was the best "getting started with meditation" book that I came across during my recent getting started with meditation journey (Sharon Salzberg's 'Real Happiness' also seemed good, but I guess I got fidgety with it and switched books a few chapters in).
If you're skeptical on how an ABC news anchor might help you get started on the path to self-improvement / realization via talking you into starting a meditation practice, here's an example of how simple and practical Dan can deliver the heady topic of better understanding your head:
Besides 'Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics' relating a lot of the same thoughts and doubts that will be going through your head while getting into meditation, the audiobook also features this very zen Canadian named Jeff Warren who jumps in to talk about meditating in a very easy going and way-less-manic-than-Dan way, and he also does some nice guided meditations as well.
So if you feel like you might need some training wheels to help get the daily habit rolling, you could do a lot worse than listening to Dan and Jeff. But you could probably do better too (or better suited to you), so I recommend trying out an unlimited listening Audiobook service like Scribd as that way you can sample a bunch of different books and if something doesn't gel with you, ditch it and try another. Also, having access to a whole mess of books really comes in handy when you start wanting to dive deeper (because let's be honest, you're probably going to start getting curious about spiritual / self-help stuff once you start sitting silently with yourself for enough days in a row - and an unlimited listening audiobook service is a good place to scratch that itch).
And that's really more than all you need to get started. Or, at least, if I could re-do my getting started so it just included the bare essentials of what worked best for me, I would narrow it down to the above recommendations.
Of course there are also apps like Headspace (Dan Harris also has a 10% Happier app) or you can find a meditation class in your town or go off on a retreat or whatever else might work best for you. The above suggestions are just what worked for me.
The main point is: you should start meditating every day.
It will very quickly change your life slowly. I promise (no refunds).
Jeremy // @HI54LOFI
PS - Feel free to drop off any of your own meditation tips / questions in the comments below or come chat at me on the socials about your meditation experience — I'm a beginner myself, so I'm very much up for learning more / talking incessantly about how subtly great it is.