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.
That is kinda what meditation is: stopping to take a look at your self and maybe connecting with that 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 skeptical ego long enough to get a daily meditation habit set, you'll slowly start pulling your head out of the fog, even if only for a few moments everyday (related: 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 how you take your most important daily vitamin.
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 for how bad you need to start a daily meditation practice. 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; you're probably not even the one who is choosing which radio station to tune into.
This is not an ideal spot to be in as you most def don't want to continue being the co-pilot-at-best in the vehicle you've been assigned to navigate through this life. 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.
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 wide range of interesting things to learn about meditating and the rabbit holes run very deep, but just getting started is always be the best way to begin anything.
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 while you're meditating, not in a book while you're reading about meditating. Just starting really is the best way to figure out how to do it.
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 random distractions your brain will keep throwing at you. So the fewer Topics Of Distraction your mind has in front of it (ie. I also meditate early in the morning when my apartment is at its quietest and I wear an eye mask so I don't catch myself thinking dumb stuff about whether I'm closing my eyes too tight or not tight enough) the better, as this will give you a slight upper hand in the peaceful Jedi mind battles you'll be engaging with yourself 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 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 yet, maybe watch this video too:
I think the main thing that resonated with me in the Actualized.Org video 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" and whether I could even pull it off for more than 5 minutes) 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, and it really feels like that is a key part.
As 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 everything about how to shoot a basketball without ever going and shooting a basketball.
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 try to make that daily connection to the little light inside of you. When the timer goes off, you're done for the day. Do the same thing again tomorrow and the next day. Some days will feel like you meditated better than the other days and vice versa. Just keep doing it. 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, 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.
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.
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 & Calm 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 start changing your life very subtly. I promise (no refunds).
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.