My Thoughts on Meditation

Meditation is strange. On one hand, we have all these uber-hippies who swear by it, and then you have monks who do it on the regular.

I have always been skeptical and suspicious of the mainstream notions of meditation (even the spiritual ones). Some quick thoughts:

What does ‘meditation’ even mean?

I prefer to think of the term ‘meditation’ to encompass the notion of ‘thinking, reflecting’. For example, Marcus Aurelius and his book ‘The Meditations‘ (just a diary of his personal thoughts and reflections on life and stoicism).

But now I think the general thought on ‘meditation’ is to sit on the floor, cross-legged (or in ‘lotus’) pose, and to recite mantras to yourself, and perhaps have an ‘out of body’ experience.

But my thoughts on meditation might be easily encapsulated by this funny quote from Nassim Taleb:

Meditation is the best way to be narcissistic without hurting anyone else.

Meditation as virtue-signaling?

It seems there are some people out there who perceive a hierarchy to meditation (that there are more ‘legitimate’ ways to meditate than other ways). Or, it seems that meditation is the new silicon-valley elite way of signaling virtue.

For example, the individual who ‘meditates everyday’ (typically if they meditate longer every day, it is seen as more virtuous) is seen as some sort of ‘elevated’ or ‘enlightened’ soul.

Towards a more democratic notion of meditation

Thích Nhất Hạnh is probably the only writer and individual worth reading or following when it comes to practical zen, practical meditation, etc. He essentially sees anything done with focus and purpose and intent as meditation. For example, ‘hugging meditation’ (if you don’t have another human being to hug you can even hug a tree), walking meditation, sitting meditation, etc.

Even for me, photography and powerlifting are two forms of meditation that I personally love. With photography, to just walk is meditation– I enjoy the walk, I don’t listen to music or have headphones on, and I just look around, perceive and observe the world around me, and photograph what I consider beautiful around me. As with powerlifting, when I attempt a one-rep max, I must concentrate and get into a ‘zen zone‘ 500%. For me, to meditate is simple:

Be so focused and concentrated at the task at hand, that I lose a sense of ‘self’, and I can creatively/artistically/muscularly express/outpress myself without any sort of ‘effort‘ (wu-wei as they say in Taoism).

Meditate your own way.

The big encouragement I have is this:

Recognize that almost everything you do in life which relaxes you, empties your mind, and allows you to focus in a meaningful way is ‘meditation’.

Don’t let others super-impose their meditation notions on you!




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