Last, last Saturday I did the Sean O'Brien 100k, which I have discussed extensively. It was my first 100k and afterwards I knew that recovery was going to be key. I needed to get back to 100%. I focused on eating well, yoga, rolling out my muscles, massage, and meditation. I figured that all of those focuses would allow me to recover in no time. I effectively used yoga. rolling, and massage to get over my muscle pain in a couple of days. However a new pain soon arose. I began to feel very off. "Off" is really the best way to describe it. For specifics, I had stomach issues, I felt very fatigued, and my head felt swirly. To overcome the fatigue I knew that I needed to double down even more so on eating well and to make sure I slept a lot. Go to bed early. Which I did. But, I simply did not know how to overcome the other issues. I could not shake that stomach pain and I still felt very "off." I took some Tums for the antacid, I drank lots of water, and rested. Those kind of helped, but not fully. Then I remembered, "Jarod, you're not meditating!" So I did just that.
Tuesday night I sat down on my meditation cushion and did a 10 minute body scan. Focusing on being aware and subsequently relaxing each and every part of my body. Nice and easy. To my surprise, afterwards I felt great! For most of the rest of the night I felt like I was back at 100%. I was amazed and grateful, I knew that meditation would have to be a hallmark of my recovery from now on. The next day I felt bad again, but with meditation I eventually broke through the "off-ness" and got back to 100%. It did not just happen in that one sitting on Tuesday, it took many sittings to realign my body, but it worked and that is the important thing!
I know I shouldn't have necessarily been shocked that meditation helped me so much in my recovery, but it was such an immediate result. That result gave me a renewed faith in the power of meditation and a renewed commitment to meditate everyday. It is a wonderfully simple practice, but it is hard, too. To sit, be aware, focus, and become present is difficult. If you can find that present mind then your body will benefit greatly, as it did for my "off-ness."
Basic Benefits of Meditation:
- Helps fight disease, increases immunity, & improves cardiovascular health
- Reduces stress
- Improves concentration
- Improves sleep
- Reduces aging
- Increases happiness and appreciation
- Makes you a better person!
As you can see meditation has many benefits on the basic level, but if you sit down and create a daily practice of meditation you will find that the benefits transcend anything that can be written down in a list. When I say "practice" I really mean that it is a practice. You can never perfectly meditate, there will always be a distraction or difficulty, but the goal is to refine it as much you can. To do it a little better than you did yesterday, which is why it must be a daily commitment. If you don't do it a little better than the day before, then that is perfectly fine. You must trust in your commitment, if you have made it. Now let's talk about the why of why you should commit to meditation.
Like I said, there are countless benefits to meditation. The main one, however, is that meditation will create a better life for you. It will help you unlock who you truly are, to become the person that is most fulfilling to you. The person you have always wanted to truly be. It is not a question of "why" you should meditate. It is a question of when? When will you begin your meditation practice to begin a new path in your life? A path that will lead to true happiness.
The secret to life is not money. It is not a big house. It is not a fast car. It is most definitely not a fatty and sugary meal. The secret to life is actually quite simple. It is fulfillment. Our lives are surrounded by and filled with vapid and insincere people who do not know where they are going. Our society is more similar to a raging river. A raging river is chaotic and lost, but it is forced in one direction predetermined. To find fulfillment you must transcend the raging river. You must learn to travel beyond the banks and become the calm pond. The calm pond that is fulfilled by the immense wonder of the fact that it exists. We are privileged to be alive right here in the moment and most people forget that. They go through life without purpose or with purpose placed upon them unwillingly. Usually the unwillingness is forgotten and the purpose seems to be real. But, true wisdom is having the capability of remembering the unwillingness and the lies and seeing that the purpose you have laid out before you is not who you truly are. Wisdom is being able to break away and fight the battles that will come, because they will, but at least they will be on your true path.
You may not find your path right away, however. You may search for a long time, but the first step is to take your first step away from society and into your own life. To discover who you truly are.
How do I discover who I truly am?
The answer to this question is simple, but it is scary. The way to find who you truly are is a path that most people are to fearful to take. To find who you truly are you must...suffer. You must feel pain, because pain is the only way to break through the walls that you have put up around your soul. What I mean by that is is that as we go through life, the longer we go through it, the more walls we put up around our true selves. We hide it from ourselves unknowingly, because it is the scariest thing that we will ever see. No horror movie or ghost story compares to finding who you truly are, because when we do it reveals all of the lies that we have told ourselves and masks that we have put on for so many years. We see that the life we are living now is not the life we should be. Our true self, once we find it, jumps out of the walls and tears away at our mask, revealing what is beneath. It is scary yes, which is why the suffering that comes before should not scare you. Actually be scared either way, it is going to be the hardest thing you ever do and it will not stop. It is a constant journey, but it will be the most fulfilling one that you ever embark upon.
Pain is hard, but living a lie is harder, even though you may not realize it. Suffering hurts, it's supposed to, but it will be an enlightening hurt. Their are many ways to suffer, of course my weapon of choice is to run. To ultrarun. Meaning I run very long distances, but you can pick many different ways of suffering. Find an endurance sport, it really is the best, nothing compares. My recommendation, fall in love with suffering, because to find the Self there will be lots of it. Fall in love with suffering, learn its ins and outs, welcome its lessons, and you will see that you are becoming better. A better person, a better partner, a better parent, a better friend. Better.
In its simplest form meditation is peaceful awareness. It is a peace with oneself that transcends distraction, pain, even thought. To reach that level of peace you must practice. To complete this practice there are many different ways. When I say that it is a peaceful awareness I mean that you are aware of all of the thoughts and distractions that you have, but you are simply not part of them. You let them pass by like the breeze. That is why meditation is so hard. To be able to let go of the constant chatter that we have is very difficult. Most think that meditation is blackness, is forcing away thoughts until you are thinking and doing nothing. But, meditation is nothing so violent. It is much more peaceful. It is a simple process.
The first way that you can enter a peacefully aware state is by breathing. Yes, breathing. The act you do every minute, but that we are never aware of. That is why it is so powerful. It is always with us, yet we never see it. Simply find a place to sit. Sit tall, place your hands in your lap or on your knees, and sit with a straight back. Not to straight, nothing uncomfortable. Take a deep breath in and in your mind say breathing in. Then let it out and say breathing out. Repeat this a few more times, feeling all of the nuances and intricacies of each breath. Once you have repeated the deep breaths a few times return to your normal rhythm of breathing. As you are breathing remember to focus on the breath, as it tickles your nose hairs, as it runs across your lips, as it inflates your core or your chest. There is a lifetime in a breath. It you are having trouble counting one on the inhale and two on the exhale helps.
During meditation the easiest way to deal with the thoughts and distractions that arise is to think of them as passing clouds. The moment that you become aware that you have begun to wander, to think of other things. Reaffirm your focus on your breath, feel its life, and let your thought go. Do not stress or overthink it, it is a flowing process. The ebb and flow of peace and then distraction, of peace and the distraction. While I say the "easiest" way, meditation will not always be easy. It is a process, but a process that will refine you as a person.
One of the most helpful things that you can do for yourself in this journey of mindfulness is to get help. Find someone who can teach you or, if not possible and in addition, use an app and read books to increase your knowledge and keep you accountable.
While the method I outlined is a very basic form of meditation, it is a very powerful one. I have been thinking recently that I should dip my toe more into this pond, so in light of that I think I will begin to post some guided meditations as supplements to the podcast. The official podcast episode goes up every Monday, so maybe at some point later in the week each week I will post a meditation. In an effort to help you all even more, I think that is something I would really enjoy. I think it would benefit us all.
In conclusion, I think I should have a straightforward answer to the title of this post. Why is meditation your greatest tool? Well, the answer is simple and I have already said it, really. Because, it will make you better! It will help you find your true self, help you overcome pain, help you heal, help you change for the better. It will enlighten all. So I hope from the knowledge that I have laid out today you will go out and meditate. Maybe you already do, either way, we all must! More and more and more. So as Noah Levine says let's #meditateanddestroy