I hear it a lot: “Ryan, I don’t have time to meditate!”
It’s an interesting statement considering you don’t ever really ‘have’ time – you make time for things. And what you make time for…are the things you consider to be valuable.
In that case, if you aren’t meditating on a regular basis, it’s simply because you have not come to realize its benefits. Sure, you may have read articles that expound upon its incredible power when it comes to reducing stress and boosting creativity; however, as my marketing mentor once told me – nothing is ever real until it’s experienced.
A lot of programs convince people that, to build a habit, you need to ‘force’ it upon yourself. They convince you to just do it and stick to it no matter what. It’s no wonder we’re inundated with a plethora of ‘30 day fixes’ or ‘life changing retreats.’ But let’s face, how many of those fixes lasted beyond the 30 days you forced yourself to do them? Has your life really changed beyond, say, a week following the retreat? Likely not. And it’s no rocket science to understand why that is: When you force something to become a habit, you work against your mind’s natural design instead of alongside it. You try to put a square peg in a round hole.
You see your mind is designed to always move towards things that are perceived to be pleasurable and avoid things that are perceived to be painful. This emotional dynamic is what dictates every single one of your choices. We choose because of the emotions we gain and prevent, and not as rationally as we may think we’re being.
With this in mind, by trying to force change, you are indirectly associating the idea of ‘work’ and ‘pain’ with the new habit you’re trying to form. And in doing so, even though you may not be conscious of it, you are actually building a subconscious pattern that naturally wants to reject and avoid the change in behaviour!
If you want to make meditation ‘stick’ you have to first realize how it will impact you in a meaningful way – how it creates more pleasure in your life and helps you avoid pain. Once you create this narrative for yourself, your mind will automatically desire meditation and it will feel effortless in sustaining.
While this story we need to tell ourselves is very subjective to each person’s experiences, here are a few points that really helped me commit to building my meditation practice:
➔ I hated the fact other people could ‘push my buttons.’ Once I realized that people could find my emotional triggers and use them to control my behaviour, there was no greater ‘pain’ I could feel that led me towards meditation. Everyone talks about having ‘control’ of their lives, yet most people have very little ‘control’ of themselves. It made me sick to my stomach to think that someone else could use certain words or actions that would immediately generate an autopilot reaction from me. I felt like a puppet. Or like one of those cartoon characters where someone was shooting at my feet and making me do a ridiculous dance for their entertainment.
➔ I was tired of being a product of my environment. Before I really dove into meditation, I remember confronting realization that my life was all about living up to others’ expectations of me. I had become so absorbed by this ‘identity’ that was conditioned by my family, friends, teachers, and society, I lost sight of who I really wanted to be. I felt as though I was this victim that had to please others in order to feel like I was normal or like I belonged. It wasn’t until I meditated that I started to see how this self-sacrifice wasn’t only unhealthy, but absurd. Over time, I became more aware that who I am and want to be is valuable, and to deny discovering that part of me isn’t just a letdown of myself, but a crime to the progress of humanity. We all have a message to share, but in order to share it we first need to discover what it is – and the answer lies specifically within.
➔ I knew I needed space. I reached a point where I felt like my mind was in constant chatter. It was untamed and would pull and push me around like a rag doll. Facing a mental health issue really made me see how taxing this was. I remember wanting to tear my ears out so as to gain some relief the noise. I knew that if I was ever going to tame this voice and get it to work with me, instead of against me, I would need to create the space to take back that control, and the only strategy that made sense…was meditation. I kept thinking of that quote by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” I wanted to be ‘free,’ and knew that if I couldn’t learn to be with myself in silence, I would always be a prisoner.
*To learn more about the emotional dynamic that affect your choices and habits, check out Ryan’s book Psychology of Motivation (http://bit.ly/pombook)