Meditation

The Absolute Worst Thing You Can Do When You Feel Down or Depressed

Over the course of the past 5 years I have read a lot of books on emotions, depression, peak performance, anxiety and overall cognitive functioning. Through my aikido, meditation and several other practices have begun to understand these things on an experiential level. I have been to the lowest of lows (a deep depression) and the highest of highs. And after enough time spent in both places, I have come to some level of observation and self awareness with what goes on during each of those experiences. Today, I want to present to you a simple strategy for dealing with a down moment or a bout of depression that takes you under and engulfs you. 

I am speaking from my own experience in a depressed state as well as several other people who report a similar experience. In an emotional state of depression, everything looks bleak. I feel lonely, disconnected from society, helpless and hopeless. I see absolutely zero potential for anything positive to happen in my future whether it be in terms of relationships, money, experiences, work- whatever. I literally feel like a “shit-magnet”. Bad shit seems to stick to me. Everyone I encounter is a selfish jerk. The best way I can describe depression is a complete and overwhelming tunnel vision for everything negative. And as Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania has affirmed, the bleak perception of our reality feels permanent (like it’s going to last forever), pervasive (like every aspect of our life is fucked) and highly personal (like we as a person are majorly defective). 

 I have noticed that when I have been depressed, I will freeze frame my current “shitty” reality and conceptualize it in my mind that it is going to be this way forever. It makes me not even want to live anymore. I feel like giving up. I then begin to ask myself questions like, “what is wrong with me?” and “what’s the point anyway?”. I try to go up in my head and think my way out of the problem.  If there is one thing to take away from the lesson today it is this:

Intellectualizing and trying to rationally think your way out of a troubling emotional state is the worst thing you can possibly be doing to feel better. Your trying to solve a problem from a impaired level of thinking. It makes no sense, however we as humans love to see ourselves as smart creatures who can think our way out of shit. 

Einstein nailed it right on the head when he said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”. And this quote is quite applicable to depression.  When we are in a low level of consciousness, it is impossible to get ourselves out of it by thinking more. 

Instead what needs to be understood is that our feelings are a signal. And this powerful signal of “I feel like death” is telling us that our thinking is off!  Way off. Therefore, the only thing you have to do when you start feeling like absolute crap is begin to not believe in the thoughts that are creeping into your mind. I just read Garrett Kramer’s peak performance books Stillpower and The Path of No Resistance and I really love his paradigm regarding this. He asserts that you should “feel what you feel, but don’t believe what you think”. Our terrible feelings are a powerful signal- to disregard and be disbelieving of our thoughts- not to cling to them and try to rationally joust with them. 

The more you can begin to simply sit with your feelings and not try to create a story around them about why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling- this is when you will escape the grips of your depression. What keeps the depression in place is the constant thinking that ‘this event’ or ‘that person’ is to blame for my depression. This type of thinking is not going to get you out of your depression, it is only going to ensure that you stay in that state of mind longer. If you just sit still and begin to quietly retreat to the silent confines of your mind- you will start to notice that your depression will begin to subside and eventually drift away. Our brains and bodies have the natural tendency to self-correct. There is a built auto-pilot mechanism built into our nervous system if we simply let go of needing to control every process along the way. 

When we try to think our way of our depression- we are trying to “will” it and control every step in the process. This absolutely shuts off our self-corrective mechanism in our brain that is the skeleton key to our emotional regulation. The less energy and power you give your depressing thoughts- the sooner you will start to see your emotional state rise. And then pretty soon thereafter your perception will begin to broaden. You will start to see things in brighter color, see the hopeful (and realistic) future and get out the blame-game you’ve been playing with yourself. 

This process takes a keen level of self awareness. Most people get into a depressed state and they try to fight it- but that just gives it more energy. Think about depression like your little brother or that neighbor of yours who is a shit-grinning twerp. The more you engage with your little brother, the more he is going to try to annoy you and rattle you. However when you laugh at him and not let what he is doing bother you- he goes away because it is no fun for him anymore. Depression is the same way. Begin to watch your hopeless thoughts come into your awareness. Don’t let them hook you, just watch them and be accepting of them. Sit there through the painful experience and become an outstanding observer of your own mind. This is the secret to mastering your inner world- becoming a master observer of your own mind and it’s default patterns and tendencies. 

Once you begin to observe and not absorb or attach to these negative thoughts- your consciousness will begin to rise and the heavy feelings will start to lighten drastically. It will feel like a exhilarating experience. The more you can practice this, the better you will get. As Garrett Kramer loves to say, it’s all about STAYING IN THE GAME. If you hang around long enough and don’t fight the negative thoughts and bleak perspective- it will all turn around. It always does. But the minute you begin to try to understand why you are feeling like crap and begin to create some narrative about your depression- you have lost the game. 

We all have a unique inner life force. I believe it is God within us, others call it a whole lot of different things. However, this force is the very thing that guides us intuitively and if given the freedom to work for us- can produce miracles. I know relinquishing control and not engaging with the depressing thoughts is a major challenge that most will probably fail at their first few times. Yet, all it takes is one breakthrough and it will change your life forever. One experience of letting your inner guide take over and guide you out of your depression will allow you to never be a hostage to this crippling condition ever again. It’s amazing. 

So you have 2 choices. You can either be a victim and continue to fight with your annoying shit-grinning little brother (depressive thoughts) and continue to feel agitated (depression). Or you can begin to observe and allow your annoying little brother to “try” to bother you, but never actually bite the hook (depressive thoughts)- therefore making him disinterested and leaving you alone so that you can be in peace (free of depression).

 If you tend to fall down the “rabbit hole” of depression, I suggest hanging two signs around your place as a reminder. One is from Kramer’s book:

“STAY IN THE GAME”

And the other is from the Navy Seal movie Lone Survivor:

“No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets or no matter how far you fall, you are never out of the fight.”

The second quote is what gave me the hope to carry on in the darkest of my depression a couple years ago. Though I really had no where to turn and felt almost entirely hopeless- I kept looking at that quote and it kept me looking for another way- another answer. I’d read another book, I’d watch another youtube video, I just kept going. Until pretty soon, I was guided to meet my mentor. And that was the moment that changed everything. So I suggest you adopt this belief. If you believe there is always a way- you will find a way. People, when their either going to die or succeed- they tend to succeed. Hunger is your greatest asset. Plain and simple. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Eye of the I: From Which Nothing is Hidden, by David Hawkins

Last week I highlighted David Hawkins’ most popular book- Power vs. Force, this week we will look at the second book of the Power vs. Force trilogy entitled The Eye of I: From Which Nothing is Hidden.  While Power vs. Force is a great appetizer on the subject of human consciousness, this book is definitely the entrée. It goes into much greater depth about the nature of duality and how our ego misperceives the world and is the cause of our suffering. I recommend this book for anyone who wants more peace, love and compassion in their life. I do think it is probably best to read this trilogy in order because they do build on each other. 

The aspect I love most about Hawkins’ writing is how it shifts the reader at an emotional level while they are reading. Similar to meditation or a martial art- how you get in that flow or zen-like state of love, peace and joy- the same thing occurs when you read Hawkins. I found this elevation in consciousness to be particularly profound in this book of his. This is not a book to be read in a weekend. I believe one will get the most out of reading this book if they take one chapter a day and spend about 3 weeks to a month with this book.  Thus, one’s consciousness will be elevated throughout the 3-4 weeks of reading it. I also found it particularly helpful to read a chapter of this book, then immediately spend 30 minutes to an hour in quiet meditation. This book is meditative in nature, so adding a formal meditative practice along with this book adds another element to it. 

When I started my journey into the personal development years ago, I didn’t intend to get into books on spirituality and consciousness. Yet, in hindsight I now understand why my journey has led me to reading books by authors like David Hawkins, Eckhart Tolle and David Singer. These books all address the ego. The ego is the part of ourselves as humans which is responsible for our suffering. By gaining a greater understanding of what our ego is and how it works, we can learn to cultivate a friendlier relationship with it and reduce and eliminate much of the suffering that plagues our lives. After reading numerous books on the ego, I believe The Eye of the I and the third book in the trilogy (I: Reality & Subjectivity) to be the two best books in regards to explaining the ego. 

And as always, here are the passages that I highlighted during my reading of the book. These really spoke to me and are a great daily reminder for me.

 

“One becomes enamored of this precious ‘self’, which then becomes an obsession and the subjective focus of languaging and thought. The self becomes glamorized as the hero of one’s life story and drama. This requires that the self be defended and that its survival become all important. This includes the necessity to be right at any cost.”

“The value of memory also becomes diminished by the realization that only does the mind misperceive in the present, but it routinely does so in the past, and what one is remembering is really the record of past illusions. All past actions were based on the illusion of what one thought one was at the time.”

“The relinquishment of the ego self as one’s central focus involves letting go of all these layers of attachments and vanities, and one eventually comes face to face with the ego’s primary function of control to ensure continuance and survival. Therefore the ego clings to all its faculties because their basic purpose, to ensure its survival, is the reason behind its obsession with gain, winning, learning, alliances, and accumulation of possessions, data and skills. The ego has endless schemes for enhancing survival- some gross, some obvious, others subtle and hidden”

“The only simple task to be accomplished is to let go of the identification with the ego as one’s real self!”

“Sometimes the ego misidentifies itself more specifically as the personality. It thinks, “I am such-and-such a person.” And it says, “Well, that’s who I am”. From this illusion arises the fear that one will lose one’s personality if the ego is relinquished. This is feared as the death of ‘who I am’.”

“The modern trend toward ‘political correctness’ is a great source of conflict, strife and suffering.  It is based on the imaginary ‘rights’. In reality there are no such things as rights. These are all social imaginings. Nothing in the universe has any rights. The whole area of ‘rights’ leads to a ‘chip on the shoulder’ attitude, victim, illusions of causality and revenge. All this displaces personal responsibility for one’s own experience of life.”

“The problem with the ego is not that it is wrong; it is just that it is limited and distorted. To conceive of the ego as an enemy is to become polarized, bringing forth conflict, guilt, anger and shame. Positionalities support the ego. By enlarging context, opposites are transcended and problems are dissolved. Humility removes the ego’s underpinnings of judgmentalism, positionality and moralizing.”

“in a system of considerable complexity, there is a very precise point where even a small amount of energy applied brings about a major change. A giant clockworks has a vulnerable point at which even a slight pressure stops the whole works. A giant locomotive can be halted in you know exactly where to place your finger.  The great clockwork of human society likewise has points where major change can occur as a result of a slight amount of pressure.”

“Love is misunderstood to be an emotion; actually, it is a state of awareness, a way of being in the world, a way of seeing oneself and others.  Love for God or nature or even one’s pets opens the door to spiritual inspiration. The desire to make others happy overrides selfishness. The more we give love, the greater our capacity to do so. It is a good beginning practice to merely mentally wish others well in the course of the day. Love blossoms into lovingness which becomes progressively more intense, nonselective and joyful. There comes a time one ‘falls in love’ with everything and everyone they meet. This tendency to be intensely loving has to be curtailed because love, curiously enough, frightens many people. Many people cannot look fully into another person’s eyes for more than a brief second, if at all. 

“Our society is one of excesses; it swings like a pendulum too far in one direction and then too far in the opposite because it gets caught in the duality of either/or and this and that. Maturity results in a middle way that allows for both ends of the spectrum of human behavior.” 

“Pride is at the core of the ego beyond all else. Pride in the form of the vanity of thought, mentation, concepts and opinions are all the basis of ignorance. The antidote is radical humility, which undoes the domination of perception. Ask for the truth to be revealed instead of assuming that you already know it.”

“One can enjoy beautiful music without the ego’s claiming authorship for the origination of the music itself. If one claims authorship for music, then many anxieties and feelings arise which have to do with belief systems about perfection, approval, desirability and acceptance.”

BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

Oliver Burkeman’s book is a phenomenal account of Stoicism, Buddhism and displays an overall contrarian philosophy that is highly practical for leading a happy life amidst an ever changing and uncertain world.  It is very well written and provides highly relevant and effective strategies and stories for anyone who wants to improve their life.  Though this isn’t the most popular self help book on the market, I believe it to be a great starting point for someone who is just getting their feet wet in personal development.  It is written for the lay person, so the concepts and strategies he includes are clearly and succinctly presented.  I even recommend this book to more advanced readers,as he does an excellent job integrating several different philosophies and presenting a highly practical approach to living life.  The essence of the book can be understood by the ironic fact that the happiest people are not those who experience the most positive outcomes, but rather those who are most comfortable living amongst uncertainty, ambiguity, frustration and suffering.

Memorable Passages:

“The effort to try to feel happy is often precisely the thing that makes us miserable.  And it is our constant effort to eliminate the negative- insecurity, uncertainty, failure or sadness- that is what causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain or unhappy. A negative path to happiness involves learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity, stopping trying to think positively, becoming familiar with failure, even learning to value death” (7-8)

 

“The law of reversed effort, or the backwards law: the notion that in all sorts of contexts, all this trying to make everything right is a big part of what’s wrong. . . the harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed” (9)

 

“For Stoics, the ideal state of mind was tranquility, not the excitable cheer that positive thinkers usually seem to mean when they use the word happiness. And tranquility was to be achieved not by strenuously chasing after enjoyable experiences, but by cultivating a kind of calm indifference towards one’s circumstances” (29)

 

“Psychologists have long agreed that one of the greatest enemies of human happiness is ‘hedonic adaptation’- the predictable and frustrating way in which any new source of pleasure we obtain, whether it is as minor as a new piece of electronic gadgetry or as major as a marriage, swiftly gets relegated to the backdrop of our lives. We grow accustomed to it, and so it ceases to deliver so much joy.  It follows then, that regularly reminding yourself that you might lose any of the things you currently enjoy- indeed, that you will definitely lose them all, in the end, when death catches up to you- would reverse the adaptation effect. Thinking about the possibility of losing something you value shifts it from the backdrop of your life back to the center stage, where it can deliver pleasure once more. Whenever you grow attached to something, writes Epictetus, do not act as though it were one of those things that cannot be taken away, but as though it were something like a jar or a crystal goblet… if you kiss your child, your brother, your friend… remind yourself that you love a mortal, something not your own; it has been given to you as a present, not inseparably nor forever, but like a fig, or a bunch of grapes, at a fixed season of the year” (33)  

 

“Reassurance is a double edged sword.  In the short term, it can be wonderful, but like all forms of optimism, it requires constant maintenance: if you offer reassurance to a friend who is in the grip of anxiety, you’ll often find that a few days later he’ll be back for more. Worse, reassurance can actually exacerbate anxiety: when you reassure your friend that the worst-case scenario he fears probably won’t occur, you inadvertently reinforce his belief that it would be catastrophic if it did.  You are tightening the coil of his anxiety, not loosening it.” (34)

 

“Never have I trusted fortune, Seneca writes, even when she seemed to be at peace.  All her generous bounties- money, office, influence- I deposited where she could ask for them back without disturbing me. Those things lie beyond the individual’s control; if you invest your happiness in them, you’re setting yourself up for a rude shock. The only things we can truly control, are our judgments- what we believe- about our circumstances.” (40)

 

“If you accept the universe is uncontrollable, you’re going to be a lot less anxious” (49)

 

“The very thing in which you’re in flight- well, it’s the fleeing that brings on the problem.  For Freud, our whole psychology is organized around this avoidance. The unconscious is the repository of everything we’re avoiding” (56)

 

“Faced with the anxiety of not knowing what the future holds, we invest even more fiercely in our preferred vision of that future- not because it will help us achieve it, but because it helps us rid us of feelings of uncertainty in the present. Uncertainty prompts us to idealize our future.” (86)

 

“Formulating a vision of the future requires by definition, that you isolate some aspect or aspects of your life, or your organization, or your society, and focus on those at the expense of others.  But problems arise thanks to the law of unintended consequences, sometimes expressed using the phrase ‘you can never change only one thing’.  In any even slightly complex system, it’s extremely hard to predict how altering one variable will affect the others.  When we try to pick out any thing by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”. (93)

 

“The most valuable skill of a successful entrepreneur isn’t vision or passion or a steadfast insistence on destroying every barrier between yourself and some prize you’re obsessed with.  Rather it’s the ability to adopt an unconventional approach to learning: an improvisational flexibility not merely about which route to take towards some predetermined objective, but also a willingness to change the destination itself.  This is a flexibility that might be squelched by rigid focus on any one goal” (98-99).

 

“Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers” – Erich Fromm (99)

 

“We tend to assume that having high self esteem is a good thing, but some psychologists have long suspected that there might be something wrong with the whole notion- because it rests on the assumption of a unitary, easily identifiable self. Setting out to give your ‘self’ one positive rating may in fact be deeply perilous. The problem lies in the fact that you’re getting into the self-rating game at all; implicitly, you’re assuming that you are a single self that can be given a universal grade. When you rate your self highly, you actually create the possibility of rating your self poorly; you are reinforcing the notion that your self is something that can be good or bad in the first place. You have strengths and weaknesses, you behave in good and bad ways. Smothering all these nuances with a blanket notion of self esteem is a recipe for misery” (117)

 

“If you react to news stories about air terrorism by taking the car when you’d otherwise have taken a plane, or if you spend time and energy protecting your home from attackers that you could have spent on improving your diet, you’ll be letting your biases guide you toward a greater feeling of security at the expense of your real safety” (132)

 

“Seeing a tv report of a terrorist attack on foreign soil, you might abandon plans for an overseas holiday, in order to hang on to your feeling of safety- when in truth, spending too much time sitting on the sofa watching tv might pose a far greater threat to your survival” (133)

 

“What we are really doing when we attempt to achieve fixity in the midst of change, Watts argues, is trying to separate ourselves from all the change, trying to enforce a distinction between ourselves and the rest of the world. To seek security is to try to remove yourself from change, and thus from the thing that defines life. If I want to be secure, that is, protected from the flux of life, I am wanting to be separate from life. Which brings us to the crux of the matter: it is because we want to feel secure that we build up the fortifications of ego, in order to defend ourselves, but it is those very fortifications that create the feeling of insecurity: ‘To be secure means to isolate and fortify the “I”, but is just this feeling of being an isolated “I” which makes me feel lonely and afraid” (147)

 

“Next time you flunk an exam or mishandle a social situation, consider that it is happening only because you’re pushing the limits of your present abilities- and therefore, over the long run, improving them” (175)

 

“The psychotherapist Irving Yalom, in his book Staring at the Sun, points out that many of us live with the dim fear that on our deathbeds we’ll come to regret how we spent our lives. Remembering our mortality moves us closer to the deathbed mindset from which a judgment might be made- thus enabling us to spend our lives in ways that we’re much less likely to come to regret” (192)

 

“All external expectations, fear of embarrassment and failure- these things fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important” (193)

 

“Imagine you are 80 years old and then complete the sentence, “I wish I’d spent more time on … and “I’d wish I spent less time on …” (203)

 

“Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, of combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order that the immanent and transcendent Unknown Quantity may take hold” -Aldous Huxley (208)

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving” – Lao Tzu (212).

 

 

Breaking the Trance of the Cultural Hypnosis

I love to watch people and observe how they live their lives and organize their experiences internally. My people watching is done in a judgmental or moralistic way, but more so with an observational and curious attitude.  I look out into the world like an anthropologist trying to understand another culture or a scientist in a lab.  It is purely from a place of learning and understanding what drives human behavior.  What I have found from my own observation (which has also been confirmed in much of what I have read) is that people have the strong tendency to avoid painful stimuli and move toward pleasure. I know this isn’t a groundbreaking finding, however it is a crucial underpinning for identifying what drives your own behavior as well as understanding what drives society as a whole.  From this basic premise of the pain-pleasure principle, one can then take the monumental step toward living a self-actualized life- a life free of emotional hostage taking, depression, anxiety, addiction, co-dependence and suffering. 

 

The advancement of technology over the past 15-20 years has created a culture of instant gratification and addiction.  People are overly reliant on external stimuli to feel good and access positive emotional states.  If they aren’t watching tv, then they are on the internet. If they aren’t on the internet, they are playing video games. If they aren’t hooked into some technological device, they are eating or drinking. If they aren’t eating or drinking, they might taking some drug or administering some medication. And when they aren’t engaged in one of these activities, it is likely they are being stimulated through some interaction with another person. Overall, our culture has us wired to be dependent on people, places and things outside of ourselves.  People who come to me often share that they don’t like to be alone and that when they are alone, they get particularly anxious. Then I ask them what they do to stop feeling anxious. Their response- they either turn on the tv, drink a beer, eat something, surf the internet or call a friend.  Our culture is becoming completely dependent on external stimuli to feel good and to elevate our emotional state. To add to this addiction, the mass marketers are feeding this cultural hypnosis through their constant barrage of advertisements that say “buy this-feel this way”.  When you really break it down, how much of our lives are really under our own control? How much of our emotional states are dependent on people, places and things outside of ourselves? 

 

I am not prescribing that you dispose of all your electronics, move off the grid and become a hermit or a monk. What I am suggesting is that if there is to have any semblance of a healthy life, one must strike a balance between between being internally emotionally regulated and externally stimulated. I would even go a step further to say that the path toward self-actualization is one of complete and total freedom from getting fulfillment or relief from external stimuli. You can choose how you want to live your life, however just be cognizant that the level of suffering you will experience in your life is dependent on the level in which you are dependent on external people, places and things to make you feel good and give you positive emotional states. 

 

As I have said over and over, “The problem is never the problem”. And this holds true for this epidemic that is plaguing our society. People think the problem is the drastic rise of depression and anxiety (and other mental health issues) in our culture. The real problem is the blatant ignoring and pacifying of such problems through means of medication and other external stimuli (tv, iphones, food, alcohol, drugs). Depression and anxiety are incredibly valuable signals that provide us with feedback that needs to be taken into consideration. These negative emotions are telling us that we need to do one of two things. We either need to change our procedure- which is changing our current actions and behavior. Or we need to change our perception- which is to change how we’re contextualizing our experience. Rather what is the typical response to such negative emotions in our culture? Drink another beer, watch another tv show, post another picture. People use these short term strategies (aka pacifiers) to run from pain and seek some degree of relief and comfort. The irony is that until the anxiety, depression and other negative experiences get addressed directly, it will continue to show up in some way, shape or form. Most people continue to ignore the signals and keep shoving the problem under the rug for another day. They become masters at finding short term strategies to escape the pain. The problem with such a strategy is that just like any addict, they will eventually hit rock bottom. There will come a point where the pain and suffering will not be able to be subdued by the temporary fixes anymore and this will create such agony and despair that one will truly hit rock bottom and be forced to confront their inner demons. The problem with letting it get to this point is that it typically doesn’t happen for years or decades. This leaves people in what they term a “mid-life crisis” when they get in their forties or fifties.  

 

In order to avoid hitting rock bottom or waiting until your so called ‘mid-life crisis’, it is time to do two things. First, begin identifying the negative emotions in your life. Rather than brushing the anxiety and depression under the rug and pacifying the pain with temporary external fixes (like relationships, food, drugs, technology, etc), begin to sit with the pain and suffering.  As uncomfortable as it might be in that moment, it will save you 1000x the amount of pain and suffering down the road. Once you can get very comfortable sitting with the negative experience, rather than pacifying it with some short term external fix, you can then move on to the next step in the equation.

 

While the first step is about identifying the problem state and just being with it. The second step is about enacting the solution to the problem. If you only identify the problem and there is no solution, one will inevitably return to the old ineffective patterns of behavior to solve the problem and escape the pain and suffering. The solution involves breaking the cause and effect trance that we need something outside of ourselves to feel good. True self actualization and person power is available when you can access peace, joy and other positive emotions without the need for some external stimuli (people, place or thing). One way to cultivate this internally driven experience is through a daily meditative practice. Whether it be through meditation, a martial art or yoga- these meditative practices teach your brain and body that “I can feel good for no reason” and that I don’t need something outside of me to feel good and access a positive emotional state.  Yes these practices do indeed have a physiological component to them that enhances their positive effect. By installing a daily meditative practice, one can begin to break the cause and effect linkage that in order to feel good and regulate one’s emotions- they need to do something outside of themselves.  

 

Personally, spending 45 minutes to an hour every day in meditation has allowed me to feel good for no reason. I don’t need an excuse to feel good. I can feel good just by being here in the present moment with my thoughts and experience.  Meditation also is very effective at cultivating a sense of gratitude. Because by sitting with your thoughts and observing your breathing- you are unconsciously teaching yourself, “I am grateful for this moment… I’m okay just being right here and now”. Now when I go out into the world I am not frantically seeking external stimuli to regulate my emotions.  Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty of the outside world, meditation creates a “happy place” where you can go to seek refuge and peace.  Meditation and other meditative practices unhooks you from the cause-effect hypnosis that runs our culture. It breaks the erroneous belief that you need some person, place or thing outside of yourself to feel good. Our culture is predicated on the do–>have—>be model. When in reality the more effective model for living an emotionally healthy life is be–>do–>have.

 

The culture through the media, politics and mass marketers has conditioned us to be slaves to external stimuli. Just look at your everyday emotional experience in this world. Look at each emotion you experience- contentment, sorrow, anxiety, peace, anger, etc. In each of these momentary experiences- what is causing these to fire off within you? My guess is that some external event, person or thing is behind the emotion. If this is the case, then you are inherently not in the driver seat of your life. Through a consistent dedication to deep meditative practices, one can begin to gain greater control over their emotional life and begin to unhook themselves from the scary reality that they are at the mercy of the feedback that they are receiving from their external environment. The vast amount of personal problems in our world come down to one’s inability to regulate their emotions.  Addiction is the perfect example. People who are addicted (whether it be drugs, alcohol, food, co-dependent relationships, etc) have inability to get themselves to experience positive or comforting emotions by themselves. They instead turn to an artificial substance to provide them with the emotional state of pleasure, comfort and feeling okay. Therefore the addiction is nothing more than symptom. If they stop drinking, they will find some other substance or activity to change their emotional state. The solution to this problem of one’s inability to cope and emotionally regulate lies in mastering one’s own internal communication and their ability to feel good amidst the absence of pleasant external stimuli. All the way back in the 17th century, Blaise Pascal made an incredibly relevant observation when he said:

 

“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone”