How to get the benefits of meditation without meditating
Meditation isn’t for everyone. If you think it’s too weird, too mystical, or too difficult then you probably fall into this category. What’s cool is that you don’t have to meditate to get the benefits from it. You just have to break down what the benefits are from meditation and then find other methods to achieve those benefits. For example, if you want to be in great shape you don’t have to go to the gym, you can swim, bike, play a sport etc. I’ve broken the benefits of meditation down into a few categories and can show different ways to achieve those benefits.
This means the ability to dispassionately or unbiasedly observe your thoughts. This is beneficial in many ways the most common one is when you're in a negative state. Our minds start racing with negative thought after negative thought, further worsening our negative state. If you can instead learn to watch these dispassionately, you'll find it won't last as long or be as painful. There are many other benefits too like greater self-understanding which even improves your understanding of others. Increased ability to focus. There are other sub benefits to this, but I’ll leave them out because I’m too lazy and this is probably enough to interest you.
The practice you can do to build up this ability is when you notice negative thoughts arising at any time throughout your day practice observing them unbiasedly. Ask questions like "am I controlling these thoughts?”. If you answered yes, then try to stop them. You'll notice that you can't control them for long. Then ask "if you’re not controlling them can I actually say they’re my thoughts?”, “If they’re not my thoughts than what are they?” Part of being able to detach and just observe is being curious about what’s happening. These starter questions will send you down the rabbit hole.
Now, this is the important part, once you notice that you're not detached anymore and are lost in thought (and you will) take a deep breath and get back to it. This is how you strengthen these muscles these are your reps. There you go, you get one of the biggest benefits of meditation without feeling like a weirdo, or facing on that difficulty.
This exercise is great when playing poker too (if not too many tables). Lose a big pot, watch your thought process. Win a big pot watch your thought process. Get called on a big bluff and does your mind start berating you? What do your thoughts do when you make a mistake? What about when you feel inferior to other players? What about when you feel superior? What about when you view other peoples mistakes? Poker is perfect for this because there are so many battles with variance, ego, confidence and if you’re playing live poker, it adds the social element to the mix, so it initiates life even more closely.
So you typically get this from meditation by continuously watching your breath and then going back to it once your mind wanders. This builds your “focus muscle” which improves your focus, whether at the poker table, with family or doing anything. It will make it easier to concentrate on simple things, and you’ll find that no matter what you’re doing that if you’re able to have a high level of focus + curiosity, anything can become enjoyable, in fact, it can be blissful. From walking down the street, preparing food, making the morning coffee, doing a repetitive task, etc. you can have a blissful experience or at least an interesting one or a relaxing one.
So how can you get this without meditating? Well, all you need to do is build your focus muscle. In meditation the anchor is your breath, what you can do is just create a different anchor. If you’re cooking food, that's your anchor. If you’re walking that's your anchor. Talking to someone, that’s your anchor. If the last one sounds weird, do you ever get in a conversation with someone and start to think about what to say next? Well, that’s your mind wandering, so bring it back to what the person is saying.
So simply take a task you’re doing (preferable one that lasts over a minute) and try to do it with focus and interest. Your mind will 100% longer, but the strength/gains come not from your mind not wandering but being able to bring your thoughts back to the anchor. Every time you do that it’s like getting one more rep in the gym. You can even make a game of it and count your reps, each time you bring your mind back to the anchor after it wanders count 1. Next time two etc. obv. On an important side note reps differ in quality, the highest quality rep is when you gently bring your mind back without getting upset at yourself. A lower quality rep is when you berate yourself for wandering and then forcefully bring it back. Both count as reps though and don’t make it worse by getting upset at yourself because you incorrectly brought your mind back. As you get more reps your reps will increase in quality.
So what’s cool about this idea is that there are a lot of activities that are “good” for us that we don’t like/want to do but you don’t have to do them if you learn to use this technique. All you have to do is break down its benefits and figure out how to get them from somewhere else. For example, you probably heard that journaling is “good” for you, but the essence of what makes it good is reflection, release, and gathering data. So just find other ways to get this.
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