Have you ever reached a “flow” state? One where time disappears and you’re completely focused on what you’re doing? Athletes usually describe this is as being “in the zone,” and most laypeople might try to achieve this through meditation. I recently had a meditating breakthrough, and it’s because I started looking to the things I already did to teach me what I was missing. This article will describe blogging, working out, and how I learned to meditate.
The paradox of meditation
Here was my first problem when it came to meditation – I really didn’t quite know what it was. I had read about it a lot, but the best practices seemed to be a bit conflicting. How is it possible to not think about anything, while at the same time, know that you’re actually doing it? That paradox confounded me until I realized I was actually supposed to concentrate on the act of meditating itself.
Also, in studying meditation, I learned that rather short periods of time could have a tremendous benefit. Just 5-20 minutes per session seems to do the trick for a lot of people. But if you’re following this methodology, how do you know that 20 minutes have passed without breaking your trancelike state? These ideas struck me as both difficult and really nebulous. But, then I discovered…
Working out and meditation
When you exercise, do you ever lose track of time? Sometimes, it might be because you’re reading or watching something on TV. Other times, though, you might have to concentrate so hard on what you’re doing that everything else isn’t important at that moment. I fall into that camp. When I work out, I’m usually lifting heavy weights, and that requires 100% of my concentration.
Just this week, I realized that heavy weight lifting sessions (for me) are actually very brief moments of meditation. How did I come to that conclusion? I listen to music through headphones whenever I work out, and I discovered that – during that period of extreme concentration – I really wasn’t listening to anything at all. This may sound a little odd, but I hear the music before I start the set of repetitions, and I hear the music after, but not during. The music triggers a pattern because of the association I have with the music, but I don’t hear it during the execution of the routine.
Here’s the big takeaway: although I’m doing something really hard, and – especially during certain exercises like the deadlift – my whole body is contracting as I lift the weight, I’m relaxed instead of tense. Although my body is literally under tension, my mind is relaxed since it knows it doesn’t have to worry about anything else in the world during those moments. The fact I don’t hear the music shows me I’m in a state of concentrated relaxation. This, at least to me, epitomizes meditation.
Blogging and meditation
When I write articles like this one, I usually put on a playlist from Explosions in the Sky. You may recognize their music if you’ve ever watched the TV show Friday Night Lights. I’ve never watched the program, but I heard it’s pretty great. If you’re looking for something to listen to while you’re blogging, they make great instrumental rock. Although it’s great music, here’s the most important aspect of the playlist – it’s the catalyst for a positive habit routine, much like the music I listen to when I work out.
Similar to working out, I don’t notice when the playlist is over. I’m so wrapped up in writing that I don’t notice the music ended. I recently realized that – although writing requires a great deal of energy – it’s concentrated relaxation too. If I was writing to finish a term paper that’s due tomorrow, or writing for a third-party imposed deadline of some kind, this probably wouldn’t be the case. If you’ve read anything about Teaching-Based Marketing, though, you’ve learned you should write about the things you know really well. Do you see why that could be the exact opposite of stressful? Actively distilling your thoughts into a well-crafted piece of writing has the same satisfaction as a great workout. This too, is meditation.
How I learned to meditate
Based on the two lessons from working out and blogging, you can probably guess how I learned to meditate. Instead of getting wrapped up in the mechanics of it, I started concentrating on actively relaxing my mind. This may sound oxymoronic, but I now replicate working out & blogging in the context of relaxing. I put on some music I now associate with that meditation pattern, and it helps create that state of mind. Once I realize I wasn’t hearing the music anymore, I know I’ve achieved that meditative state.
What has your experience been with meditating? Have you done it successfully? If so, do you enjoy it? Do you have other routines or habits that achieve this state of concentrated relaxation?