It started because I wanted to see girls naked. I had glasses, braces, acne, was the worst kid in gym class, had crazy hair, and liked science fiction. And I was 12. But through research in libraries, bookstores, random ads in the back of magazines at the local pharmacy, I knew there was one technique where if I applied all of my superior intelligence then certainly within weeks if not days I would reach my goal.
I read a book, “Journeys Out of the Body” which seemed pretty convincing. You could basically leave your body, fly around wherever you wanted, see whatever you wanted to see, and by the time the sun rose, made sure you were back in your body for school. Next step, I got the book, “The power of Psycho Cosmic Power” by Al Manning. It blew my mind. Not only would I be able to astral project but I would also be able to do things like make red traffic lights turn green, get people to do what I wanted them to do (like, maybe a girl would then take her clothes off in front of me), read people’s minds, etc. But first, I had to follow the techniques from the book to build up my psycho cosmic power. For fifteen minutes a day I had to chant “Om” with my eyes closed and sitting in a chair. There was zero chance that was going to happen in my conservative Jewish household so I had to make due with lying down before I went to sleep and chanting it in my head silently instead. I figured if I did it twice a day (when I woke and before I went to sleep) then that would make up for the fact that I wasn’t it saying it out loud. The book said that was ok.
Well, it didn’t work. So I increased the time to 30 minutes a day twice a day. I set my alarm clock for 4:50am so I would definitely be done doing my very non-Jewish things before my parents woke up. It didn’t work. I tried out some techniques in another book, “Secrets of the Mystic Masters”, but that didn’t work either. Then another book suggested I chant while picturing a purple dot for a week. Then during week two, during my 30 minutes twice a day, I’d picture the purple dot turning into a tube. During week three, I’d have to climb through the tube. Etc. It didn’t work. I did more research. Other techniques. I found out there were other people doing this type of activity so started reading books about Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, all the time hiding them from my parents. Not even the rabbi suspected. Before long I was meditating on a daily basis, my new goal now to achieve some sort of eternal happiness (alas, it would be about six more years before my initial goal was achieved). I figured if I couldn’t see anyone naked then at the very least I could achieve Nirvana. That would be cool, I thought. It became more or less, a consistent (or rather, drastically inconsistent) part of my life.
The reality is, 99% of people recognize the benefits of doing some form of meditation but they will never do it. Including me. Its hard to have a consistent practice of 20 minutes a day. In a nutshell, there is one primary benefit of meditation, and its not astral projection, or psychic powers, or unforeseen riches, etc. Its how to stop getting lost in the maze so you can stand above it. You learn in those 20 minutes of “practice” (and it really is practice that is intended to be used in the real world) how to stop yourself for a brief moment when you are lost in the chaos of your life. If you suddenly start thinking, “man, how am I going to pay that mortgage” or “that guy I’m doing a deal with is a total asshole” you are able to stop yourself, take a step back into the present moment, note the effect that thought is having on your body, and move on.
Everybody has an ongoing dialogue running in their head all day long. The dialog consists of all the things they are working on, all the things they are afraid of, all of the things that bother them, all the plans and machinations they are in the middle of, etc and wanders all over for hours or even days at a time. Meditation helps break out of that for a few seconds at a time so you can see it for what it all is. Nothing. At least, nothing you should waste hundreds of hours of your life obsessing on.
But, again, its unrealistic to expect people to spend 20 minutes, twice a day, to “practice” this ability to detach. People just can’t sit still. I can’t.
But that’s fine. I think the idea of meditating for so long is a more Eastern world concept. Here’s the Western version. Its just like dieting. Instead of having 2 or 3 huge meals a day, why not break it down into 6 smaller meals spaced throughout the day. Or 10 smaller meals?
Personally, I think if you do a 60 second meditation, 10 to 20 times a day, Buddha would approve. And if you happen to figure out how to astral project while you are doing this, please call me.
Here’s some 60 second meditations you can practice.
– Elevator. In an elevator filled with people, take a deep breath, feel your anxiety at not being able to look at your blackberry (everyone else on the elevator is looking at theirs even though there is no reception). Where is the anxiety being felt on your body. How many deep breaths can you do before the elevator reaches its destination.
– Waiting. If you are on line at the store (or waiting for a bus, subway, or stuck in a traffic jam, etc) and feel like you are in a rush, take a deep breath again, ask yourself where you are feeling the pain of being in a rush. Is it in your stomach? Is it in your chest? Your face? Don’t judge it. Just feel it.
– Waking. When you wake up, take three deep breaths, count them. Try to list all of the things you hear that moment. Do you hear cars outside? Birds? Your house creaking? Kids downstairs?
– Alien. Imagine that you are an alien from outerspace and you were just transported into this body (“Quantum Leap” style). You have no idea who you are and you have to start with a completely blank slate. Spend the next minute figuring it out. Do this one five times a day. “Who am I?” “Where am I?” “Who are these people around me?” Figure it out.
– Dishes. Washing dishes is a great one. Stop yourself from daydreaming. Really try to do a good job washing each dish. Not a speck on them. Focus! You just missed a spot! Your only purpose in life is to wash the one dish you are currently working on.
– Surrender. Spend sixty seconds completely dedicating this day to whatever higher power you want to believe in (The Force, God, the Tao, The Supreme Alien Intelligence from the Black Hole that’s at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, etc). They are going to take over your body and mind and do their thing today. Hand over the keys to your body and mind during those sixty seconds and know that today will be dedicated to doing their mission. You are just the vehicle.
– Gratitude. Make a list in your head of all the people in your life you are grateful for. Only takes a few minutes, drastically reduces stress.
– Hate. Think of one person you really hate. Now, truly and sincerely wish him the best in your head. This person is just trying to get through life also. Maybe they’ve lost some money, or maybe they are lonely. But there is some suffering that caused them to do the things they did. Wish him or her the best. And mean it. (Don’t pity them. Everyone is suffering. Wish them the best.)
– Tense. Tense every muscle in your body for 5 seconds. Tense as much as you can. Then relax. Feels better, right? Do it again.
– Walking. When you are walking around in the city, if you are anything like me you probably hate most of the people who you pass, even if you don’t know them or have never seen them before. Catch yourself doing that. Try the reverse. Try liking all of them. Not in a patronizing way (i.e. don’t give anyone sympathy). But try to really like them.
These all work and are just as valid as the 6 hour meditations any Tibetan guru is doing in his cave. Heck, in our world we have the added advantage that we are truly stressed out of our minds with work, family, mortgages, responsibilities. This “practice” will have real practical results (although probably not my original goal from back when I was 12 years old).
Try it out. Let me know any other sixty second meditations you might figure out.