What 27 Years Of Meditating Has Taught Me About True Happiness
I’m a weight-loss expert, not a meditation teacher. However, I happened to have logged a lot of hours of meditation. I’ve learned that when you remove all the mysticism and dogma, there are some incredibly useful benefits to be derived from this practice.
I didn’t start meditating so that I could become enlightened, or see God or transcend the universe, or even lose weight (although it did help me lose more than 220 pounds). I started meditating because I wanted to be able to break a brick with my bare hand. Not the most noble motivation, by any stretch of the imagination, but I once saw a Kung-Fu master touch a stack of bricks with the palm of his hand and break the bricks into pieces, simply by using the power of his mind. He said that we all have an invisible life force energy called chi, and that we could learn to direct this chi by meditating. I was sold.
So I began listening to a meditation visualization by a Chinese master for about 20 minutes a day. I never learned how to break a brick with my chi, nor have I even tried in the last 25 years. But I continued to meditate for a whole other reason.
What I noticed is that after about six months of daily practice, I started to simply love the feeling of being in the meditative state. I became addicted to meditating; not so that I would improve at martial arts or reduce stress or get any closer to finding the meaning of life — I started meditating just for the actual joy that my meditations would bring me on a daily basis.
That was back in 1987. Pretty soon, 20 minutes turned into 40 minutes, then 40 minutes into an hour. In 2002, while I was losing my weight, I started meditating from 4 am to 7 am every morning, and I’ve been doing so ever since. My meditations have now taken on a life of their own that I can’t describe in words. I look forward to them as the most enjoyable part of my day. I also get immense clarity and calmness that carries over into the rest of my life. When I have a great meditation in the morning the rest of my day is pure joy, and everything seems to flow beautifully.
The joy that I derive from my meditations has increased pretty consistently. Very recently though, the pleasure I get when I sit for meditation has expanded exponentially. I can’t understand it, or explain it. I’m still sitting like I always have, but suddenly what I’m experiencing can only be described as bliss.
A lot of gurus talk about bliss. I’ve never known and I’ve never cared what bliss really is. But that’s the only word in the English language that comes close to describing this experience.
There’s a story that meditation teachers talk about that goes something like this: There was a homeless man who sat on a box on a street corner for 30 years, begging for spare change. One day someone asked him, “Have you ever looked inside the box?” The beggar looked inside and discovered the box was filled with diamonds. The significance of the story being that there is treasure inside us, but we spend all our time and energy looking for a measly pittance outside of us.
Having never experienced this “inner treasure,” I would listen to this story and think it was truly meaningless. What does it mean to look inside, and what is this treasure anyway? Can you buy a house with it? Or go on ski vacation with it? Well, maybe not, but having now experienced this treasure I have to say that these old guys are on to something. It’s all inside us, we just have to access it.
We look for pleasure in sex, drugs, junk food, alcohol, entertainment, relationships, vacations, massages, financial freedom, extreme sports and lots of other directions. Some times the experience drains us, toxifies our bodies, causes weight gain, breaks our hearts, or costs thousands of dollars.
But the bliss derived from meditation doesn’t require any money or travel, is not exhausting, fattening or toxic and doesn’t need anyone or anything else to be experienced. It’s free, limitless and beyond any sensual experience I’ve ever had. The only way to describe the joy you can give yourself in meditation is that if it were food, it would be the most healthy, sublime, delicious, chocolate cream pie, whereas the most fun I’ve ever had in life — whether it’s a great romantic experience or an amazing vacation — is a more like a stale graham cracker by comparison.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some amazing experiences in my life. But nothing compares to this. It’s just that simple.
To me, meditation is the secret to happiness. Studies have even shown that meditation directly accesses those parts of the brain in charge of happiness. Over time, the more you access those areas of the brain, the happier you get.
As I look at older people, I notice that they either get happier or sadder as they age. It’s not a function of money or any outside circumstances that I can detect. The happy ones usually have very few needs and require very little to sustain themselves. Sometimes they’ve discovered nature or gardening or sitting in silence (they wouldn’t call it meditation, perhaps, but that’s exactly what they’re doing). Their hearts are open, they’re very much living in the present moment and their minds are simple and innocent, like a child’s. Even though their bodies may be aging they seem to get younger in spirit every year.
All of them seem to have gotten in touch with a simple, inner pleasure that keeps them happy and satisfied. They’re getting in touch with their inner bliss, and it’s growing and nurturing them every day.
Unfortunately these happy ones are the exception to the rule. Most people seem to get harder, dryer and sadder as they get older. Their minds are stuck in rigid, repetitive, fearful thought patterns, and life seems to be an increasingly difficult challenge. I often wonder if there's something we can do to help ensure that we’ll be part of the happy, simple, young-at-heart minority as we age? Without question, one of those things is meditation.
But don’t practice meditation simply for the benefits that you’ll get someday. Try to get addicted to it for the pleasure you derive today, and let the benefits accrue over time on their own. You may not feel pleasure when you first start. You have to practice it every day for at least six months before it kicks in. You don’t have to do it for hours; just 5 or 10 minutes a day is fine, but make the connection every day until you’re hooked.
How to get started meditating:
As I said, I’m not a meditation teacher, but I believe the best way to get started is to listen to a short meditation every day for about six months. It’s the daily practice that’s the most crucial component. I’m not sure exactly why, but when it’s done every day, without fail, it first becomes a habit, then an addiction. If you’re going to be addicted to anything, you might as well be addicted to meditation.
While I don’t make meditation recordings per se, I do make weight loss and health related visualizations, which are a type of meditation, and I am including one here for you to download and try. We recently created a 21-day meditation for weight loss challenge, which people really seemed to enjoy.
No matter how you get started, though, make a commitment to practicing meditation every day for a few minutes until you’re addicted, and give yourself the unimaginably beautiful gifts of true happiness and mind-body fitness.
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