Meditation for Skeptics
During 2020, I've been able to make meditation a regular practice.
This was kickstarted in April of 2020 when I attended a "virtual mediation retreat" with teachers from India. I meditated for two hours per day (one hour in the morning, one hour at night) for one week and spoke daily with the teachers and other meditators.
Previously, I had tried a bunch of the popular mediation apps, but failed to get the habit to stick. These days, I use Oak and do a daily unguided 40-minute mediation with 'cave water' sound on low volume in the background.
A lot of people get a lot of different things from meditation. I have been surprised at the number of people I've met that have spiritual/religious-like experiences with meditation. I'm slightly jealous of those people because their connection to the practice is visibly powerful, but meditation doesn't give me that spiritual feeling.
Benefits I get from meditation (and that I broadly think 'Type A' people will enjoy):
- When I first attempted meditation in 2018, one of the benefits I found was that it helped me to remember things. At the time I was traveling a lot for work and often forgetting things I needed to do. I'd find that even an unfocused 20-minute meditation would help surface those ideas that I would have otherwise forgot.
- These days, I'm much better at 'capturing actions' (and not forgetting things) and as a result, during my meditations, I find my brain unconsciously working to piece together disparate pieces of information and make connections that I otherwise would not be able to by just staring at a blank document for 1-hour.
- I've found meditation to be like "intentional shower thoughts", but more powerful. When you allow your brain to be unfocused, like you do in sleep, it has the time to make connections.
- There is basically no time other than meditation that I "turn my brain off". Most of the time I am being stimulated by something (a computer screen, a phone, an activity, etc.) and as a result, I am using my brain power to focus on or do that thing.
- I also find that meditation helps me to sleep better. The act of slowing down your brain and getting into a relaxed state for meditation, is something I'm able to recreate as I'm trying to go to sleep. I'd estimate that 90% of nights, I am able to fall asleep in 15 minutes or less.
- Recently I've been going directly into my meditation after a long run and I think some combination of the 'runners high' + the deep breathing of meditation gives a euphoric feeling, a 'floating' feeling. It's very enjoyable.
- Another technique that I've (accidentally) been doing for a while is Yoga Nindra ("Yoga Sleep"). A practice described as "Fully awake but in non-action." Andrew Huberman talks about research studying people who do Yoga Nindra having higher dopamine increases related to this practice, the ability to recover sleep that you may have missed out on, and overall ability to make falling asleep easier.
P.S., There is a little bit of science dabbled throughout my above points, but mostly those are my anecdotal benefits from the practice.