Tomorrow, I am off to my first meditation retreat: ten days of silence, concentrating on my breath, and scanning my body for sensations. Ten hours each day. One-hundred hours total.
Recently, I passed a milestone: 300 consecutive days of meditation. It's become an essential part of my day whether sick, tired, or busy. So, why do I do it?
Forget the stock-standard answers. It's the same reason some people still smoke despite knowing the health risks: smoking balances them out. Now, my brain didn't need balancing out before my PTSD, but it prefers it now. Meditation quietens the anxiety, the self-reflexive examination, the obsessive thinking on events past, the irrational desire to change immutable history.
Can I tell you a story? I've spent most of a lifetime where my mind has never stopped. It's always thinking; there's never any silence. I have this good friend called Neuroticism whom perhaps you know? But in February of 2016. I did a three-day course doing a somatic-therapy workshop, the same therapy which a month earlier had cured me of PTSD so clearly and distinctly after ten years of struggling that it still felt surreal. After all the scientifically proven treatments had failed, all the psychology visits and mental probing and whatever else, I try a therapy that targets the nervous system in the body, not the mind, and isn't yet clinically proven, and all this craziness in my head for ten years just goes poof! and disappears. Can you imagine what it feels like to have been fighting for so long just to keep going and then the fight just disappears and there you are?
Well, I did the workshop where we used this somatic therapy twice each day for three days, and then, for the following three days, everything changed. My mind, forever chattering, went silent. My feeling of being separate from the rest of the world, from being me, and you being you, disappeared, and I felt like everything was one. You hear these stories in various meditation traditions, but to have it firsthand and proven to you! I was in complete harmony with the world. My mind was empty of thought except when I consciously chose to think. I loved everyone and everything around me. Nothing angered or frustrated me. Nothing! Every ounce of bad news was just greeted by my mind with complete acceptance. In fact, bad news no longer seemed bad, just news. The problems with the world were no longer defined by my mind as problems.
I didn't have to try in order to get anything done. I just knew what I had to do and I just did it, calmly and happily. There was no fighting needing to be done in the world, because there was no fighting needing to be done in me. Am I making sense? It's one thing to believe that life is a struggle, but another to feel that way. And the struggle just disappeared. My flaws didn't bother me, insecurity disappeared, and the world was beautiful and miraculous. People who take LSD or Psilocybin sometimes report such states afterwards. But the only people who seem to reach such a state on any kind of permanent basis are advanced meditators. That experience is a big part of the reason I started meditating, because I now knew that my mind was capable of operating in a different space to what I thought it could.1
- Most of this post (specifcally, the last three paragraphs) comes from an old letter that I wrote to a dear friend who died too soon.