Meditation ~ from depression to love.
I had always been too impatient to try meditation. Sitting around contorted, not doing anything? Not my idea of fun. Until a few years ago, something changed my mind.
I was at a point in my life where things were going downhill in every way – especially emotionally. Being a voracious reader, I had tried everything that I could get my mitts on, including the Tony Robbins course etc. but nothing really worked. They chipped away very slowly, but I was on a fast decline, rapidly spiralling into a deep depression.
I needed to find something ~ and fast.
There was a book on my shelf that had been there for years that I’d never read, it was a tiny book about meditation. It was called “Meditation: A Foundation Course, by Barry Long” an Australian spiritual seeker and teacher. It has about ten chapters, very short, one exercise per chapter. It’s great for the beginner to experience what meditation is all about and what it can do for you.
I picked it up and started reading about it and I remember thinking, “hmm, this sounds pretty strange, this doesn’t sound right,” because it was a little challenging. It started off by saying that meditation is destructive! It destroys the false in you. And I thought, “I’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much. There’s nothing false in me!” And of course, that voice, the voice of my ego is exactly what was false about me.
Of course we all have ego ~ it’s how we survive in the world. It’s become a bit of a bad thing to have if you read new age material, but it is nothing more than the idea you have about yourself, and a pretty handy concept most of the time.
What I didn’t realize at the time was the fact that “I” am not my ego. It’s something I made up in my mind to make sense of the world. I was under the belief that I was my thoughts. Just like the famous Descartes quote, “I think, therefore I am.” Nothing could be further from the truth. But that was the illusion that I was suffering under and that’s pretty much the predominant Western illusion.
So when I read that meditation was going to destroy the false in me, destroy the “ego,” destroy the conditioning of the mind, my ego put up its defense mechanisms. But because I was in such a negative and depressed state of mind, I pushed myself through and persisted anyway because I had nothing left to try. I’d done everything and tried all the other approaches and I was still desperately unhappy and my life wasn’t working in any way ~ Career, health, financial, no relationship, away from my family, even when hanging out with friends I’d just spend my time complaining to them. So, not one area of my life was working. My nutrition was very bad. I would exist on McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, pizza and pasta fast food. I later worked out that I was spending a third of my income (which wasn’t small, but it wasn’t great either) on food ~ junk food. I was unhealthy, overweight, I wasn’t exercising, and I was in bad shape emotionally. All these factors, mental, emotional, physical, were driving me down into a pretty bad spiral, fast. And that’s when I picked up the book and began these simple meditation exercises.
The exercises were pretty simple. The first covered posture (sitting upright in a regular chair for westerners), breathing and focus.
“Most people confuse a still mind with a blank, idiotic mind. Far from it. A still tiger is not a blank or idiotic tiger. A still mind and a still tiger are alert, aware, poised and ready.”
I proceeded with the first few exercises and just watched my thoughts come up and wander as thoughts do, but I didn’t find it very interesting because my thoughts came very rapidly as my mind-chatter was insane.
At the time I couldn’t sleep at night. When I went to bed every night, I would lay there for at least two hours, uncontrollably thinking until I eventually tired myself out. So, the monkey-mind, the conditioned mind was over-active with (what I’d later find out to be) beta brainwave activity. The beta stage is a fight-flight stage, helpful for running away from bears but not so good for relaxation or creativity. It creates stress hormones in the body and wears you out before your time if you continually operate at this level (like most westerners do). Meditation on the other hand, stimulates other brainwaves, and in turn tells the brain to produce hormones that make you more relaxed, more connected and more creative.
I persisted with this ten-lesson course of meditation over the weeks because I’d read the studies declaring that it was an effective way of getting my life back on track. So for the beginning goal of meditation was to simply become happy again. All I wanted was some peace, to stop the mind-chatter and to get my creativity back. Creativity is my life-blood because I work in film and TV and need it all day, every day.
I persisted meditating every day for about six months… and nothing really happened. The mind-chatter that I experienced was so great, it was just as persistent as I was! But then it happened: One day, near the end of a meditation I caught a glimpse of peace, a tiny fragment of bliss.
What is Bliss?
For me it was a gap, between one thought and the next. A gap had opened up, and would have only been for a split-second. This gap was something I’d probably not experienced since I was in my early teens ~ I’d forgotten all about it. Now, when you are under the illusion that you are your thoughts, and then your thoughts stop, what happens to “you?” As I experienced this fleeting gap between thoughts, I realized I was still there, still alive, still conscious ~ but I wasn’t thinking. Even though I wasn’t thinking, I was still conscious, I was still aware. This shattered my belief that “I am my thoughts,” once and for all, but what’s more, it felt good. It felt wonderful, after all it was an experience of bliss! In that tiny half-second, I was in bliss, experiencing timeless peace and happiness.
Of course, I instantly gave this a lot of thought! And didn’t experience it again for a couple of days. But when I did, the gap got larger. And this gap kept getting larger and more frequent. That’s when I knew there was something in this meditation thing! If you can experience that tiny gap, that small sliver of light shining through the crack in the door, then you will eventually be able to walk through it. And that was a very exciting prospect for me indeed.
Those tiny gaps that were opening up for me were also having an effect on my life outside of my meditation. I finally began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My persistence was starting to pay off.
With this new excitement, I did a lot more research on meditation and spirituality both online and especially offline. I tackled it the same way I approach anything, by diving into the subject boots and all. I had quite a lot of savings at that point so I had the luxury of taking time off work (I worked freelance, so I could do that) and poured myself into learning about meditation.
I found a lot of great books, a lot of good spiritual teachers and started learning these new ideas and evaluating their merits for myself. None of the religious stuff was very interesting to me, so I focused more on the philosophy and and the practical side ~ things I could actually apply right away, and measure its impact.
I learned about the “religionless-religion” Buddhism, about yoga, zen and some Hinduism. But I especially liked the teachings of westerners who had studied the eastern religions like Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle, et al. I was already an avid student of Joseph Campbell, so all these new ideas were coming together in a new and elegant way for me. I hope to share what I have learned in a very simple and practical way, so you too can start to apply some very useful techniques to improve your life (and begin to reverse some of that negative programming we were all subjected to as children). It’s my intention that you can quickly learn the most beneficial techniques for taking control of your life, without spending all the time that I have in distilling it.
It’s all about learning how to create your life consciously and intentionally. You decide for yourself.
So there I was with these beautiful gaps of pure consciousness opening up before me. While at the same time reading about how most people have to spend at least 20 years meditating before attaining anything like “enlightenment,” or “awakening.” My ego jumped onto those pretty quick and said, “oh yeah, I want that! But… I want it now!” (Just like everyone else under 30, right?) So there was my next goal. I asked myself, “how can I make this quicker? How can I supercharge this?”
In my search, I found a very interesting “life-hack” called brainwave entrainment using binaural beats. A mouthful I know, but bear with me a sec ~ here’s what that means:
Two audio tones (one in each ear), played at slightly different frequencies, stimulate the olivary nucleus in the brain. The olive, in trying to reconcile the two tones, creates a perceived “third” tone inside your brain, which is the difference between the two. So, if one tone is at 100 Hz and the other ear is experiencing a tone at 110 Hz, the difference will be 10 hz ~ which is the brainwave frequency of Alpha (a relaxed, light meditative state, that’s conducive to peak-performance).
I discovered that if I listened to this I could entrain my brain to a meditative state quite easily. I had already read of many benefits of the Alpha state.
Side Note: People speak of an “Alpha brainwave state” as if Alpha is the only range of brainwaves your brain is generating at that time, which isn’t the case. If someone talks about being in a Theta state, or Delta, or Beta, it’s just the predominant range that your brain is creating at that time, because your brain is more than likely to be producing brainwaves throughout all the ranges concurrently.
So, I began meditating with my own binaural beats. I also found a product named Holosync, created by Bill Harris, director of Centerpointe Research Institute. Their website has tons of great information on the science behind the technology and also what happens in your brain when you use this technology. Even though they keep their “carrier frequencies” secret, I thought I could do better than them so I created my own binaural beats soundtracks.
I meditated with my own tracks for about 7-8 months and I was getting pretty good results. All the while, the gap was getting bigger and bigger and my experience of life was getting happier and happier. Meditation changes you from the inside out. But it still wasn’t going as fast as I wanted.
I went back to Holosync and tried their free demo ~ it was clear that it was going to do a better job than my own homemade soundtrack did. So, I dropped the large wad of cash that it costs and ordered Awakening Prologue, which is the first level of Holosync. To go through their whole program takes about 12 years. I began using Holosync in November 2006 and the meditative state straight away seemed a lot deeper. And that’s how I began meditating, an hour every day.
Note 2012: during the past 4 years my team and I have developed and perfected our own custom technology and believe it’s superior to any other products. You can learn more about The Accelerated Meditation.
The benefits of meditation are so great it really does impact upon every area of your life because your mind and your brain dictate every other area. It regulates your body and everything changes. Your perception, your subjective reality changes. I’m going to do a separate article on the benefits of meditation because it’s such a huge topic.
When you meditate traditionally, it’s the technique that drives your brainwaves down to the meditative levels (this could be mentally reciting a mantra or simply focusing on the breath). This might take anywhere between 20 – 30 years to really master. The reason being there is no feedback mechanism. Subjectively there is no way to tell what brainwave state you are in at any given time. But with binaural beat technology like Holosync, it is the tones that entrain the brain down to the meditative level. In fact, because of this, it can go even lower than traditional meditation. You don’t need to worry about your technique, just experience the state as it happens (incidentally, whatever happens in meditation is what needs to happen. Pleasant or unpleasant). So straight off the bat, I’d discovered a way of knocking 20 years worth of growth down into about four or five years. Good news.
The main thing meditation does is expand your awareness and make you more conscious of your internal world. You begin to see all the things you’ve been doing to create your life as it is right now, unconsciously. Each one of us creates our reality exactly the way we have chosen (however, usually unconsciously and unintentionally). Want to know your unconscious, hidden thoughts, beliefs and values? Look around you at your results and see what those thoughts have created. This isn’t about blame however, it’s about responsibility. You’re not to blame for any undesirable events, situations and people in your life (you didn’t create or attract them on purpose), but you are responsible. And meditation gives you the power to change things for the better.
My life was a mess a few years ago, and when I started meditating, I found out that my beliefs and values were directly creating what I was experiencing in my life. So once you have been meditating a while, your creativity, your ability to create your life as you want it, increases exponentially. You are able to consciously decide and implement new thoughts and behaviors.
As your awareness expands, as the gap between thoughts opens up, you are able to pay more attention to the thoughts that arise in your mind. And there will be many thoughts! It might seem like meditation will stimulate more thoughts, more dark thoughts rising to the surface, but really it’s just your awareness expanding to include previously shunned thoughts. It makes the unconscious, conscious.
When you begin meditating and your “stuff” is bubbling up to the surface (emotionally, it might be a bit crappy), you get to witness these thought patterns that you had previously made unconscious. You pushed them into a dark corner and made them into a conditioned habit that didn’t come up into your awareness at all. So you would be creating your life using these unresourceful thought patterns, and wonder why your life wasn’t working! Wondering why you were experiencing bad relationships, bad finances, sad feelings and overeating. But you were just acting out the program you’d given yourself. And meditation is like de-hypnotizing yourself to these bad habits, bad thought-forms.
It is like shining the light of your consciousness into the darker realms of your mind, your unconscious. What you find there are your old patterns that no longer serve you. I’ll get into why those patterns were created in the first place in another article. But for now, just know that if there is a part of your life that’s not working exactly as you want it to, you can be sure that there is an unconscious pattern creating it. Meditation uncovers that pattern and enables you to change it.
Ken Wilbur famously said, “awareness in and of itself is transformative.” Once you become consciously aware of something, it’s impossible to keep doing it if it’s not resourceful to you. Now here’s the difference between knowing something cognitively and being aware of it: Every smoker knows that smoking kills, but they do it anyway. Cognitive knowledge. But they are not consciously aware of the effects on the body. Someone once asked Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, an enlightened teacher, how to quit smoking. He replied simply, “smoke consciously.” If you truly become aware of what happens when you draw a deep lungful of tar and nicotine and all the other poisons, you will not be able to continue to do it. Become totally conscious, present and aware, and you will not be able to continue. You will have already decided against it. Your conscious decision overrides all physical addictive behaviors because it all starts with the mind and brain. And the body-mind is really one thing.
Meditation will influence every area of your life. My entire life changed. Every area of my life swung around. I experience love and happiness every day (feelings from within), and the happier I get, the more my external reality changes to reflect that. I went from trying to force things to happen, trying to resist things into existence, to accepting and surrender (I’ll talk more about these later as they are topics in themselves).
When I accepted my situation as it was, in my depressed state, I could then get on and move forward. It takes a lot of psychic energy to resist what is. Ironically, it turned itself around! Put effort into your self and life will take care of itself! All I needed to do was to be grateful for where I was and just move forward moment by moment towards what I wanted.
My health improved, my creativity in my work (writing, directing and editing film and television) took off: I co-wrote a TV show which that played on TV in NZ, my frustrations with work went away, my road-rage evaporated, I was able to form new relationships and am now with a beautiful and amazing woman ~ and having a baby together! That’s gotta be the most creative thing in the world… 🙂
I’m going to post more about the benefits of meditation, how long it takes and what you can do to speed it up using other methods (not just binaural beats, but also neuro-feedback brain training among other effective techniques).
I really want to communicate how beneficial and easy meditation is. My aim is to help you decide on the best meditation practice for you and implement it. I’ll also show you a range of traditional techniques, and where to get the best entrainment soundtracks. Start out small with a few minutes a day, and build on it from there.
Wishing you all the best with what could be an incredible turning point in your life.