Why Everyone Should Try Meditation

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To understand meditation in a nutshell, go get a camera and take two pictures of the same thing.

For the first, hold your camera as still as possible, and take a picture.

For the second, shake your camera back and forth as fast as you can while you snap the photo.

The difference between the clarity in the two pictures is the difference in the clarity of a life with and without meditation.

If you’ve ever dreamt of becoming superhuman as a child, practicing meditation is probably the closest thing possible to experiencing it as an adult. Developing a regular practice leads to the creation of a virtual bulletproof vest for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Meditation means different things to different people. There are dozens of types, styles, and schools of thought surrounding it; including Samadhi, Vipassana, and Zazen. My intention for this post is not to compare the pros and cons of the different practices. What I’d like to do is give you a glimpse into what benefits can arise as a result of any method you choose.

One of the most important functions that has evolved for human survival is the ability to adapt and adjust to our surroundings. The brain and body are dealing with an unbelievable amount of stimuli in every single moment of life, and focusing on all of them at once would be impossible. So, the mind tends to shift as many familiarities as possible to the proverbial unconscious back burner. For example, you probably weren’t paying attention to the feel of your shirt on your torso until you read this sentence. Now that I’ve mentioned it, I’ve brought it back into your conscious thoughts, and you do notice it. Somewhere in the next few paragraphs, your mind will place it on the back burner again to be able to focus on understanding this article. Pretty fascinating, no?

Our minds do this to us constantly. We forget about the things and patterns that seem to be the most consistent, in order to focus on something new and unknown. Have you ever been extremely excited by the purchase of a brand new car, only to lose all appreciation for it several days or weeks later? This is the mind at play. This is also one of the many reasons why I don’t ever plan to buy an expensive car. It’s basic human psychology.

No matter what conditions we are thrown into, they eventually become commonplace with time. Our minds have the tendency to take the good things for granted, and focus solely on what we don’t have. To make things even worse, we eventually get used to all of the things we try to use to fill the void. This causes us to desire an even stronger dose. Left unattended, the mind can become a built-in misery creation device; or our own worst enemy. The good news: it can be befriended and tamed with the right amount of discipline.

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For the purpose of simplification, I will describe a very basic type of meditation.

1. Sitting in a comfortable position, breathe in until your stomach and lungs are so far out that you don’t think any more air can fit inside your body. 

2. Then breathe in a little more.

3. Hold this in for a few moments. Exhale slowly.

4. Enjoy a brief pause before inhaling again. 

5. Close your eyes, and repeat this process again 5-10+ times. Don’t worry about keeping count, the number of breaths is unimportant. This will only serve to distract you from the true purpose of the meditation. Focus only on the breath, as if it were the only thing that existed in the universe.

Go ahead and do it now.

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Stop reading and do it! No cheating! :)

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How do you feel now?

Research has shown that deep breathing practices have tremendous benefits for stress reduction, self esteem, and overall health. It increases concentration and memory. If you are a public speaker, you will be more natural and calm in front of crowds. If you play basketball, your shooting percentage will go up. If you write or invent things, meditation is like steroids. It’s almost an unfair advantage.

This is just the beginning.

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When meditating for longer periods of time (say 30-120+ minutes), that’s when truly amazing things begin to happen. In the deep silence, time slows to a halt. It can be seen for what it really is: a man-made invention that we all agree to use to simplify things, but something that doesn’t truly exist in nature. We begin to realize that our constant obedience to the concept of “time” has caused us to rush around through life, without ever taking breaks to be introspective. We end up overlooking important insights like these all of the time. Wisdom arises so much more easily; solutions to recurring problems become so clear that we wonder how we had never seen them before. 

Without the constant judgment and influence of those outside, we are able to reconnect with our very own deepest truths. We remember what it should feel like deep down to live the way we were meant to live, to treat others the way they were meant to be treated. We look ourselves directly in the mirror, see where we are lying to ourselves, and rediscover what we know is right. We regain access to the inner compass that we have been too busy to look at, causing us to veer way off course. We reflect on the decisions and actions we’ve made. We become happy about the ways we’ve grown, and remorseful about the times we’ve stooped below the level of human decency and empathy we know we should be living with every day. 

We unlock the capacity for healing deep scars, and moving forward with life. We experience compassion for others like we’ve never been able to before. A group of loud kids transforms from “a headache” into a group of young human beings playing and creating newfound joy together. A barking dog changes from being a nuisance to a great friend who wants someone to pet her, feed her, or take her for a walk. A homeless person on the street is no longer a worthless beggar, but a person who has faced extreme hardship, and needs care and guidance to find their way back to where they belong. A person ceases to work with the intent of extracting money from people, but instead to gain the satisfaction of knowing that the results of their creative process are truly bringing joy to others’ lives and reconnecting us with our lost humanity.

Meditation creates a greater capacity for empathy. It allows one to become a better friend, a better relationship partner, and a better person overall. It gives a person a silent radiance that draws others in; because we can all sense when someone is connected to something greater than themselves, and know that we could be doing the same.

If you enjoyed this article, imagine what would happen if someone were to extend it to 200+ pages, then make it slightly more awesome. This new book represents over six years’ worth of my life experiences, insights, and ideas on creating a better way of living for all of us: 

It’s All My Fault: How I Messed Up the World, and Why I Need Your Help to Fix It

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Seven Steps to Figure Out What to Do with Your Life

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1. Make a list of 100 things you absolutely love.

2. See if you can find a common theme among them.

3. See if you can combine seemingly different ones together in a novel way, and figure out how you can use this theme to add value to people’s lives.

4. Prioritize them from greatest to least important to work on if you had one year left to live.

5. Study five people who have been successful in a similar field. See how they did it. 

6. Find the intersection between your passion, your skillsets (or ones you are willing and able to acquire), and what the world needs.

7. Figure out why it’s so important to you, and never let anyone convince you otherwise. Make it happen.

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Stranded Island Dilemma

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This is a philosophical thought experiment designed to increase our empathy towards others in the world.

A plane crashes on a stranded island. You are one of one hundred survivors, all strangers. After searching around for a while, you discover that there is no source of food anywhere in sight, and everyone is in danger of starving to death. 

Then, you come across a giant mountain. Since this is the only place you haven’t been to yet on the island, everyone decides that trying to climb it is the only hope left for finding some sort of food supply to survive. But this mountain is extremely dangerous to navigate, and it is uncertain if anyone will even be able to get to the top.

Fortunately for you and nineteen of the other survivors (ten women and ten men in total), you are expert mountain climbers. On the way up the mountain, the other 80 people try as hard as they can, but are physically unable to make it to the top. Some are old, some are young, and some are physically or mentally handicapped. Others are just not physically gifted enough to make it up.

You and the nineteen other climbers finally make it to the top. When you get there, you discover a giant lake, with rows of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. It is more than enough food to feed all one hundred survivors for the foreseeable future. You and the other climbers who made it are ecstatic, realizing that starvation will no longer be an issue, and that you can now relax a little.

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While searching around the mountaintop, you come across a field full of grapes. The grape vines are some of the longest and strongest vines you have ever seen. Then, you remember that the other 80 survivors are still stuck down at the bottom of the mountain, and that if you tried hard enough, you could figure out a way to use these vines to help the others reach the top. 

Here comes the million-dollar question. Do you:

A) Use the grape vines to help the other 80 survivors make it to the top of the mountain, even though doing so would mean risking the possibility that you fall off, increasing how fast you use your food supply, and exerting lots of time and effort?

OR -

B) Go on just relaxing and living your easy life with the other climbers who made it, and say that it’s survival of the fittest, so it sucks for the rest of those who couldn’t make it to the top? 

(By the way, the majority of the people atop the mountain with you have chosen option B. So if you choose option A, you will likely be considered someone with unpopular and strange views that diverge from the mainstream. Additionally, you will find very little help or support from others, and constantly have to deal with ridicule and intentional setbacks from others who do not want to see things change.)

Give this scenario some thought. Can you figure out how this is relevant to the world we live in today?

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Through the years, 100% of people surveyed have responded that they would choose option A. Not one person has said that choosing option B is the right thing to do. 

Here’s the real reason why I created this question:

-Right now, nearly half of the children on our planet do not have food.

-50% of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day.

-80% of the world lives on less than $10 a day.

Anyone who is reading this likely:

-Is literate.

-Has food and water.

-Has shelter.

-Has electricity.

-Has the time, money, and energy to lift people out of poverty.

We are the top 20% of people who made it up the mountain. There are many people out there who desperately need our help. In a simplified hypothetical scenario, every one of us is risking our lives and dedicating ourselves to lifting people out of poverty. Are we actually living up to these ideals in real life? Are we summoning the courage to look outside of our social circles and societal norms to do what we know deep down is right, even if this means potentially having to challenge the beliefs of all of the people we’ve ever known? If we are not doing these things yet, what changes should we be making right now? These are the real questions we each need to ask ourselves.

If you enjoyed this article, imagine what would happen if someone were to extend it to 200+ pages, then make it slightly more awesome. This new book represents over six years’ worth of my life experiences, insights, and ideas on creating a better way of living for all of us: 

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What’s Your Rocket Ship?

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How do you build a rocket?

I’m not speaking in some sort of marketing lingo. I’m asking seriously: How do you build a rocket?

Most people would answer: I don’t know. I have no idea. I could never figure that out. I’m not a rocket scientist.

Deep down, we all know that this answer is based more out of laziness than truth. “I don’t know” is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a sad phrase we use to sell ourselves short.

I just ran a quick web search for this, and it returned several million results to me in milliseconds. There are free wiki tutorials about intro courses to rocket science. There are software programs released by NASA that have become open-source that anyone can access.

What do you know, there is even a TV interview of two guys in Denmark who actually have already sent their amateur rockets into space for a fraction of the cost of national space programs.

In less than ten minutes, I’ve already opened a window of possibility into doing something that seemed unfathomable because of the words “I don’t know.”

I could read up on these online courses. I could email those guys from Denmark, and ask them what the best first steps would be. I could follow all of the rocket scientists I can find on Twitter. Maybe I could even partner with them and work alongside them.

"I don’t know" is nonsense. From now on, instead of saying I don’t know, everyone should just say "I don’t care enough to put effort into figuring it out." That would be much more closely aligned with the truth.

What if the survival of the person you love most in the world depended upon your ability to launch a rocket into space? Would you still say you don’t know? Or, would you say: “I don’t care what it takes, I am going to figure this thing out.”

One of the saddest things in life is that we condition ourselves to use our creativity for all of the wrong reasons. Rather than being resourceful, and using our creative superpowers to figure out how to collaborate, build upon one another’s work, and achieve the miraculous — we create lists of creative reasons why things could never possibly work. That right there is proof of our infinite creativity — even the most negative of people is capable of creating 101 bullshit excuses on command!

We then spend our time and effort defending these positions, essentially creating encyclopedias of stories and reasons why some new creation is unfathomable. In fact, if we printed out actual encyclopedias filled with the entire summation of nonsensical excuses, stories, and arguments on the entire internet, we could build a fucking staircase so high that we wouldn’t even need rockets to get to space. We could just walk right up.

When in human history has it ever been easier to create amazing things than right now?

Perhaps you don’t care about rockets. Maybe they’re not important to you. I personally don’t care enough to figure out how to launch my own rocket into space right now. But I’ll tell you what: I have a feeling there is something equally or more magnificent that you want to learn how to do, or that you want to bring in to this world right now. And that’s the thing we all need you to do, for the benefit of everyone. What’s your rocket ship?

You see, what holds us back is not that we don’t know how to solve our problems, or that we just don’t have the information available to us to build something new. It’s that we don’t believe in our abilities. That’s really all it comes down to.

I’ll ask one more time: What’s your rocket ship?

If you enjoyed this article, imagine what would happen if someone were to extend it to 200+ pages, then make it slightly more awesome. This new book represents over six years’ worth of my life experiences, insights, and ideas on creating a better way of living for all of us: 

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The Greatest Kind of Leader

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The greatest kind of leader is the one who thinks:

"I don’t have to be a leader.

I don’t even want to be a leader.

But I know that if I don’t step up and become a leader right now, it will result in someone else suffering immensely. And since I can do something to change that, I have a responsibility to lead.

It’s not because it’s easy, or because it’s comfortable, or because it’s safe, or because it’s glorious.

I lead because the situation is calling me to lead.

I lead because the situation needs me to lead.

I lead because I can’t sit on the sidelines when I know I have the power to do something about it.

I lead because I can’t deal with the thoughts of what would happen if I didn’t.”

If you enjoyed this article, imagine what would happen if someone were to extend it to 200+ pages, then make it slightly more awesome. This new book represents over six years’ worth of my life experiences, insights, and ideas on creating a better way of living for all of us: 

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Knowledge is Power

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Most of us have heard the phrase “knowledge is power” — but we may not fully understand how to translate this into improving our lives in a practical way. Here is a little breakdown:

Knowledge = Options = Power

When we educate ourselves, we learn new things that we were previously unaware of. This gives us the ability to make better decisions, come up with more evolved and intelligent thoughts, improve the lives of ourselves and those around us, and thus makes us more valuable people overall.

This, in turn, leads to more options. The more valuable of a person you are, the more people will want to be around you, the more they will want to work with you, the more they introduce you to others who need your help or can help you, and the more doors and opportunities open in your life.

This high level of options in life gives you the freedom to choose from many different paths, and so you do not necessarily need anyone or anything to be happy or successful. And that freedom, my friend, is power. Because that freedom allows you to have the power to speak your mind, the power to be who you truly are, the power to not accept second class behavior from anyone, and the power to do whatever makes you happy. That is why knowledge is so important. 

If you read a book written by a genius in an area you are passionate about, you will absorb so many things that have the potential to dramatically improve your life.

The best part about knowledge is that unlike fancy toys, or stocks, or money, knowledge becomes part of who you are. Your car can break down at any moment. The stocks you own can plummet at any time. Hyperinflation can render all of your money useless within the blink of an eye (if you don’t believe this is possible, do some research and give yourself some knowledge about what happened in prosperous nations such as Germany and Russia during the course of history; no one is fully immune).

But no matter what happens in your life, knowledge is something that nobody can ever take away from you. Once you learn a new and revolutionary idea that transforms the way you view the world, it is yours forever. And the more you learn, the more insights you can build on top of the things you already know, until one day, you realize that the constant pursuit of knowledge is one of the pillars of your success and happiness.

If you enjoyed this article, imagine what would happen if someone were to extend it to 200+ pages, then make it slightly more awesome. This new book represents over six years’ worth of my life experiences, insights, and ideas on creating a better way of living for all of us: 

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Rise Above External Negativity

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The guy who beeped at you isn’t angry that you took two seconds to go when the light turned green. He’s upset that his kids don’t communicate with him anymore. 

The woman who gossiped about you at work isn’t really angry with you. She’s upset that she never got that big break she dreamed of, and feels stuck. 

The person who is nitpicking and makes snarky comments on the article you wrote isn’t really so upset that you misspelled a word. They’re upset because they don’t feel the love and affection from those around them.

No matter what we do in life, we will never make everyone happy, and especially not all at the same time. We can try our hardest to do the right things, and we should as often as possible. But sometimes, others will react negatively and try to tear us down.

It’s important to realize that this is not personal. If someone else is upset, or angry, that is what they have chosen to be at the moment. Their negativity is simply a way of trying to release the intense suffering they feel. They may just not know how. More than anything, it’s really a cry for help and a longing for friendship.

If you can be a friend in this situation, and help someone get down to the bottom of their stress in order to release it - despite them actively trying to bring you down - congratulations. It’s one of the toughest things in the world to do. It’s not something you can do every time, because it takes an unbelievable amount of energy, patience, compassion, and willpower. Too much of this will drain you and distract you from accomplishing anything else.

I’ve tried it and succeeded a few times, and I’ve also tried it and failed miserably other times. If you do give it a real effort and see that it is of no use, distance yourself from it and don’t engage. Perhaps they’re not ready to look within right now, or just need to hear it from someone else. But don’t feed into the negativity. Don’t let it infect you. No one can make us upset. We can only choose to be upset; and when we do, it is now our problem and ours alone. Now we need to be quarantined and treated as well, or else we risk moping, complaining, and spreading this infection to even more people.

It’s important to learn how to deal with this type of thing in the most effective and evolved way. Otherwise, we will often allow the fear of dealing with this outside negativity to force us to play small. To speak softer than we want to speak, to hide the ideas that others might not approve of, to need others to tell us that what we’re doing is acceptable.

And that doesn’t serve anyone.

If you pour your heart and soul into growing the best strawberries you can possibly grow, someone will still hate strawberries. That’s okay. That has nothing to do with you. You didn’t hurt anyone. Many other people will still like them; and if you enjoyed growing them, then it was worth doing. Sometimes you’ll create a batch that doesn’t come out good. That’s okay too. Sometimes I write things that aren’t as fluid and clear as I’d like them to be. Not every at bat is going to be a homerun. But the only way we can ever hit a homerun is by having the courage to keep stepping up to the plate.

If you enjoyed this article, imagine what would happen if someone were to extend it to 200+ pages, then make it slightly more awesome. This new book represents over six years’ worth of my life experiences, insights, and ideas on creating a better way of living for all of us: 

It’s All My Fault: How I Messed Up the World, and Why I Need Your Help to Fix It

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