Nothing Definitive

Category: Meditation

What Happens When You Stop Meditating?

Today’s video talks about my transition from regular meditative practice to a decreasing amount over the course of 6 months. As life got more busy, my focus shifted to other work and I found less time for meditation. While I did maintain much of my other practice, I lost the important part that kept me grounded and peaceful. I was less aware, less happy, and less “floaty”, an effect I had never understand until after it disappeared. I then experienced a week of depression and anxiety that culminated in my realization that I needed meditation more than anything else.

Within a couple days of strict practice I found myself leveling out and more content, but the floaty feeling of enlightened thinking has left me. I am now working to return back to my previous state while balancing my responsibilities and projects.

Why is Meditation so Important for Enlightenment?

In my previous article, I mentioned the main benefits of meditation: relaxation, a clear and energetic mind, heightened awareness, sensitivity to positive and negative energy, calmness and peace, the ability to detect states of consciousness, discovering and resolving internal conflict, and increased productivity. Today I want to talk about my latest findings and why meditation is becoming an even more important part of my daily life.

The first lesson, and one that proved very profound, was the importance of reinforcing positive thinking. The old adage, “you are what you eat” and the Buddhist quote, “what you think, you become”, perfectly express the idea that: you alone determine who you are. This is something I’ve been pondering for quite some time and the realization I met with, was that I alone, stand in my way. That my happiness, contentment, and purpose in life, is clouded by my own mind. And this realization reveals that while it may be difficult to always see, you alone determine whether or not the external world can affect you. Even when bills are due and work is stressful, only you determine whether or not they upset you. It is a difficult realization to apply, but through meditation you can successfully achieve it.

So with this thinking comes the idea that reinforcing positive thinking is the obvious path. If we get to choose how to experience life, than why not experience it content and happy? And the importance of this lesson escaped me until very recently. I was meditating to my new favorite song on YouTube and it resulted in this incredibly intense and uplifting wave of positive energy. I literally teared up as I felt myself letting go of all my emotional and psychological burdens. Warmth and contentment, like I had never experienced before, filled my body and I felt at peace with the universe. It was so powerful that I felt unconditional love for all life on this planet. Anyone could have approached me, friend, family, or stranger, and I would have hugged them lovingly and done anything I could to help them. It was both strange and wonderful, and it was this moment when I realized the importance of the lesson above. That if, through meditation, one could recall this feeling, you would spend the rest of your days happy and content. Willing and excited to lend a hand to anyone in need.

Note: reinforcement is based on the theory that through consistent practice, one will weaken the neurons of your past self and strengthen new, positive ones. I explain this in more detail here. Also, vary your meditation times, locations, rituals, etc. Sometimes a minor change can result in a totally different meditative experience. Exs. before sleep, after a nap, with and without tea/coffee, wearing different clothes, listening to different music and sounds, etc.

There is one problem with positive thinking though, and it’s something I’ve personally worried about and observed. It’s this idea that the best creativity comes from suffering. I’ve noticed that when I feel depressed and lonely, I channel my darkness into whatever I happen to be working on. And you see this best in music. Bands will produce brilliant works of art in their early albums and the moment they get famous, their future albums dive. It’s like a switch gets flipped and the motivation to end your suffering kills your creativity. Joe Rogan and friends have also mentioned it as comedians. They admit to a superstition where any alteration or improvement in their routines may destroy their ability to write new and compelling content. It is a real concern because so much brilliance seems to come from those dark times. I’ve even wondered what will happen upon becoming enlightened. Will the urge and ability to unravel the mysteries of the universe end?

Another retrospective element of meditation comes from the successful integration of practice into your daily life. Often times I will hear individuals complaining about their life and the many stressors we find within. And I always think to myself, “wow, that would be awful to experience all that negativity without meditation, especially when you believe so ardently that it is real.” So much pain and suffering could be mitigated simply by meditating, yet so many do not heed its relevance. I urge you, reader, to carefully consider what it is you may be missing.

So, the title of the this post asks, “why is meditation so important for enlightenment?” I cannot possibly provide a complete and articulate answer that will convince you one way or another. I doubt it’s even possible to adequately describe it without writing an entire book. But I will at least provide this: meditation is a tool that provides a distracted mind with a moment of calmness in which they can hopefully glimpse reality. It is a statistical thing, like loot drops in World of Warcraft. You raid week after week with the hope that your gear drops, and it takes much time for it to happen (unless you’re lucky). Meditation is similar. You will meditate day after day, perhaps frustrated with the results, but eventually your loot will drop and realization will form within your mind. And when it does all the rewards of enlightenment will begin to stream within. And once you have it, it will all seem so obvious, and you will wonder how you never saw it before. A surreal and wondrous world will open up before you and your journey will begin. But be wary, because the path is dark and uncertain, and even if you begin it, you may never reach the end. There are distractions and obstacles that will fight you mercilessly and without rest. But the tool of meditation will always remain with you, ready to conquer whatever comes its way.

How To Change Your Personality

I’ve been obsessed with self-improvement for as long as I can remember, and I’ve emulated the people I respect, created lists of personality traits I attempted to form, dreamt about people I wanted to be, etc. But I’ve always ultimately failed to achieve the results I desired. My ability to become more than who I am has been an incredibly slow and tedious process. But recently I thought of an interesting experiment to try specifically regarding altering ones personality.

Say you have a person like myself who wants rapid, significant change. And we decide to find the overlapping personality traits they most desire from various characters and people they respect. We eliminate conflicting traits and are left with a complete description of a fictional character most desired by this person. From here we enact a single, strict rule; that whenever the person in question deviates from their desired persona, they must stop all activity and meditate. And regardless of deviation, meditation should still be required every 3-4 hours (this is technically arbitrary, whatever feels necessary should be used).

The point of the meditation is to restore control over the mind by focusing on breathing and calming oneself. Once achieved, the person runs through a mental checklist of personality traits and notes regarding the persona. Once completed they end meditation and return to playing out the role of this character.

My hypothesis is that, if diligently pursued, a person could rapidly alter their personality by weakening neurons of their original personality and strengthening these new ones. We all know that humans are adaptable and can assimilate into any environment, and if people hear something long enough they tend to believe it. I would imagine this person could achieve significant personality change in just a few short weeks and permanent change after consistent practice.

What do you think? Do you think this is possible? And please disregard any comments stating “this is a bad idea”, “that’s sad, you should appreciate who you are”, etc. I am well aware of all this and find that ordinary people use it to justify their weaknesses. Although I’ll admit that after researching Buddhism, higher states of happiness and contentment can be reached by eliminating desires like these. And we can’t ignore that this line of thinking is inherently bad because it causes unrealistic expectations and depression.

Update: Related to this was another question regarding experimental meditation. Could a person, summoning emotions and fluctuating between them, learn to summon them at will later on? For instance, if you meditated and imagined happy thoughts and followed them up by things that made you angry. Could you eventually have more control over those emotions?

Detecting The Subconscious

I’ve been meditating steadily for some time now and I wanted to share two interesting effects I’ve had. Let me know what you think, especially if you’re a scientist or expert on the brain.

The first is what I call “detecting the subconscious” and it is the act of freely observing your thoughts. Or at least that’s what it feels like. I have no idea what technical processes are going on, but I’ll do my best to describe it. Now if you’ve ever smoked marijuana, you may know what it feels like when your mind races. It’s like a flood of thoughts that spring randomly through your conscious mind and cause you to “space out”. This meditative effect is similar, although not nearly as intense, and involves rapid thoughts randomly permeating through your mind. Generally they’ve been image-based thoughts, like sequences of strange people, monsters, animals, and landscape. The feeling is that of a “letting go”, most likely because I’m forcing my mind to just observe, rather than think. I should also mention that my eyes are closed, and darkness helps. The effect can last as long as you wish, although I’ve noticed a difficulty in keeping my eyes closed or my mind quiet. In response to this discovery, I had a few lingering questions. First, is this similar to what people in isolation tanks experience? Next, what is actually happening inside my brain? I theorized that perhaps I’m detecting subconscious thoughts, the data that’s filtered out of my conscious mind and perhaps the image data that helps construct dreams. I think it’s important to consider marijuana as well since the effect is very similar. Perhaps since weed increases your attention to detail and ability to focus, your mind racing is simply the reduction of the filter and the ability to detect these subconscious regions. Or perhaps these are neurons that are loosely connected based on your current thoughts, but not strong enough to gain normal attention. Or maybe I’m witnessing the formation of neuronal pathways as they’re being constructed.

The second effect I’ve witnessed, and very recently, is a silver patterned hallucination. This effect is very strange and took me by surprise. It’s happened only three times, and all after I’ve woken up after accidentally falling asleep (for just seconds or maybe minutes). The first time lasted 15-30 seconds, with the next two only 5-10 seconds. Each one involved the “silver static-like patterns” that form in my eyes with extreme darkness. Note: I put “silver static-like patterns” in quotes because none of those words quite describe it, but I’m not sure what other language to use. Anyway, the images that formed before me were completely visual, not the imaginary thoughts of images we have in our heads, but literally visual in front of my eyes (or at least that’s how I perceived it. Where the images formed actually I have no idea.). The first instance involved weird Mayan-like buildings and people and I was moving over the ground like a camera suspended 15-20 feet up. I moved around looking at these various fuzzy partial-images before I lost it. The second time involved simple shapes that formed and persisted for 5-10 seconds, with the third time being a persons face that was moving and talking, but with no sound. All of these looked the same, strained my eyes (they felt compelled to open), and required me to try and keep it running. Once I lost the effort to maintain the effect it vanished and I came back to my senses. Very strange.

Update 1: I just stumbled on another journal entry related to meditation induced visual hallucinations. Here’s an excerpt, “…I was just meditating and cleared my mind so well, I began to see my subconscious as I’ve mentioned before. At first it showed itself as it had that night in my room, except this time it went a step further. I began to see visuals inside my head. Like a top-down view of a black world. It’s hard to describe. Kind of like a black city with electrical pulses running through the streets and buildings. Except the buildings were oddly shaped and my perspective was rotating so nothing stopped moving. Then I asked myself to show me more, something more visual. It then opened a small keyhole sized circle and I saw the neurons in my brain. Or at least a representation of them. The weird ganglion shape I’ve seen before. It was trippy. It also scared me slightly to get such a vivid effect inside my head…”

I remember this session and the “night in my room”, but I don’t think either of them were as vivid as the most recent ones. I recall experiencing something strange those times, but recently its been much more profound. I also recorded, “I don’t remember hearing the music I had on or any noise outside. And I feel rested, like I almost fell asleep.”

Update 2: I have another quick update to this post. The reason I don’t believe my conscious mind is generating these thoughts (from the “detecting the unconscious” part) is because they move too rapidly for me to consciously think up and they’re extremely abstract. And when my conscious mind does hone in on a particular thought, everything slows down dramatically. It’s a very different feeling than normal thinking.

Update 3: I’ve been continuing this exercise in observing these thoughts and I must insist that these are NOT conscious thoughts. They are abstract and morph from image-to-image so quickly and oddly that my conscious mind can only observe. The moment I (speaking as my conscious self) focus on a single image everything stops and I can only think about what the image was. Then, if I relax my mind, I can restart the process and watch these images begin racing through my mind again. It’s very interesting and can help me fall asleep at night when my mind is full of stressful thoughts.

What I’ve Learned From Meditation

A year and a half ago I sat down, crossed my legs, and began meditating for the first time. I had no expectations, no idea what the point was, or if anything interesting would be revealed. Rather I simply wanted another way to feel rested besides napping. But as my sessions grew longer and more frequent I began learning things and today I want to share my experiences thus far.

But before I discuss the benefits and effects of meditating, let me explain HOW I meditate. First, you must know that meditation doesn’t necessarily have a goal or method behind it. All you’re trying to do is calm yourself and see where it takes you:

  • Close your eyes and spend time focusing on your breathing. Feel your heart slow down. Once you’re relaxed, begin to tell yourself things like:
    • “Clear your mind”
    • “Release your [fears, worries, stress, and anxiety]”
    • “There is nothing but empty blackness”
    • “Your mind is quiet and calm”
  • Whenever it feels right, begin imagining the muscles in your body relaxing. Once you feel very relaxed and your mind is clear, you can begin to experiment:
    • Focus on the blackness behind your eyelids
    • Focus on soft music or natural sounds
    • Detect all the different feelings in your body
    • Or even let your mind wander and see what you think about

And remember, meditation isn’t about accomplishing some specific goal. It’s about relaxation and inward focus. Just flow with wherever it takes you.

So why would anyone go through the trouble of meditating? The first benefit is obvious: relaxation. Meditating is like napping. It feels good, recharges you physically and mentally, encourages a positive mood, and helps calm you down. But this also extends deeper and gifts you what I call “mental clarity”. After meditating my mind feels sharper and my thoughts more clear. I’d also bet creativity is boosted along with your ability to focus. You’ll also begin to experience calmness. Meditation will wrap you in a blanket of warmth and comfort. Irrational thoughts, mood swings, frustrations, anger, etc. will dissolve and leave you feeling serene. If you accomplish anything through meditation, it will be this.

Next is the ability to detect your state of mind. After a number of sessions I began to grow aware of how different I am prior to, and after, meditation. My mind exits refreshed and ready for new challenges as opposed to the tired and weakening mind before. This was especially apparent after chatting with my sister about work and finances. I shared my worries and agreed to pursuits that were contrary to my goals and it wasn’t until after meditating that I realized how different my perception of reality was. I was weak and irrational, and the moment I woke up from my inward journey, I saw it clearly. That I had failed to maintain my composure and strength. And that’s when I realized how different we are during different states of mind. There is a “Sam” that exists that is strong and motivated, a “Sam” that is weak and scared, a “Sam” that is fun and extroverted, and a “Sam” that is quiet and shy. Meditation unlocked that realization and made it obvious from then on. This is a very powerful effect and one I hope you discover.

Another useful effect is the ability to discover internal conflict. When I mentioned allowing your mind to wander, this is the reason. I’ve often found that the thoughts arising are those of worry and stress. This is a perfect opportunity to address them rationally. And when you’ve allowed yourself to cycle through them, making a plan or even solving them, you’ll awake extremely content and ready for the world. Additionally, you may discover problems you weren’t aware of. This can tremendously reduce stress as often times just rationalizing problems helps a lot.

There are also experiences like blinking or flashing lights, mental images, strange thoughts and emotions, and something I call “detecting the subconscious”. Now, I have no idea what is actually happening here, but based on what I know and can guess, it is an experience similar to racing thoughts. It happens after my mind has reached a point of relaxation and the frontal lobe reduces activity. I can “unfocus” my mind and watch as my thoughts fly by. If you’ve ever smoked marijuana, you may have experienced an effect like this. Generally what I’m “viewing” are images and sounds all meshed together. It’s not a visual trip I would imagine you get from psychedelics, but rather like vivid imaginations. It also results in either drifting asleep or feeling immensely relaxed.

So what about productivity? When I first began I was concerned that meditation might be a waste of time. That virtually any other task, whether work or pleasure, was more productive. That was until I realized how much it could restore your willpower. My workday rarely ends at 5 PM because I enjoy what I’m doing. But let’s face it, sometimes I’d rather load up a Steam game or League of Legends. These are times when I turn to meditation. The lights turn off, soft music fills the room, and I escape into a calm, serene world. Upon exiting I feel motivated and refreshed and I pursue tasks at hand with a renewed vigor.

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