Almost 10 years ago, I started my first corporate job. I was scared. I didn’t know if I could do the job, and I was afraid I would be discovered as a fraud, and be fired. Luckily, I found a mentor at the job almost immediately. My first mentor was an older woman named April.
April took me aside one day and asked me about meditation. She was a very spiritual person, and had all kinds of experience that I didn’t have — Ayurveda, yoga, meditation and various other spiritual paths. She encouraged me to start a meditation habit. (I think she could probably see that I was a ball of anxiety.)
So, I started. At first I just sat cross-legged on the floor of my apartment while a few songs played on iTunes. I found it easy to concentrate with music in the background. Sometimes I left my eyes open, sometimes I closed them.
This was not my first experience with meditation. Years earlier, I had visited a Buddhist sitting meditation group, and stared at a flickering candle flame with my eyes open for an hour. It seemed like I didn’t blink during that whole hour.
Although that early experience was transformative, it was simply easier not to pursue a meditation practice in the intervening years. It was easier until I was motivated by the fear of poor job performance, and the gentle urgings of April.
So I sat. Some weeks I sat for 2 minutes, some weeks I sat for 5 or 10. It was sporadic. It was unstructured. It was meditation. It was working. After a few years of this, I started getting more serious about it (it helped that the company had an optional morning meditation break). And I started getting results.
“Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had… It opens the mind.” – Ray Dalio
Here are 9 things that changed in my life from meditating:
1. A greater sense of calmness on a daily basis.
2. Everyday life became easier, frictionless. This extended from the most mundane tasks like washing clothes or cleaning my house or making food to the most previously-challenging tasks, such as tackling complicated or ‘difficult’ problems at work.
3. Freedom from what I recognized as “secondary emotions” — getting mad at myself for feeling sad, for example. I felt emotions fully, then they passed, and there was nothing after them.
4. Greater understanding and feelings of compassion for other people, and the benefit of this is that I felt angry at them much less often.
5. Rare moments of deep clarity where my inner monologue went completely silent. I had not realized that all my life I had a high-pitched whine of “inner voice” ringing in your ears. When it went away, the silence felt so good it was almost a physical sensation of pleasure. (I don’t think it’s an accident that the first time this happened was after a yoga class.)
6. Professional life became completely different. The things that used to stress me, such as deadlines, budgets, resources, agendas, politics — all become totally easy and fell into place. Instead of these worries, I found myself spending more and more of the work day just trying to magnify love into each moment, no matter what else was going on. I found this a much greater (and more rewarding) challenge than hitting quotas.
7. Insight. I understood problems quicker and more easily than before, and solutions to previously tough problems suggested themselves to my mind rapidly. Although I have yet to experienced it to these levels. There are stories of great lamas being able to diagnose problems with a car engine after a brief introduction to what some of the major parts are, but without ever having seen a car before.
8. Social and emotional processing at greater speeds. I would find myself in conversations with people and their motivations would become very transparent to me. I saw “through” people, saw when they were projecting, or being immature or egotistic in their words or deeds, and this made it relatively easy to maneuver around it without getting caught up in it.
9. I started getting bigger projects and more responsibility, which might have previously overwhelmed me. In my view, this was “Life” or “The Universe” amping up the size of life events, and the speed of change, simply because I now had more equanimity with which to deal with it — where I simply wouldn’t have been able to manage before.
“If we could teach all children to meditate, we could change the world in one generation. – Dalai Lama
These benefits are by no means special or unusual. I’ve spoken to other meditators who have experienced all this, and much more, from a simple 20-minute-a-day meditation habit.