“The way to do is to be.”
– Lao Tse
“What type of meditation do you do?” I get asked this question regularly, and people are often surprised by my answer. “I don’t meditate.” The next question is inevitably, “Why not?” In this article, we’re going to be exploring 5 reasons why you don’t need to meditate, as well as an alternative that’s incredibly fruitful, enjoyable and practical.
Reason #1 – Confusing the ACT of meditating with the STATE of meditation
One of the questions I often ask groups of business-people is “When do you get your best ideas?” Here are some of the most frequent answers they give:
– In the bath or shower
– Travelling to and from work
– Dropping off to sleep
– Walking in nature
– Looking out at the sea
– Listening to music
– Sitting in the park
People typically get their best ideas when they’re in a meditative state; a state of reflection, clarity and contemplation. In fact, the purpose of the ACT of meditating is to guide you into a STATE of meditation. If you enjoy the act of meditating, great; it can be a useful “technique” to help you enter a meditative state. But there’s something worth remembering: Your mind is a self-correcting system. States of clarity and meditation are natural for you when there’s nothing else in the way. And the only things that ever get in the way are superstitious thoughts arising from the outside-in misunderstanding; the mistaken belief that you’re feeling something other than your thinking in the moment.
The only purpose of the act of meditating is to guide you into a state of meditation. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, there’s an alternative. But first…
Reason #2 – Giving your power away
You were born with the capacity for a clear mind, free from excess thinking. Your mind is a self-clearing system, and the ability to enter appropriate and relevant states of meditation is your birthright, however… when you believe you need to do something to clear your mind (whether it’s meditate, go for a walk, wash your hands five times or smoke crack), you’ve innocently given your power away.
“But hang on a second”, I hear you ask. “Didn’t you just say that people get their best ideas when they go for a walk / have a bath / dance in the rain?”
Yes I did. But those activities aren’t where the clarity comes from. Your mind is a self-correcting system. States of meditation are natural for us when we’re not being bamboozled by the outside-in misunderstanding. As you deepen your understanding of the inside-out nature of life, you’ll find yourself being guided into a state of meditation, more and more easily and frequently. Does this mean you’re going to be “Om-ing” in business meetings? No. The great thing is that you get a state of meditation that’s relevant and appropriate to the situation you’re in. The clarity that’s relevant and helpful in a business meeting isn’t the same kind of clarity that allows you to connect with your lover, listen to a client or enjoy a sunset. Clarity is context-sensitive.
And here’s the thing; it may occur to you to go for a walk / listen to music / sit quietly and focus on your breathing. If it does, great! Go for it. Enjoy it. But the walk / the music / the focusing isn’t what creates clarity. Clarity is your natural state; your default setting. It comes from deep within your consciousness, not from a walk, a ritual or a technique. In fact, the mistaken belief that a ritual, technique or other behaviour can give you clarity is behind the next reason…
Reason #3 – Getting stressed about meditating
One of the things that often characterises the state of meditation is the sense of being present and in the moment, with a sense of peace, wellbeing and clarity. But all too often, the would-be meditator gets frustrated and stressed about their meditating. They beat themselves up, telling themselves they should be better at it / do it more often / be less distractible / be more disciplined etc.
The feelings of agitation are typically a signal that you’ve slipped into the outside-in misunderstanding. The feelings are telling you what’s in your thinking, not about your progress / abilities as a meditator. Once again; if you enjoy meditating, then have at it. But if it’s leading to stress, struggle and self-flagellation, then you might like to look in a different direction.
Reason #4 – The “I’ll be happy when…” trap
Many people get into meditation in order to quiet their minds and increase their sense of wellbeing. But in some cases, the act of meditating can become the object in an “I’ll be happy when…” trap. “I’ll be happy once I can meditate properly” is just the ego’s way of tricking you into believing there’s somewhere to get to and that there is better than here. Ironically, the belief that “I’ll be happy once I can meditate properly” is exactly the kind of trick of the mind that keeps us out of the present moment, away from a state of meditation.
The “I’ll be happy when…” trap always comes with a feeling of agitation and discomfort. That uncomfortable feeling is telling you that you’ve slipped into the outside-in illusion, but it doesn’t work that way. Your feeling isn’t telling you about your future as a meditator; it’s telling you about your thinking in this moment. If you feel inspired about meditating, great. Enjoy it! But if it’s turning into a toxic goal, then it’s time to try a different approach.
Reason #5 – Making it special and different
The state of meditation is an everyday phenomenon. You can enter into profound states of meditation in even the most mundane circumstances. The clarity, peace of mind and wellbeing that show up in the state of meditation are enjoyable, relevant and practical in numerous day-to-day situations. The more deeply you understand the inside-out nature of life, the more often you’ll find yourself entering into context-sensitive states of meditation at the times when you need them. Meditation doesn’t need to be special and different, with its own fenced off area. It’s powerful, practical and relevant to everyday situations, from listening in meetings, to problem-solving, to having a rest between tasks and countless others. The high-performance states enjoyed by athletes, musicians, inspirational speakers and other top-performers are an example of the state of meditation.
An alternative to meditating
The act of meditating is not to all tastes, but the state of meditation is profoundly valuable for everyone. If you’d like to have more access to the state of meditation without having to commit time to the practice of meditating, then I encourage you to deepen your understanding of the inside-out nature of life; the principles behind clarity and CLARITY.
As you deepen your understanding of these principles, you’ll find yourself guided into relevant and helpful states of meditation more and more frequently and easily. You can find out more about these principles by exploring the videos, articles and products here at www.JamieSmart.com.
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Great post Jamie and confirms why walking my dog continues to be the best way I get good ideas! Walking through beautiful countryside and watching my dog loving it reminds me how lucky I am and in this state I often have sudden ideas that are really helpful!
And thus the Samsaric existence can exist longer for all. Heaven forbid anyone awaken the Kundalini or travel in another dimension like the astral plane. Yes, taking a shit can be rewarding for clear states of mind and having problems solve themselves, but some of us do a little more than "cleaning the mirror of the mind" while on the cushion. Cheers.
David H. You’re a special kind of smug, aren’t you? Funny how you don’t read as particularly spiritual to me. Your practice has certainly done nothing to improve your personality. Cheers.
Last year Michael D. Yapko published a book called "Mindfulness and Hypnosis" about the similarities and overlaps between meditation and hypnosis. If hypnosis were substituted for meditation in this article it would make a compelling case for why NLP can function as conversational hypnosis and people can experience so-called "hypnotic phenomena" and other personal change without an induction or any particular depth of trance.
We all do have such experiences in myriad ordinary ways, such as those you cite where people get their best ideas. The power is never in the technique and always inherent in the person. The role of the coach or therapist is to help the client discover this ability within. Sometimes people think/believe a technique or ritual is necessary and so it may be useful for facilitating their learning experience. Scott Sandland calls this the the "expectation to ritual ratio," and it is just as you've said to go ahead and meditate if you enjoy it but know that it's not the act itself that provides the benefit.
I'm saying all this because as one who people come to see for NLP and hypnosis, I'm finding more and more that I'm either forgoing rituals and just talking about the principles behind clarity or I'm using a ritual to provide the context in which a client can digest and process the same. Your work has helped me a lot, Jamie, both personally and in terms of how I'm working with clients. Thank you again!
This site really needs a way to subscribe for updates to the comments.
If we are spiritual beings having a human experience then being practical is perfect. The spiritual all ready know what to do we listen
Would this not depend on your meditation technique? The one I practice and teach 'Mind Calm' goes hand in hand with the 3 principles. Mainly because its not trying to stop change or create thinking but gently helps you have peace with the thoughts you have which helps them flow. I'm aware I don't need to practice this to find peace but its a useful practice to help remember the true nature of things.
My meditation isn't the source of my peacefull happy life as I know it's an external practice, it does help me link back with the conscious mind that's always present though
The physical act of stopping movement and fully embracing your natural inner calm has been proven to bring health benefits. Moving in a meditative state and problem solving or generating creative ideas, having clarity and meditating are all like the facets on a diamond.
I love to sit still and meditate, and for me it's an option I will always fully enjoy. Yes, it is an anchor to a state of clarity, but it's also a delicious experience. Stopping and physically letting go is vitally important wether it's "meditation" or not.
Having stillness "in your head" and clarity "in your thinking" isn't quite the same thing as physically resting in stillness.
Reductive, generalised, simplistic. Spirituality in the service of profit and reputation. Reducing liberated deathless states into a handful of thoughts appropriate to your next business meeting.
I'm sure you know enough about meditative states to know that there are many practices and many states, they rarely occur spontaneously, and that they are about freedom not a more functional prison. I'm equally sure your business model won't accommodate some integrity around that.
JST1? Unsubscribed: I really don't want to see where you go with JST2.
What is disappointing is that Jamie ripped off Michael Neill's email format for these weekly tips, right down to the same look and wording. His are MNCT, Jamie's are JSCT. Both are weekly and numbered, etc etc.
Lost some respect for Jamie on this one. Way to be original and do your own thing, Jamie – not.
Ah Fred, how many people use their initials to name something? What are numbers for but to number? Can you really call someone unoriginal because they send out weekly? Does deliviering an article on a screen interface in a similar font/look make it unoriginal – or is the the content that counts?
Meditation is good. I do Tai Chi, not religously, but as an expression of the place I'm in. Sometimes it centres me. Sometimes I am already centred. I've tried to do it as a fix and quite frankly, it failed miserably, so I totally get you. Where I do struggle with this post is the implication that meditation is not the answer. For a lot of us it has merit..you can squeeze the juice out of life with meditation..if thats what you choose:-) Nice thought provoking article though..Thx
Am a long term user of Bill Harris' Holosync meditation programme (10 years). Gaining expanded awareness through brainwave entrainment meditation (and much, much more) cannot be expressed in simple words.
I think this distinction is liberating and gives you more power because it tells us that we can actually enter meditative states even in chaotic situations. Without having to reserve 15 minutes to relax and 'do' meditation.
I agree! Doing gardening or playing jazz on my piano gives more freedom to my mind as if I was sitting on a pillow meditating for three quarters of an hour! That all gave me a troubled m
Nice article. In my experience, the act of meditating (and it helps if you play around with several techniques) can help us develop the habit of meditation (and it is a habit, right?), but I've often wondered why many people who practise it regularly are also some of the most stressed out people I know. Sometimes I've thought it's because I had the cause-effect the wrong way round (they meditate because they're stressed, not the other way round), other times because they haven't integrated it sufficiently into their daily lives. Judging from this article it seems the second explanation is closer to the mark, but it's also deepened my understanding. These people experience meditation, but because they don't know what it is, they make it depend on circumstances, and the rest of the time they are lost.
[…] We can experience the state of meditation without the act of meditating. Jamie Smart wrote a great, insightful article on […]
I know meditation is a positive experience for many people, but it is not for me. I don’t want to turn my mind off. I love my mind. I AM my mind. I am not interested in ceasing to exist, even for a moment. There is no such thing as “excess thinking.” Thinking is all we have.
For those who fret, who require some form of escape from the daily trials of life, meditation is probably a helpful practice. My personal view is relatively simple. If you have a problem, suck it up and get on with your life. Escaping into a state of mindlessness is nothing more than an act of intellectual cowardice.
The first time I’ve read what I’ve been lucky enough to always intuitively know:
‘The mind is a self clearing system.’
For most of us are born – as every other animal – knowing ‘how to live.’
Other species just get on with it – but sadly many humans have a propensity to make it difficult.