Yesterday I spoke about starting meditating again and since I've gotten quite out of practice with the whole thing I was forced last night to once again remember all the neat little tricks behind how it's done. Decided to share because I'm fairly certain a lot of people are struggling with this.
First we should clear some disillusions about what meditation is. There are many definitions out there and all of them differ in some little point or another. Some say all basic relaxation is meditation, in the olden days meditating meant thinking, some new age hippies call alternate states of consciousnes to be meditative states, reaching the astral plane and so forth. What I've learned in my studies of the phenomena a few years ago is that meditation is basically pushing oneself into a REM cycle then snapping out of it. REM is perceived by the brain as reality (astral plane), it is the time when we are most relaxed and it's also very good for thinking as it supposedly very effectively goes through whatever is troubling us ... the natural kind anyhow.
So let's equate meditation to a REM state. But because we want to be more effective with it and most of all, because we don't want to fall asleep it's important for the REM to be lucid so we can stop any time we want. To reach a REM state you have to first build up an image in your mind, then make it true. Here are a few simple steps on achieving this:
Assume a comfortable sitting position (laying down doesn't work, I've tried) and close your eyes. Having some music on helps me shut off outside disturbances, but for some people complete silence might work better.
Imagine a soothing scene. What works best for me is imagining I'm sitting behind a large tree and looking out on a grassy plane, sometimes nibbling on a piece of straw. It's usually very helpful to adjust the scene according to the current season. What's most important here is imagining a scene that is simple and stress-free because there is less detail for you to imagine.
Visualise the scene. Now it's time for the real trickery, you must start convincing yourself that the scene is real not just imagined. The brain does NOT differ from what is imagined and what is real, what ticks it off are small clues and you have to consciously remove them from the image. Here are some steps on how to do this:
- Look at the scene from a first person view. It is paramount that whatever you're visualising is done from first person as if it were reality. Don't imagine how you look in the environment, imagine what it would look like if you were really there
- Focus on details. "Look" at the grass and visualise how it would move in the wind, look at your foot on the ground and count the number of grass leaves surrounding it. The more detail you can concentrate on the better you will visualise everything.
- Stop thinking of any distracting thoughts. If a thought should pop up in your head don't follow it, just focus on a detail in your scene and the intruder will leave.
Immerse yourself in the scene. This is where it gets tricky and what really needs a lot of practice to achieve. Don't just visualise the scene, try to use all your senses. Hear the breeze, feel the grass under your butt, feel how your shoes are a little tight, smell how nice the flowers are, taste whatever is in your mouth, feel your limbs and how they're positioned ... This can most easily be achieved by focusing on specific details as I've described for visualisation.
Make it alive. You might have noticed by now that you've lost most contact with reality and are almost unaware of being anywhere else but in the scene you've built up. If you're lucky you might even achieve feeling both where you really are and where you're convincing yourself you are (new age hippies and similar call this an out of body experience, but it's not). Now it's time to get up and start doing something in your new world. Make events happen, fly, do whatever. You're god in that little world and if you did it right it should feel completely real.
Wake up. Since your REM is lucid all you need to do to jump back into reality is open your eyes. It's that simple.
With practice it's possible to go through all these steps, even skip a few, in a matter of minutes. But at first it will probably take about half an hour of conscious effort to achieve a lucid REM stage, however it's worth the effort because an added bonus is that even your natural REM cycle will become more and more lucid and you will start fully remembering dreams.
I write articles with real insight into the career and skills of a modern software engineer. "Raw and honest from the heart!" as one reader described them. Fueled by lessons learned over 20 years of building production code for side-projects, small businesses, and hyper growth startups. Both successful and not.
Subscribe below 👇
Join Swizec's Newsletter and get insightful emails 💌 on mindsets, tactics, and technical skills for your career. Real lessons from building production software. No bullshit.
"Man, love your simple writing! Yours is the only newsletter I open and only blog that I give a fuck to read & scroll till the end. And wow always take away lessons with me. Inspiring! And very relatable. 👌"
Senior Mindset Book
Get promoted, earn a bigger salary, work for top companiesLearn more
Have a burning question that you think I can answer? Hit me up on twitter and I'll do my best.
Who am I and who do I help? I'm Swizec Teller and I turn coders into engineers with "Raw and honest from the heart!" writing. No bullshit. Real insights into the career and skills of a modern software engineer.
Want to become a true senior engineer? Take ownership, have autonomy, and be a force multiplier on your team. The Senior Engineer Mindset ebook can help 👉 swizec.com/senior-mindset. These are the shifts in mindset that unlocked my career.
Curious about Serverless and the modern backend? Check out Serverless Handbook, for frontend engineers 👉 ServerlessHandbook.dev
Want to Stop copy pasting D3 examples and create data visualizations of your own? Learn how to build scalable dataviz React components your whole team can understand with React for Data Visualization
Did someone amazing share this letter with you? Wonderful! You can sign up for my weekly letters for software engineers on their path to greatness, here: swizec.com/blog
By the way, just in case no one has told you it yet today: I love and appreciate you for who you are ❤️