What one activity of doing nothing makes your brain sharp, demeanor calmer and help you age slow (read: live longer)?

Meditation.

Do not be turned off by that word. The very fact that you got pulled to this page of getting all that from doing nothing is actually a good thing. It means that you are already doing a lot and want things to flow naturally into your life without having to stretch yourself more. I understand.

If you can discipline (scariest word in English, I know, but bear with me) yourself to sit and learn the art of doing nothing for 10 minutes or more the results will astonish you. They did for me anyway.

Being an introvert, I used to shy away from being part of any group discussion.  I used to avoid situations of friction and I have never confronted people, even when their actions hurt me.  Almost all interactions with the world created anxiety in me. I was on the brink of constant anxiety at all times.  Small escalations, disapproval from anyone (even the cab driver), disagreements, workload, anything you can name created anxiety in me.  It was a miserable place to be (I may have lost my some hair to this anxiety!).

Then fate intervened.  

I took a break from workplace, my home country and everything that I have grown accustomed to.  I took my first ever flight to United States of America. It is here that I practiced a meditation technique called Transcendental Meditation and felt like a new person for about six months. Mere fact of staying away from work pressure may have made me feel that way, nevertheless, I felt great.

After about 7-8 months I joined the workforce again.

You can imagine,if anything, the new place, new culture, new work-style and work I was not used to, should have made me more anxious but to the contrary I was feeling the confidence, more focused that I did not know before.  

I noticed how differently I was approaching work, how I dealt with people and the way I was handling stress. Certainly only thing I had done different during my break was meditation.

As the days passed and work days became longer and longer – I fell off the wagon.  And the stress started to catch up. I did not feel the same wrath as I had before my meditation stint but I could see stress and anxiety slowly taking more and more space in my life.

When stress grew big enough to be unbearable – I tried other things:

  • exercise: testosterone baby, this helped with being less intimidated but not with gaining perspective and to stay calm.
  • flirting and fornication: distraction was even more temporary than exercise.
  • alcohol: which seemed to help only as long as I heeded to it and when I woke up – my ability to deal with pressure and stress declined a pinch each time I indulged;
  • comfort food: it only made me forget things for the part of the day but the residual effect took effect on my waist line contributing to more stress (I did not know excess fat releases cortisol, the stress hormone and this in turn causes stress more readily!).

After trying and giving up on exercise, flings, liquor, gluttony and wasting the intervening years I have recently started the meditation again and I have been experiencing the changes I had experienced once before. I felt stupid for having given up on something that worked before.

In fact, this article presented itself at 30000 feet in the sky, after a short meditation, heading for a meeting with a hard ass client that made my predecessors cry and quit. I am not feeling even a bit of stress (weirdly, I am excited at the prospect of meeting this person) and if this very meeting happened few months earlier I would have drenched in sweat.

I am penning this article to warn those that may be on the verge of giving up on their meditation practice to ask them NOT to. And those that are hesitant to try to give it a GO.

Meditation works.  

There is one catch though.  Unlike exercise, sex, food and/or liquor – you cannot notice the effects of meditation immediately. It takes at least a good 2 to 3 months after getting into habit to notice internal changes.  Paradoxically, outward changes and happy coincidences (I call them Happydences) start much sooner than internal transformation.

And this is not a placebo effect. Here are few references to the scientific investigations on Meditation’s effect on: productivity, health, stress and longevity.  

If you have experience in some form of meditation already you can just restart or continue to do it regularly (at least 4-5 days out of 7 days in a week can be regarded as regular).  

For newbies, you can invest in yourself and learn any of the meditation practices like:

– Transcendental Meditation

– Vipassana

– Isha Kriya

This investment in yourself may be one of the most rewarding one, it was for me.

For those that are short on time to learn techniques, here is a free and effective technique:

Breathing meditation:  

Find a comfortable spot, sit keeping your spine erect and facing east (just do it), with your eyes closed, observe various parts of your body (forehead, eyes, toes, etc) and consciously relax them for about 1 to 2 minutes.   Now simply observe air going in and out from your nostrils.  When thoughts distract you from observing the air movement, which is bound to happen, let them. Whenever you remember to observe breathing start observing the breath again. Do this for 7-8 minutes for a total of 10 minutes.  As you gain experience and momentum you will find yourself spending more and more time voluntarily. It’s that good and that simple.

After you notice the external happydences and internal changes, comeback and share your experience.

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