By Karin Gillespie
I flirted with meditation long before I actually committed to it. To be honest, my first few sessions were boring. I’d expected special effects (a vision of a lotus blossom or a white healing light) and when I experienced only a mild torpor, I assumed I was doing it wrong.
Luckily I kept persisting and now I couldn’t imagine my life without meditation. I especially couldn’t imagine my writing life without it. Writing without first meditating would feel as odd as showering before getting undressed. For me, it’s a way of preparing the mind to create.
Experts will give you a laundry list of why you should meditate (It reduces stress! You’ll sleep better! Your skin will look like a baby’s butt!) but let's set aside these happy claims and get to the crux of the matter. The most important reason to meditate is to learn how your mind works.
Most people are extremely caught up in the stream of their thoughts; so much, in fact, they scarcely notice their preoccupation, kind of the way a fly doesn’t notice it lives in garbage. But when you meditate, you deliberately try to pay attention to your thoughts. It’s hard to do at first, because thoughts are like an episode of “Breaking Bad;” they’re so thoroughly engaging you get caught up in them and forget you were just supposed to be noting them.
So why is meditation important to writers?
Writers are constantly mired in their thoughts, and the best writing comes when thoughts are ego-based.
The ego is a menace to writers. It loves predictability, has no originality, and swings from mercilessly belittling its host to giving him or her ridiculous unearned praise. It’s impatient to finish a piece before it’s ready and thrives on fear-based thoughts of any type. It will settle for less than stellar prose, and every few minutes it wants to go on Facebook to see how many likes it got on its last post
Trust me. You do not want this entity in you head when you’re writing. It’s like sharing your office with the world’s worst garage band.
Ego gets in the way of FLOW. (There are a lot of names for FLOW; some call it the muse, some call it the subconscious. The name isn’t important. But most every writer is familiar with FLOW. It’s a state when the writing seems simple and natural and effortless, like a kid playing in a mud puddle.)
When you meditate regularly, you get much better at recognizing and banishing ego, and thus have much longer episodes of FLOW.
It’s that simple.
And so is meditation. I do it fifteen minutes a day and keep my eyes open otherwise I’d fall asleep. I sit normally and don’t do any fancy pretzel things with my legs. I don’t say OHMMMMM or try to find my third eye. I just watch my endless parade of thoughts. I do not try to stop thinking (although sometimes that will happen naturally.) I just observe. And the more I learn about how my ego operates (it’s incredibly wily) the less likely I’m to be tempted by its crafty Tomfoolery.
So if meditation is so spectacular, why doesn’t everyone do it?
Mainly because its results are initially subtle and people tend to give up too early as I did. Also we live in a culture of busyness and sitting around doing nothing seems dysfunctional.
But there’s another huge reason people quit meditation:
It freaks them out.
If you’ve been stuck in your head for a very long time, never practicing any type of mindfulness, meditation can be a harrowing wake-up call. Remember the fly I mentioned earlier? When you meditate, you're like that fly, suddenly waking up and say, “Oh my gosh! I’m living among potato peels, rotten meat and filth. This is revolting.” That’s how it feels when you first recognize how thoroughly you’ve been caught up in ego-based thoughts.
You won’t be happy about your realizations, and you’ll want to go back to being an oblivious fly. Thus the ego will be in charge once again, and the writing will suffer
But if you can get through that initial rough period, not only will your writing improve, your entire life will get better, because FLOW doesn’t simply exist in your writing space. It’s everywhere, and it’s everything the ego isn’t: wise, generous, kind, nonjudgmental, funny, original and loveable.
Meditation helps you to tap into the FLOW. It’s no wonder all the great spiritual leaders have practiced it, and it’s likely to be the best thing you’ve ever done for your writing career.