I share a story that I don’t very often talk about. It was when I went bankrupt and lost a computer business that I had started up one of my friends.
I go on to share the 5 lessons I learned from the 12 months of struggling.
Life can be brutal, it can be relentless, and sometimes we cannot see any way through. I don’t know of anybody that hasn’t struggled at one time in their lives. So if you’ve struggled, or you are struggling now this is the podcast to listen to.
Can people that think a lot really get the benefits from meditation?
Something that would confuse many people when they spend time with me and even my clients is that I am an over-thinker. My brain has this ability to think crazy stuff up almost constantly, and most of the time when I don’t want it to.
What is it about bedtime? Suddenly everything is important, from how aeroplanes work to what I’m going to buy my niece in six years time for her 30th birthday. It’s crazy.
In this episode, I helped to enlighten us about meditation and how even over-thinkers can meditate.
Intro: Hello, and welcome to my podcast. I’m Steven Webb, and this is Stillness In the Storms of life. It’s the podcast that will help you have a little inner peace when you have it least and you need it most.
On today’s show, I’m going to help you to get the benefits of meditation, even if you’re somebody that cannot shut off your mind. How does that sound? But today, first of all, let’s I have a word from my sponsors. Okay, I haven’t gotten those sponsors yet, but if you would like to sponsor the show if you would like me to give you a shoutout, head over to stevenspodcast.com and you can support me on Patreon and then I would give you a shout out on the show. If you’re a business or you know a business or somebody that really wants to support and help the show grow so I can reach more people, help more people have a little more inner peace – I almost said have a little less inner peace -if you can support the show in any way like that, head over to stevenspodcast.com and you’ll see a link to the Patreon site in which you…but not only that, you get videos. Like right now, I’m recording the video of this. And it’s very much on the video, which makes it a lot better, a lot more entertaining.
Why did I start meditating?
On today’s show, why did I start meditating? Let’s start with that because it will make sense. Are you somebody that has got a really active mind and your mind goes completely blank when you don’t need it to, at the worst times, like recording a podcast? On the other hand, does your mind have constant overthinking when you want it to go blank a little bit, like when you’re trying to go sleep or when you try to focus on something or you’re listening to a really important podcast or film, but you’re tired and your mind is like, just, I can’t listen anymore, my neuro synopsis is just saying enough? And then you get the idea that I’m going to sit down and meditate for like 10 minutes. And there you go, boom! Your mind goes into overactive mode straight away.
Well, I started meditating first in my late twenties, but it lasted about four minutes, I believe. I started meditating for the wrong reasons. I thought it would be cool and I thought it might even get me a girlfriend or get me laid – sorry to admit that one. You know, we were all young once, but then when I turned 40, I hit rock bottom and I found myself in a position where I could not sleep. I found myself single and the only thing my mind would do for a long, long time was to go over the questions I had for my ex.
I was mad. If I sat her down for just 30 seconds, it would go like, what are they doing now? What’s happening? What are they up to? Why did they do that to you? How dare they do that. And it would go to the craziest times of thinking, which is completely irrelevant, but it gave me no peace whatsoever. And so, I started reading books a few weeks later because I couldn’t sleep so I had to almost mask my voice, I had to mask the thoughts in my head. And the only way I could do that was to keep my mind busy or doing something else.
Alcohol did not work. I drunk for about two weeks and after about four days, I doubled the amount. Then about another four days, I doubled the amount again. It got a little bit embarrassing because I have carers because I’m paralyzed from just below the neck and asking the carers to pour me up drinks every night, isn’t that embarrassing? Well, though they would do it graciously, I’m sure they had plenty on their minds when they did that. So after about two weeks of drinking more and more, just to get to sleep for two hours because it never kept me asleep for the night. It was always broken sleep and it was never great. I never felt refreshed in the morning. I had to find another way to go to sleep.
And that other way was reading books. I never really read books because can you ever remember when you were at school when the teacher used to write on the blackboard, starting at the top and they used to write the lines out and she would say, “Well, can you copy these down?”
No problem, I would start copying them down. And then, of course, she would get to the bottom of the blackboard and then start rubbing it off from the top as she was going down. And I was like, “Oh my God, you’re rubbing out and I still haven’t got there yet.” I couldn’t read like a sentence off the blackboard and then write the sentence down. I was doing it one word at a time because I couldn’t hold the information very easily. So I used to get in trouble for not copying it down properly and skipping words and I just gave up in the end when she got to the part of the blackboard that she was rubbing out while I was writing.
I didn’t want to put my hand up and admit that I couldn’t copy off a blackboard in front of everybody in the class so I just left it and got in trouble most of the time. I got low grades because I didn’t copy it down. So, therefore, at that point, I was diagnosed dyslexic and because I was diagnosed dyslexic, I didn’t really bother reading. I’ve got a problem, I cannot read so why bother doing it? It made sense to me. All during my school and the six form, I didn’t care. If we had to read a book, I can remember reading ‘Of Mice Of Men’, I can remember we had an English session that we had to go through it, while I would just have a chat casually to my friends in the group. So what did you think of the book? And I would ask them questions and I would discuss it to give me enough that if I was picked on, I could say something. I got the gist of the story, which is fine.
So then, fast forward to 40 years old, rock bottom, drinking to go to sleep, I had to find another way and reading was the perfect thing, simply because I had to focus. I found a free book on my iPad, ‘As a Man Thinketh’, it was written over a hundred years ago by James Allen, just up the road from me, actually. Not only did the book change my life in the way I think, but it also took me weeks to read it and it was only like 40 pages long. It took me ages because every paragraph. I had to read again and again, and again, and it would put me to sleep every night, which was ideal, that’s what I wanted. So then I started reading more and more books.
Every single book that I read had one theme. I would turn a page and it would say, you need to meditate. And every time it said I needed to meditate, I would either put that book away or be really annoyed or something because not me, I think too much. I cannot meditate. My mind goes into overtime the minute I sit still; impossible for me, I’m just one of those intellectual paper people. That’s where I was wrong because at that point, I thought meditating was about no thinking. And it’s not; it’s not about no thinking at all. Meditation is about composing your thoughts, becoming a master of your thoughts instead of your thoughts controlling you.
How do we meditate and what’s the point?
So how do we do that and what is the point in that? Are our thoughts separate to us? Can we really control our thoughts? Especially if the thoughts are us, can we control them? So these were the kinds of questions that went through my mind immediately. So I started to sit down to meditate and it really did not go well for weeks. I started with five minutes here, five minutes there, and then I read it again in the book, and I would try it again. My typical meditation was, “Okay, I’m going to do it this time. It’s going to be a perfect, brilliant meditation. Okay. Deep breath in, face my arms down beside me, and relax.”
“Okay. Why don’t you check Facebook?”
“No, I’m meditating.”
“Go and check your email. I’m sure you’ve got an email to reply to.”
“No, I’m meditating.”
“Just send that text. If you send that text, you could meditate afterward.”
And then suddenly, within like 30 seconds, you’re thinking of such irrelevant things. It almost makes it impossible to sit there and have some calmness.
Is that what you experience? The first time you sat down and meditated, didn’t your mind go off onto thinking? Well, guess what? That’s what the mind is designed to do is to think. Just like your foot is designed to do, well, be it foot a part from standing on it, I’m not sure what a foot is there for but your heart is designed to pump the blood around your body. It’s designed to have intuitive feelings. That’s why it’s got neurons around your heart, they found. Just the same as in your brain, they’re in your heart. Your liver is designed to filter your blood and stuff. I’m not a biologist, but I get the gist of some of the stuff. Your kidneys are designed to filter the drinks and all that you have.
And asking your kidneys or your liver or your heart not to do their job would be like dying, you know? Okay, heart, doesn’t beat for three, four minutes. It’s not good in any way. But we’re doing the same thing. We’re asking our brain to do that same thing. Please brain, don’t think for the next 15 minutes. Well, that’s not going to happen. We have little gaps between thoughts when the brain is probably thinking some other stuff up. We have little moments of blankness and I could give you one now.
Just sit there, just for a moment and I want you to think of your next thought that’s coming. Right now, think about what your next thought is. Pretty impressive, right? No thought. You cannot think of your next thought until your next thought is generated. It doesn’t exist so you have that moment of blankness but we often want that complete blankness for like 15, 20 minutes. Well, that’s asleep. If you’ve got nice thinking, that means you are asleep but we don’t want to be asleep. That’s not the idea of meditating. That’s not the idea of inner peace.
So what is meditation then if it’s not about not thinking?
If it’s not about having a blank mind and complete like, aah, for 20 minutes, half an hour, what is it about? Well, meditation is like the gym for your everyday life. You want more peace and you want more tranquility in your everyday life, how do you get it there? Well, you have to practice. You’re going to practice not reacting, not going into your habitable behavior. And your brain will jump to the habitable behavior every single time. You see, when something arises, your brain will jump straight to that; habits will behavior. And it happens so quickly that most of the time we don’t even catch it. That’s why we end up snapping or we end up shouting or running out or sending the text that we really shouldn’t send. We’ve all done it. No, you’ve done it. So the meditation is about creating that little gap between receiving that text and your reply.
So how do we do it?
It’s all about not only what I rise on the outside, but what rises on the inside and what we do with it.
So how does meditation help that?
Well, we sit down on the cushion or on the side of the bed or lying in bed or whatever we’re doing. We could be waiting for the train or walking in the woods, walking to work, or driving the car. And what you’re doing is you’ve been aware of your thoughts. So we bring our attention to our breathing. It’s just like right now you could do this with me. Take a deep breath in, hold it, and then breathe out slowly. During that process, you had very little thinking. Well, that’s not true. You were thinking, but you were thinking about your breath. So it’s about concentration focus and what we go into focus on.
Now, breath is an easy one because we’ve always got that. If you haven’t got your breath, there’s a problem. But no matter what’s happening, there’s always oxygen in and out of your lungs and your semi part of that. It is automatic with a little bit of input from you. So that’s the perfect way in which we can jump straight into meditation. And you could do that, hundreds of a day, just by, I’m going to do one meditative breath. I breathe in, pause and I breathe out, relax. And that’s one meditative breath. Now, go and take 90 of them; that’s meditating.
But the problem is our minds will wander. We normally run into a story or we run into old habits. We run into images in our minds and all kinds of things, future things, and making up our imagination. That’s what we mean by jumping out of meditation, jumping out of the mindful moment that is right here now. We could use something else; we can use sound, which is the one I use most of the time. I’m part of the Mundos Zen process. One of the questions in that, which I’ll put a link to below is that the first question, first Cohen, which is like an introspective question that you have to look for the answer and come up with it yourself.
The first question is: can you listen without judgment and without opinion or belief?
Try that for the moment now. Can you listen to the noise coming from outside to my voice? Can you listen to whatever is coming in your mind, a sound, can you just allow it to come in without forming an opinion of what it is, where it’s coming from, whether it’s good or whether it’s bad, can you just allow it to happen? It’s interesting because that’s meditating. That’s what you’re doing.
Bringing it back
On the second part of the meditating is the bringing it back. It’s realizing when you go away. You know, you don’t have to be down on the cushion. You don’t have to put your legs above your head in some yoga pose that just is wrong. The whole idea is that you train your mind to recognize when you’re not being present and to bring it home, bringing it home to the current moment.
So like when I’m doing this podcast, every now and again, my mind will wander off to perhaps something to eat or something I’m doing later or what was that noise? And I get distracted. Now, then, I can either go with that noise, go with that thread or I can go, Oh, there was the thought that was outside the one that I’m focusing on right now and bring it back. And it’s the same when you’re meditating. If you sit there and meditate, you might think that you’ve got to check your phone or that you’ve got to do something that day. A favor of my mind is to do my to-do list. Oh great. You get to sit and do nothing. Let’s do your to-do list all day. That’s work out everything you haven’t done and everything you need to do for the next 20 years. It happens most days, unless you want it to happen, then it won’t happen.
I thought about that this morning in my meditation. I thought, “Okay, for the first five minutes, let’s go through what I need to do today.” And it just did not happen. It’s funny. It’s just that the subconscious mind is like that sometimes, it’s got a mind of his own. It’s not your mind, which is interesting and we’ll talk about that on future episodes.
So why and how do you bring it back when you do find yourself distracted into story?
Well, you bring it back because the more you train your mind to be present in the current moment, the more we can respond rather than react. You know, when something goes wrong if we’re present and we’re here right now, we can look at the situation and go, “Okay, let’s look at what’s happening here now, and let’s respond in the best way possible.”
If we’re not present, we go, “Oh, what just happened? Oh my God!” Panic. Not saying I don’t ever panic anymore, but I panic a lot less than I used to just because I wasn’t in control at that point. It’s all about gaining control of our minds.
It’s all about not allowing our minds to control us.
So how do we bring it back? I’ve told you why we do it. We bring it back by, just smile and bring it back. Just the same as a puppy. If you’re trying to get it to stay in a certain place, you pick it up and put it back. You don’t get mad, you don’t get angry, just pick it up and put it back; again and again. And that’s what we do in meditation. So if you’re concentrating on your breath; like, I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out. So if that is your meditation or sound or focusing on emotions or wherever you want to focus the concentration on, it could be a spot on the wall, every time you recognized that you’re not thinking about that, you’re not concentrating on that, just smile and bring it back and go, “Thank you for the thought, but we’re going to concentrate on this spot, on the wall..” or the breathing or whatever you choose to focus on.
And this is the same for overthinkers, intellectual people. This is the same for you if you think you cannot stop your thinking, I’ll tell you, you cannot stop your thinking, it’s impossible so we’ve got to learn to tame it. It’s like a puppy. You’re not going to stop the puppy that wants to run around. So at certain times, you’ll be like, “Okay, I’ve let you run around for the last little bit. Now we’re going to come back and be a little calmer.” And you teach it the times it can have an imagination and go with it because there are times where you need to. And there are other times when it’s not appropriate to go with it, you don’t need to go with it and it might even make things worse if you do. And then, you just return it to the breath or the spot on the wall or whatever you’re choosing to focus on during this meditation.
So you can meditate even if you overthink because I was one of them. I really, really was. I’m not just saying that as some marketer. You know, you have these marketing videos trying to sell you something. Well, I’m not trying to sell you meditation. I’ll tell you all the benefits and say, it’s incredible. It’ll make you healthier or lower your blood pressure. It will stop you from regretting things. It will make you feel better. You’ll have more inner peace. You’ll have healthier control over your life. I could list all the benefits all day.
I invite you to sit down and ask yourself one question: Is it possible to purely listen, without opinion and belief? Just do that for a couple of minutes, a couple of times a day. That alone, you’ll start seeing the benefits and changes.
Next week we will expand on this and I’m going to go through the 10 myths of meditation. This is kind of one of them about the thinking. I’m going to go through the 10 myths of meditation in next week’s podcast, because, why am I tackling meditation so early on in my podcast? Well, because it’s really, really important. And I’m not talking about asking you or inviting you to stay in the cave for three years. Now, if you want to go and do that, please be my guest. Invite me along at least a couple of days a week, I would love to sit with you but that’s not what I’m asking you to do. I’m asking you to open your mind and open your heart to the possibility that you can meditate and it’s not what you thought was.
Outro: So I’m Steven Webb, an inner peace mentor. And I have you to get a little more inner peace in life when you have it least, then you need it most. You’ve been listening to Stillness In The Storms. And if you can hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss any more episodes. And if you would like to support, that would be amazing and I’ll give you guys a shout out on my next show. Just head to Stevenspodcast.com and it’ll take you to a page where you can listen on your favorite platform and you can go to Patreon and support me, which would be absolutely incredible and amazing. And thank you. Take care, love deeply. Namaste