I use active meditation to overcome anxiety and calm my wild spirit. The best way to overcome anxiety – which is a fear about possible future outcomes – is to get into the moment. To focus on the present. To think like no one else thinks.
How can you use active meditation to live in the moment and be more calm and Zen? Nic and I talked about this in our podcast on Zen and the Martial Art of Living. There was some interest in meditation and active meditation, so I did a brief podcast for you on active meditation.
Works referenced in the podcast:
Active Meditation vs. Transcendent Meditation
Hello this is Mike from DangerAndPlay.com and today we’re going to talk about meditation. Now we’re specifically going to talk about active meditation. And active meditation is the form of meditation that I practice and it’s different from the meditation that most people think of.
Most people think of meditation as, you sit in the corner in the lotus position and you ring a gong and go “Ommmm Ommmm.” And that is a very valuable form of meditation, but that is more of what you would call Transcendent meditation. That is trying to transcend your state of being as a human. You begin to focus on your breath initially and that’s because you want to shut out all thought, and then you want to become one, and eventually you don’t focus on your breath, you just become one with the universe.
That’s really cool, but man, that’s been covered to death. It’s a little clichéd, you can buy a great course from The Teaching Company called “How to Meditate.” Those things go on sale every 6 months and it’s like a $40 course. Wait for it to go on sale. It might be on sale now. Buy it.
But the form of meditation I practice is active meditation. And we would call it sort of “being in the moment” meditation. It’s the form of meditation that I prefer because I actually enjoy life. I don’t want to transcend this miserable human experience. I don’t want to not engage in the world. I want to engage in the world, but if you’re a human being you’re going to have anxiety and you are going to have panic and you’re going to have negative emotions.
That is because you’re not living in the moment.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a focus on an uncertain event in the future. Money problems. “How am I going to pay my rent this month?” Well, you are worried about how you are going to pay rent in the future which means you’re not living in the moment.
Now active meditation doesn’t mean you ignore your problems. If you have money problems then we should want to solve them. But is being in a state of anxiety really going to solve that problem? Anxiety is an emotion. It is an emotion that disempowers you and doesn’t accomplish anything. So when you learn how to get into the moment and you learn how to engage in active meditation, you no longer feel anxiety and you get into a state of flow. Flow is a concept from a book called “Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life” and I have no idea how to pronounce the author’s name, but I will link to the book at DangerAndPlay.com
How do you “Get in the Moment”?
And I engage in this active meditation, self-hypnotic process and it’s pretty straight-forward and it’s pretty easy. So imagine I’m going to do a podcast. My podcasts are not scripted; I don’t worry about what I’m going to cover in the podcast. I just get into the moment before I get into the podcast.
And the easiest way to get into the moment is to become aware of yourself. Become aware of your body. The easiest way to become aware of yourself and aware of your body, is to just start talking either out loud, or to yourself about your environment.
I would say, “I’m looking at this microphone. This microphone is silver and it has BLUE written on it. The B has a sort of lightning bolt going form the other end and there is a black grill type thing on tip of it and a red button. If you turn the knob to the left it’s going to disconnect from the stand and if you turn it to the right it will get tighter.”
And when you are getting into the moment, you’re not judging. You’re not saying, “Well this is a cool microphone. Isn’t this a fascinating creation?” You are just getting real and becoming one with your environment. Everything just is what it is and my god isn’t that a clichéd expression right? “It is what it is. It is what it is.” But when you are engaging in active meditation you just accept everything for as it is. You divorce yourself from what you think it should be.
And you would say, “OK, so I’m about to do a podcast. I’m doing a podcast on meditation. The little dial is moving to the right showing me that the podcast is going. The editing box is below, etc.”
If you are walking around: I was at the flower gardens, the rose gardens, and the Zen gardens last weekend. And all I did was look and observe the structures, engaged in the structures and focused on where I was. There were fish in the water. “Look at the fish in the water. There’s a yellow fish, an orange fish, and a brown fish. Watch how they swirl together. Watch how they move to the left. Watch how they move to the right. Look at the sun reflecting off of the water.”
There was a foundation and there’s a reason that in Zen gardens there’s a foundation and that’s because you get into the moment by watching water hit the rocks. And you start to focus on that and you’re in the moment. The water is hitting the rocks.
And as you do this, you are no longer saying this stuff to yourself. That’s how you start to get into the moment. You focus on your environment. You start saying where you are, what you’re doing, and then you start talking about what you’re feeling. If you feel anxiety or anger and you feel like you are losing control of your emotions, you would just say “I’m getting angry right now. I’m mad right now. I’m screaming right now. I want to scream right now.”
And you talk about what you’re feeling. This sounds very weird for a podcast and a lot of people would say “That doesn’t make any sense.” But this is one of those things that you have to actually do. When you feel anxious you say, “I feel that I have anxiety coming over me. I feel worried. I feel afraid. I feel afraid that I’m not going to be able to pay my bills. I feel afraid that I’m not going to measure up to some standard. I feel anxious about X.” Insert the outcome.
And as you talk to yourself more, you get into the moment and suddenly you don’t feel anxious anymore. Why don’t you feel anxious anymore? The logical mind wants a logical explanation for why you stopped feeling anxious. Since anxiety is a feeling about something that could occur in the future, and again, anxiety is generally only about something that could occur. You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.
You don’t know what’s going to happen in the next minute. You don’t know what is actually going to occur in the future. So why are you worrying about it? And when you start living in the moment, you stop worrying about the future, because you can’t worry about the future if you are what? Focused on the moment.
Remember that podcast I did on the power on active engagement and inattentional blindness and how if you focus on one thing you’re going to miss something else even though it’s completely obvious? The example I gave was, watch some basketball players on a basketball court and they are dribbling the ball and then you have to count how many dribbles they basketball players did in a 30-second time period. Meanwhile, there’s a guy in a gorilla suit walking right across the basketball court and you never see the guy in the gorilla suit.
That’s because you are actively engaged and you’re focused on the people dribbling. Well what is that? That’s a very Western concept that comes from cognitive bias and cognitive bias and cognitive psychology and you’ve lived in the moment. You’re living in the moment by counting the dribbles: “Dribble one, dribble two, dribble three, dribble 4,” and you’re counting the dribbles, getting in the moment, so because of that you’re actually not seeing the gorilla.
The same is true of your own emotions and your own anxiety.
When you are focusing on where you are at the present, and you begin living in the moment, you are no longer worried about what could happen in the future because you’ve changed your attention. Instead of focusing your attention on some possible negative outcome that could occur, you are focused on what is actually occurring right in the given moment.
So try that out. Find a way to get in the moment. It could be anything. You could be walking around and just say: “I’m walking. My left foot to my right foot. Left foot to right foot.” Remember that podcast I have on how to walk properly? A lot of people said, “Oh that sounded weird and then I did it and it felt amazing. And that’s because you are getting in the moment right? You are getting in touch with your body. Are you starting to see how all these concepts are completely interrelated and how there is a singularity to all of them?
You are actively engaging your body. You’re actively engaging the moment. You are focusing on the moment. That’s all active meditation is.
It isn’t some woo-woo new age nonsense that you need to go to a retreat to learn about. You just need to figure out how to get into the moment. The best way to get into the moment: start to focus on what you are doing. Focus on your environment.
Pick one thing and then talk it out. Narrate to yourself. Do that, you’re going to get into the moment. You’ll become much calmer. Much more collected. The emotions that affect other people won’t affect you as intensely. And you’ll become a much more productive person and you’ll have inner peace.