TL;DR - Follow all the links, open your mind, enjoy the slide down the rabbit hole!
I don't remember exactly when I became aware of a thing called meditation but I do remeber the period of time which inspired me to want to buy a book about it. Around 1998 (I was 14 at the time) I started a phase of wondering what it's all about, where do I fit in, what's my purpose and the meaning of life? Religion although interesting didn't stick or provide satisfactory answers and an early desire for a spiritual connection lead me down a path of alternative practices, occultism (LaVey, Crowley) and a brief period of time aspiring to the Wiccan Rede, "An it harm none do what ye will", painting my nails black and wearing a Pentagram round my neck.
My thirst for knowledge and reason curtailed my magical abilities and thinking there was a law of attraction and mode of thinking which would manifest my ideals and lead me to the scientific method, logic, philosophy, atheistic rabbit holes and a fascination with consciousness; clearly I wanted to understand what made me tick and the firmware that was installed. I think it's this which lead me to the unshakeable idea that to know ones self is to know ones mind and to know ones mind is to listen to it.
"The unexamined life is not worth living" - Socrates
The first book I purchased about meditation was 'Thorsons Way of Meditation' by Christina Feldman sometime between 2001 and 2003. At the time the idea of mindfulness wasn’t in my vernacular but the book firmly planted the idea that when I felt stressed, anxious or needed to take control of my busy mind I should firstly acknowledge that I was experiencing something beyond a relaxed base line and just by meditating aka sitting and breathing or focusing on a candle flame I could switch gears and change my state of being for a more favourable one.
The result of this simple set of actions took hold, i’d felt first hand the benefits and until 2014, I had no desire or compulsion to go deeper into the practice. I had a tool freely at my disposal which allowed me to unwind, relax and chill out when needed and over the years I would go long period of time where I didn’t meditate and other periods where I would invest in making it part of my day to day routine but I never forgot that I had the tool when things got tough.
Now before I continue, I feel a need to point out that i’m conscious of being very lucky to have been born into the world without too many earthly detriments and because of this the lens I have developed to see the world affords me the time to stop, look and think about the world without having to worry about mental or physical hardship. I have suffered with anxiety and potentially some minor depression which mindfulness has helped with but I am very fortunate and very much one of the lucky ones. As I said in the previous post, I do think instilling a mindfulness practice as a norm is vitally important to our future well-being across all walks of life and to assist with the spectrum of human suffering.
Now I think it would have been difficult for me to have dodged atheism based on my trajectory and i’m thankful I did (albeit I don’t particularly like the title of atheist but i’ll leave that for another day). In 2007 an event occurred collectivity calling Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, the prominent new atheists at the time “The Four Horsemen” due to their collection of books espousing their views on religion. In addition to this movement Peter Jospeh's The Zeitgiest Movement started with Zeitgeist: The Movie in 2007, followed by Zeitgeist 2: Addendum in 2008 and Zeitgeist Moving Forward in 2011.
Out the back of these movements I continued to take an interest in their works which were highly formative and it was Sam Harris’ 2014 book “Waking Up” being of particular interest to this story due to him validating that Meditation and Spirituality can go hand in hand without the need for anything super human. Then in 2018, Sam released his meditation app also called “Waking Up” which I gratefully got a life time subscription to for monetarily supporting his then Waking Up Podcast which was later renamed the Making Sense Podcast.
The Waking Up App gradually introduces you to mindfulness via a 50 session course with each course being 10 minutes in length. Completing the course has rekindled my practice and has fundamentally changed the way I think and feel about consciousness and the nature of my mind and is the inspiration for these blog posts.
Until the next time #BETEO