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Anatomy of a Meditation

Most of the time my meditations start like this:

Because our brains are weird. 

But we know that by meditating we can get a pretty good impression of where the thoughts are coming from and how to control–or at least better understand–them. For me, some days are more successful than others.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with the transcendental meditation technique of repeating a two-syllable word during the meditation with varying levels of success. Here is a few minutes of a recent 20-minute meditation for me.

“Ba-lehn. Ba-lehn. Ba-lehn. Ba-lehn.”

The dominant loop in my mind is voiced by a chorus of monks sitting in front of the reclining buddha chanting with a depth and timbre that almost sounds like a didgeridoo. It’s nice. I try to “hear” the word four times on each inhale and each exhale until the nuances of the sound and all of the romantic affectations I’ve created for it fade (as they’re meant to) and I’m almost completely relaxed.


But then wiener schnitzel mit pommes frites–my favorite meal in Germany when I was 9 years old–dominates everything and I only smell the citric acid of the lemon as it is squeezed over that fried piece of veal heaven.

Where did you come from?

Where did you come from?

I haven’t had this dish in many, many years but there it is so I squint my closed eyes and breathe deeply through my nose and call upon the monks to bring me back to my purpose. I occasionally readjust my position as I do a body scan and begin the process again. As the swaths of purple begin and incomplete circles fade in and out of my mind’s eye I hear: 

We think the same things at the same time/We just can’t do anything about it.

Harrowdown Hill is working on another, inexplicable loop and I wonder what the hell? I think, okay, that is very awesome but it isn’t meant to be here so I consciously try to snuff it out.

Back to the “Ba-lehn.”

The monks return and I’m rolling my eyes at starting over but they soon fade and the purple depths return and intensify. It’s working again.

But then what will the first four months of operating my new startup truly cost if I choose to focus on market share rather than profit assuming a successful crowdfunding campaign and goddamnit!

Can’t I control my own mind?

Mind-Planet Gears

A good day for me involves far fewer out-of-left-field distractions past about the ten-minute mark. That is, more sustained stretches without ideas or sensations or associations taking me out of that deep state. But today was tough, and many days are, which can be discouraging.

I imagine my mind like a planet with rings around it, each representing a different gear. There are gears devoted to reason, gears devoted to the senses, and gears devoted to creativity, all orbiting my consciousness at different speeds. And my mind’s eye will spotlight up to three gears at once at its most chaotic and unchecked. 

Many things account for the chaos: stress levels, diet, sleep quality, etc. I have illustrated fairly benign distractions in this example, but imagine if each of those wayward notions were much darker, or violent, or negative in any way. There are many times where that is the case, and I suffer greatly for it, just like everyone does who is oppressed by their own mind. 

The true value of meditation, the immediate benefit of this ultimate work-in-progress, is taking the time to step outside of that chaos whenever you choose. Shake off your mind’s version of you for a moment and analyze it. Because if you don’t, you will be completely dominated by it and forced to live in the reality it creates.

Do you know how your own mind works? Have you figured out any tips or tricks that might help the rest of us? Please share in the comments below.

Hasta pronto,






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