[Expanded from a comment on Zvi’s Beginners’ Meditation post, and crossposted to LesserWrong. Don’t listen to me. Or anyone else. What does anyone even know about this subject? Just do it yourself.]
Zvi joined a beginners’ meditation class and was frustrated to find it was an asinine social group. (Note that his title is plural and mine is singular.)
I feel for him. Meditation is an easy daily habit that’s made hard by a bunch of superfluous stuff.
You don’t need a class. Or a space. Or people. You really don’t need people. Or quiet. You don’t need to sit down. All those things are fine but you don’t need them.
Meditation can be practiced while walking, and if you’re the walking type, you’ll probably prefer it.
So take walks. It doesn’t matter if the walk is peaceful. You can walk in a forest or a city. Personally, forests give me more inner distractions, cities more outer distractions, which lead to inner distractions, so ultimately it’s the same exercise. It’s the exercise of patiently pushing away distraction.
Do not focus on the breath. Focus on what’s right in front of you, what’s coming through your eyes. If you find yourself glazing over, or retreating to the inside of your head, or not paying attention to what’s in front of you, call that a distraction, and go back to paying attention to what’s in front of you. If you get tired of focusing on what’s coming through your eyes, focus on what’s coming through your ears, or sure, on your breath.
After a few weeks of this exercise, it will feel like you’ve built a new muscle in your head, one which allows you to turn away from your inner thoughts at will. Let’s call it focus.
The mental focus muscle works much like a physical muscle, in the following ways:
- Barely noticeable until you start using it.
- Feels weird to exercise it for the first few weeks.
- Atrophies slowly.
- Retrains quickly.
- Can be over exercised.
All other results of meditation are either someone’s personal growth that they got from having focus, or bullshit. Read about them if you want examples to guide your personal growth, or ignore them if you don’t. Guides are nice, but they are not necessary.