Jason not only is a successful engineer in Silicon Valley with an MBA and experience with his own start-up company. He also is knowledgeable in Finance, competes in triathlons and practices Wing-Chun, a special style of Kung-fu. Having lived the high-pace life of Tech start-ups in Silicon Valley, he leaned the value of meditation to deal with his daily challenges. And in his blog https://criticalingredients.com he shares his unique perspectives on these topics, which I found to be really helpful to take a more gently and meaningful approach to life.
Today I am glad to present to you his valuable advise on how to make your first attempts in meditation – something that might be beneficial for all of us in these special times!
4 Practical ways to get started on Meditation
I grew up immersed in Eastern culture, so the idea of mediation was familiar to me. Recent years modern neuroscience is beginning to validate the theory and benefits of meditation. In this article, I will share some ways for us to practice meditation through my personal experience. Here comes a disclaimer: I may use some analogies to prompt our critical thinking, so kindly bear with me.
What is the mind?
To explore this topic of the mind, we first can try to answer the easier question: what is the body? It may seem like an obvious answer, but is it?
The human body consists of musculoskeletal tissues with organs, blood and fluids . Neither the muscle nor the skeleton nor the blood is our body. Individually, they are cells stacked on top of another cell, so the body is the combination of all these cells coming together to occupy a certain space and time. The mind is something similar, but harder to observe.
The mind consists of our brain, our neurons, our hormones and electrical signals flowing all around . Some of these signals are thoughts; some of them are feelings, and some of them are memories, consciousness or subconsciousness. The mind is the encompassing of all these things together. It can think, feel and intuit. Although it is less observable, it is there, and it also occupies a certain space and time.
We can strengthen our bodies by training it intentionally, and we can do the same with our minds. Conversely, we can also hurt our bodies and our minds by simply neglecting them. This is where mediation comes into play.
What is meditation?
Meditation is an exercise where we try to observe ourselves – our breath, our thoughts, our feelings and our intuitions. It teaches us something about ourselves and about our connections with others.
There are many benefits from meditation, and a few of them are listed as such:
- Reduced anxiety
- Decreased bodily tension or pain
- Increased mental resilience
- improved focus and creativity
However, we can know all the benefits, but we cannot experience them. That is because meditation is a technique, and mastery of the technique requires repetition and experience. We cannot expect ourselves to go out and run a marathon without adequate training, so we should not expect ourselves to find bliss when we first set out to meditate. Meditation is like an endurance sport; it builds up over time.
I recommend sticking with a good meditation routine for at least 3 to 6 consecutive months. A good routine can be daily 5-minute of zen, or an every-other-day 10-minute of zen. It just needs to be consistent. After 6 months, you can check-in with yourself to see if your overall wellness has improved. In my other post, I’ve also shared my own experiences after 2 years of a 10-20 minutes daily mediation.
How to get started in meditation?
Let’s talk about the practical stuff. How do you get started into meditation? What are some things you can try out to see if you are ready to go on this journey? I will introduce four different ways for us to get started on training our mind.
I. Try out meditation with a meditation app
Before the age of apps, if we wanted to learn meditation, our usual route is to find a reputable instructor. There are many potential obstacles with this approach. The first obstacle is finding a quality instructor. Some instructors are better than others, and some instructors are flat out deceptive and manipulative. Then, we have to make time to get to class. All in all, learning meditation was simply not very accessible.
Ever since Andy Puddicombe  brought meditation from Buddhist temple in India to the app store in 2010, meditation has become an industry of its own. Nowadays we can access countless meditation apps on our phones. It is a good way to get started, and a second disclaimer, I am not paid to promote any app products.
I have used Headspace since 2017, and I can say the annual subscription fee is worth it. Headspace is created by Andy Puddicombe, and it is an audio app that guides you through various meditation exercises. Its audio guide comes in five languages: German, English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Headspace comes with a free 10-day trial period, and it’s best to try it out before buying into the subscription. I won’t go into the pricing details, but if you are a student, you can get a significant discount. If you already have a Spotify subscription, you may also get Headspace for a discount.
My girlfriend uses Calm, which is Silicon Valley’s response to the growing meditation industry. It is a beautifully built app, and it includes the sound of nature in its exercises. Sometimes it’s the mid-summer’s chorus; sometimes it’s the sound of a crackling fireplace. Every day the instructor goes through a meditation exercise followed by an insightful story. There is a free version of Calm for you to try out, and its full-package pricing is comparable to Headspace.
II. Ease into meditation through running
Running not only trains our body, but also trains our mind. You can access some really great meditation audio guides while you run with the Nike Run Club (NRC). NRC is a FREE app. Some of the audio guides features Andy from Headspace – giving you wisdoms while you run!
Some of the mindful running audio that I’d recommend for beginners are the following:
- Stress Free Run for 25 minutes
- Recovery Run with Headspace for 35 minutes
- A Whole Run for 45 minutes
I recommend going with this if you want to kill two birds with one stone, just be careful of Nike’s product promotions.
III. Try out meditation on your own
Meditation is something that people can practice without an instructor. Many centuries ago, wise men and women from practiced meditation without an audio-guide or an instructor. (I am not so wise myself 😅.)
The basic technique starts with the following:
- Finding a quiet place.
- Sit in a comfortable position, whether on the ground or in a chair (I prefer a chair).
- Steady the breath. Inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth.
- Count the breath. Inhale as one, and exhale as two. Count to ten; then start back from one.
- Observe the thoughts.
- After 5-10 minutes (with a timer), gently back away from the observation and exit from the meditation.
By observing our thoughts and our feelings, our thought patterns will begin to reveal itself.
IV. Try it out as a tourist
There are many temples and teachings of meditation around the world. I would only recommend something that is reputable, or something I have tried myself. The following recommendation is both.
Thailand has a deep history with Buddhism and meditation. I was fortunate to experience my first guided meditation at Wat Mahathat temple when I visited Bangkok some seven years ago. Wat Mahathat is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok, and it is also a major tourist attraction .
Wat Mahathat in Bangkok hosts free meditation classes guided by English-speaking monks. The classes are held daily at 7am, 1pm and 6pm. The class is 3 hours of guided meditation. The monk guides you through various meditation exercises with breaks in between. Tourists can register for a class at the temple, and show-up when the class starts. People from all over the world go there to practice meditation.
If Bangkok is in your future travel plans, you can spend a day learning meditation from the monks. The address is:
Meditation and Sustainability
When we explore our mind and develop our ability to connect with joy, we naturally become aware of the distinction between excitement and joy. Excitement is a response to a pleasant stimulus. It is fleeting, and it leaves us craving for more. It is the driving force behind consumerism, and at worst it is the root of our addiction.
I believe when our ancestors were forging in the forest and hunting in the savanna, this neurological mechanism is crucial for our survival. However, in the modern world, this same mechanism actually works against us. Our marketing department uses our weakness against us, creating new packages, new variants, new gadgets and new clothes to entice us to buy more and consume more. In the end, we are trapped in this cycle of instant gratification, and we are eager for our next fix.
When we are able to experience joy, we become less captivated by our own desires for instant gratification, and we become more discerning in our own consumption. We seek moderation rather than excess; we seek balance rather than extreme. It is sustainability from the heart, and something best experienced than explained.
Again, meditation is not a religious activity. Meditation teaches us about how to be in the present moment. Meditation teaches us to be more proactive. This means we acknowledge the lessons of the past, and we plan for the future. We are unburdened by what has already been done, and we are unagitated by what has yet to come. We are focused on what we can control at the present moment. The past has already died, and the future has not yet been born.