What’s the point of meditation?
- Practicing meditation and mindfulness will make you at least 10 percent happier.
- Being mindful doesn’t change the problems in your life, but mindfulness does help you respond to your problems rather than react to them.
- Mindfulness makes you appreciate the present more, decreases your anxiety over the past and future.
- Ultimately, it helps you realize that striving for success is fine as long as you accept that the outcome is outside your control.
It’s fixated on the past and the future, to the detriment of the here and now. It’s what has us reaching into the fridge when we’re not hungry, losing our temper when we know it’s not really in our best interest, and pruning our inboxes when we’re ostensibly engaged in conversation with other human beings.
We’ve been incredibly blessed with the number of pleasant experiences we’ve had in our lives. Yet when we look back, where are they now?
📍 Hedonic adaptation: the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.
🔖 No matter how much stuff we buy, no matter how many arguments we win or delicious meals we consume, the ego never feels complete: the ego is never satisfied.
The lie we tell ourselves our whole lives: as soon as we get the next X, we’ll feel really good. We live so much of our lives pushed forward by these “if only” thoughts, and yet the itch remains. The pursuit of happiness becomes the source of our unhappiness.
The ego is constantly comparing itself to others. It has us measuring our self-worth against the looks, wealth, and social status of everyone else.
🖋 It totally reminds me of one of my all time favorite Wait But Why articles about our “tendency to overestimate the hedonic impact of future events” and our ability to simulate future situations to predict what it’ll be like to experience them, but that simulator doesn’t always work so well and tends “to make us believe that different outcomes are more different than in fact they really are”.
To wrap it up, the previous two ideas, combined:
Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment. And imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one. That is continuous stress.
[…] my habit of hunting around my plate for the next bite before I’d tasted what was in my mouth. As he described it, “I do not want to experience the fading of the flavor — the colorless, cottony pulp that succeeds that spectacular burst over my taste buds.”
[…] I would tell myself I would be moderate, but once the frenzy started, I couldn’t stop. I was feeding the pleasure centers of my brain rather than my stomach, and I was particularly bad with dessert.
- In a world where everything is constantly changing, we suffer because we cling to things that won’t last.
- We suffer because we get attached to people and possessions that ultimately evaporate.
- We and everyone we love will die. […] We may know this intellectually, but on an emotional level we seem to be hardwired for denial. We comport ourselves as if we had solid ground beneath our feet, as if we had control.
Then the proposed solution is:
In a nutshell, mindfulness is the ability to recognize what is happening in your mind right now—anger, jealousy, sadness, the pain of a stubbed toe, whatever—without getting carried away by it.
📍 Mindfulness: create some space in your head so you can “respond” rather than simply “react.”
Learn how to be happy “before anything happens.” This happiness is self-generated, not contingent on exogenous forces; it’s the opposite of “suffering.” What the Buddha recognized was a genuine game changer.
Some of the traits we think are fixed like a quick temper or moody-ness or compassion are learned skills, not fixed characteristics.
🔖 Most improvements in life make very little difference and that’s fine. We spend so much time searching for transformational change in one easy step, but can we all just admit that were looking for the easy way out here? Just because you can’t change everything at once doesn’t mean you can’t get better. In many cases, most cases in fact, you are only going to see a very small increase from each action.
The key is to embrace these daily marginal gains rather than dismissing them because they are small.
The new view took into account a long-overlooked branch of Darwinian thinking, namely the observation that tribes who cooperated and sacrificed for one another were more likely to “be victorious over other tribes.” Apparently nature rewarded both the fittest—and the kindest.
I found that applying the “price of security” maxim by proxy — worrying about other people’s professional challenges — was much more easeful than applying it on myself.
Meditation helps you shut down your monkey mind for a moment.
Meditation is like doing focused reps for your mind. Focus on the breath, lose your focus, bring it back to the breath, repeat. This is the whole game. Keep bringing your mind back to the breath.
Mindfulness represents an alternative to living reactively.
Being mindful doesn’t change the problems in your life. You still need to take action, but the key is that mindfulness allows you to respond rather than react to the problems in your life.
Striving for success is fine as long as you realize that the outcome is not under your control. If you don’t waste your energy on variables you cannot influence, you can focus much more effectively on those you can. Be as ambitious as possible, but let go of the result. This makes it easier for you to be resilient and bounce back if the result is poor.