Blogathon For SSA Week: Meditation, and the Difference Between Theory and Practice


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This post continues my leg of the Blogathon for SSA Week… now! From now until 9pm PDT, I will write one new blog post every hour. Plus, for every $100 raised during that time, I will post one new picture of our cats! And all donations will be matched by SSA Supporters Jeff Hawkins and Janet Strauss — so whatever you donate, it will be doubled!

As of 11:10 am PDT: 428 Donors, $69,712.69
As of 12:01 pm PDT: 429 Donors, $69,747.69

So as I’ve written about earlier, I’ve recently started this secular, evidence-based meditation practice, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. I started noticing positive benefits almost immediately: within the first couple of days: I was calmer, less anxious, less depressed, better able to focus on my work, better able to prioritize my work and not just chase whatever shiny bead happened to cross my path at that moment.

I went back to the next session, and said as much during the “How has this been going for everyone?” portion of the class.

And then I stopped doing it for a few days.

It was as if I’d found a solution to a problem… and knowing that a solution existed felt like enough. Like it was a math problem: once you know that a proof for a theorem exists, you can then assume that theorem, and use it to prove the next one. You don’t have to keep proving it. Proving it once is enough.

Except, of course, that it wasn’t enough. When I stopped doing the practice, the benefits stopped coming.

And I realized:

Oh.

That’s why they call it a “practice.”

m-/

It’s not enough to just have it in my head, “I know that if I meditate, I will feel calmer and more focused. Problem solved.” Just like it’s not enough to have it in my head, “I know that if I exercise, my muscles will get stronger and my overall health will improve.” I have to actually do the freaking thing to get benefit out of it.

And of course, it’s ridiculously arrogant to think that I have the meditation problem solved. I know that what a meditation/ mindfulness practice will be like in a month or two will be different from what it is now, not even two weeks into doing it. And it will be different again in six months. A year. Five years. Thirty years. it is ridiculously arrogant to think that “Aha! This reduces stress and anxiety and helps me focus my attention!” is all that I have to learn from this.

I am not studying a meditation/ mindfulness theory. I am doing some thinking about the theory behind mindfulness meditation… but that’s not the crux of what I’m doing. I am learning a meditation/ mindfulness practice.

And to do that, I have to actually, you know… practice.

Like, duh.

If you like this post — or indeed, if you don’t — please donate to the Secular Student Alliance!

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