The most shocking thing when I started meditating was being given the simple exercise to observe my breath coming in and out of the nostrils, not controlling it, just observing it, and I couldn’t do it for more than 10 seconds. For 10 seconds I would try to notice ‘oh now the breath is coming in, it’s coming in, it’s coming in, oh it stopped coming in, now it’s going out, going out. 10 seconds, then some memory would come, some thought would come, some story about something that happened last week or 10 years ago or in the future, and it would highjack my attention; and it would take me maybe 5 minutes to remember ‘Oh! I’m supposed to be observing my breath!’

Yuval Noah Harari

Harari talks about how he meditates 2 hours a day and it’s the most important thing he does.

I’ve flirted with meditation before but very lightly. More recently though, I’ve been half-ass trying to do it while falling asleep, sort of ‘clearing my mind’ and not letting it race to whatever thought comes next. But his point about not being able to just observe and control your mind keeps happening. It’s fucking impossible. I’m laying, I take deep breaths, I fend off a couple of thoughts, and before I know it I’m thinking about something completely unrelated, only to remember ‘ah right, I was supposed to be tuned in to my breath / meditating‘, and eventually I give up.

This idea of ‘me vs. my racing mind‘ has become fascinating to me. Harari hits on that again saying something like ‘if I can’t control my own mind, how can I tackle other problems‘. I cannot control my mind. It has a mind of it’s own, it does whatever it wants. I try to tell it to slow down, but it doesn’t listen. The past few weeks this has become more and more apparent to me.

Then I heard one of my favorite chess players saying he meditates before most matches, and I found that intriguing. Then, this week, I listened to a podcast with a successful business guy who at one point was super down in the dumps. To turn his life around, he began exercising, eating better, and yep, you guessed it, meditating. He says he meditates 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night.

I’ve taken those as a a sign – I’m fully committed to trying this out. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what I expect to come from it, but I want to be able to sit with myself for periods at a time and clear my head. I started with a 5 minute guided meditation last night, and another 5 minute one this morning. Perhaps it will grow to 10 minutes, then 20 minutes, or perhaps I’ll stop tomorrow. I’m not sure, but I think for it to work you have to believe it will work, and I believe.