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The 5-Minute Monk


I met Geo Grigoryan at a fitness conference in 2007 in Little Rock, Arkansas of all places. (Seriously. What the hell was I doing in Arkansas?) He had emailed me and asked if I needed a roommate for the seminar, which of course I did, because it was 2007 and I was a “up and comer” in the fitness industry. (Translation: I had no money. Built for Show was still just an idea, and all the magazine stuff was a few months away.) 

Later that year, as I was planning a trip to Belize (I apparently found more money), I asked if he'd like to join me. So we toured dirt roads, ate mangoes, swam in the bluest waters I've ever seen, and talked about, well, everything.

And here's what I learned: Geo's a smart, passionate guy. Still is.

Now, four years later, I asked if he'd write a guest post for my site about a little experiment he's been conducting over the last six months. I think you'll enjoy it.

Enter Geo.

+++++

I first became interested in meditation after a serious sports injury. As I sat around taking my pain meds and doing the rehab exercises, I realized I’d entered the “quarter-life crisis” most young ambitious people go through. Here I was — an athletic, motivated guy —  and I was holed  up in my apartment doing jack-shit.

I could feel my negative thoughts taking over and affecting my daily life.

(For those of you who've never experienced the “quarter-life crisis”, it's the period in your twenties in which “What am I doing with my life?” becomes the only question that matters. Well, that, and “Where them girls at?”)

It was obvious I needed less stress and more perspective.

At first I was turned off by the wishy-washy “harness your chi” kind of language that often accompanies meditation. But I got over myself and decided to try it for 5 minutes per day for 30 days.

Six months later, I haven't missed a session.

I can tell you with full  confidence that practicing meditation is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, even above quitting smoking, eating healthier food, and exercising.

Bold claims? Sure.

But here's the thing: you won't know if meditation can help you until you give it a try.

So if you've got 5 minutes, I'd like to show you how.

But First, My Reasons for Meditating

I believe practicing meditation has made me more compassionate, accepting, and joyful while simultaneously making me less envious, greedy, and angry.

That’s because meditation is really a process of self-examination.

Once you start, you see your mind in a different way. You see your thought processes and the emotions that are attached to them. Ultimately, you begin to see how everything is impermanent and that change is the only constant.

That's really what I get when I meditate: a feeling that everything is exactly as it should be and that nothing lasts forever.

Through practicing meditation, my happiness became less and less dependent on external conditions. I learned to be happy regardless of the circumstances I found myself in. (Don’t get me wrong, I still have a preference for positive circumstances. But I don’t need them to be happy.)

On a more practical level, I started to see how my emotional states were influenced by my thoughts and vice versa.

For instance, a few days ago I got pissed off after I thought about a girl who didn’t call me back after our first date. Thing is, we went out over a year ago. And I can't even remember her last name.

Stupid, right?

Well,  most of us have these kinds of thoughts every day. These thoughts lead to us feeling an emotion. And then we (usually) act out on that emotion and let it sit with us for an hour, a day, or for some of us, the rest of our lives.

Even if the actual incident is history, our thoughts can dictate our current emotional states if we’re not aware of them. Now, this wouldn't be bad if these emotions pushed us to grow. But often they're toxic, critical, and self-defeating.

For me, my behavior and internal subjective experience changed as I practiced meditation.

My life got better.

I began to experience negative emotions with less intensity. I embraced positive states of mind. It was — and still is — an incredible feeling.

So that’s why I meditate.

If all this sounds a little ambiguous, I get it. It sounded weird to me when I first started, too. But I assure you it will make much more sense after you try it.

So if you want to give it a go, I suggest you commit to doing it for at least 30 consecutive days, starting with 5-minute practice sessions. (You have a measly 5 minutes, right?)

Here we go.

How to Be The 5-Minute Monk

Step 1: Find a place with no loud noises or distractions. Turn off electronics, close the windows, and tell your friend/partner/roommate that you need some time alone.

Step 2: Get into comfortable posture with your spine erect. It could be on a cushion, on the floor, or in a chair, with or without back support. The important thing is that you’re fairly comfortable and can sustain this position for the duration of the meditation. Place your hands wherever comfortable.

Step 3: You may keep your eyes open or closed.  I prefer to keep mine open. If you keep your eyes closed, don’t fall asleep. If you keep your eyes open, keep your gaze unfocused.

Step 4: Focus your awareness on your breath. Just simply pay attention to your breath. Don’t try to change the breath. Don’t interfere in anyway. Just allow it to happen as it is already happening.

Step 5: You’ll quickly notice that keeping your awareness on your breath is next to impossible. Thoughts and sensations will flood your mind and you’ll quickly and you’ll start thinking about random stuff.  As soon as you realize that your awareness has shifted away from the breath, gently but firmly return it to your breath. Be kind to yourself. Notice each distracting thought as just a thought and then return to the breath.

Step 6: Continue to bring your awareness back to the breath for the duration of the meditation. It’s a game. Your mind takes you off the breath, you return it back to the breath. This process is meditation. Over time you’ll be able to stay more focused on the breath, but you’ll always have to play this game.

Step 7:  You can set a timer to a predetermined amount of time so you don’t have to constantly glance at the clock to see if the time is up. (Nate from Nate: I like the mindfulness bell.)

Of course, I'm just a beginner and this is only a short post. But I hope I've made my case. I think if you try meditating and commit to 30 days of practice, you’ll feel better, healthier, and happier. I mean, what else are you gonna do with 5 minutes?

Oh, and if you’re interested in learning more from the masters of meditation, I can recommend the following:

Question: Have you practiced meditation before?

Why or why not? Are you gonna give it a shot now?