You’re not as smart as you think you are.
You’re not as good as you think you are.
You’re not as bad as you think you are.
You’re not as dumb as you think you are.
You’re wrong about everything you believe about yourself.
To a degree.
I believe there’s two main reasons for this:
- You’re terrible at thinking about yourself accurately.
- You compare yourself too harshly to other people.
To change how you think about yourself and change how you compare yourself to others, I propose you need to adopt a new one-word mantra into your life: nonattachment.
You’ve been conditioned all your life to have emotional responses trigger automatically from certain stimuli. This conditioning comes from your family and from society, so you can’t really escape it. Someone else plays your favorite game better than you, you feel envious of their skill. Someone else laughs and then looks away when you look at them, you feel paranoid. Someone else is a much more successful writer than you, and you feel like crawling into a hole because you’ll never reach that level. You try to get a mental grip on yourself and you’re drowned in guilt and shame over all the bad decisions you’ve made.
Through nonattachment, you can alter the way you think about yourself, which will change your life. Nonattachment is something you can practice and get better at.
How do you practice and get better at nonattachment?
You think about nothing.
Basically, you meditate.
Before you immediately stop reading because you’re all like MEDITATION, NOPE, just stretch yourself for a couple minutes and hang out with me at the edge of your comfort zone. You can do it and it will be worth it.
Meditation, usually the practice of sitting still and stilling the mind, seems to me the best way to practice nonattachment.
When you’re learning to meditate (which is a bit of a joke, because you’re never not learning to meditate), your mind cannot stand the silence. The mind unleashes a chaotic deluge of images, memories, and imaginings, like a petulant two-year-old who refuses to be quiet. Or, better yet, a monkey. There is even a term for this: monkey-mind.
The only response to this mental monkey-mind bombardment is to notice that you’re doing it and then to let it go. Nonattachment is an accurate word, a good word. What’s been messing you up are emotional attachments that you don’t even realize you have.
You basically repeat this noticing-and-letting-go bit until your meditation time is over.
Maybe you’ll be able to compare yourself to others without experiencing feelings of envy or smugness. Experiencing meaning and nonattachment at the same time seems like a better way to try to grow as a person. Maybe you’ll be able to think more accurately about yourself and your own mind without dumping five tons of raw guilt and shame upon yourself.
So does this mean you have to sit uncomfortably for an hour every day, which you know damn good and well you will not do?
Would it be better if you “sat” regularly? You know the answer to that. But if it comes down to doing something over doing nothing, take the something. Believe me, I really wanted to make a joke about nothingness, here, but I just couldn’t get it to work without overburdening my point.
If you don’t sit regularly, how can you meditate?
Here’s what I do: I do it before I go to sleep, and after I wake up. It’s perfect, because I’m already laying there, anyway. Only instead of “trying” to go to sleep, I practice nonattachment: the monkey mind gibbers and throws its own feces on the mental movie screen of my mind’s eye, and I let it go. There is an amazing, wonderful, tranquil pool of silence for a brief moment before the monkey returns. I try to relax my body and I close my eyes. I don’t even focus on my breathing. I certainly don’t worry about sitting properly.
Obviously, you’ll eventually fall asleep. But instead of spending that time getting beat up by your own mind, you train it in the practice of nonattachment.
If you have an alarm that wakes you up in the morning and you have to start your day right away, you probably won’t be able to practice in the morning, but that’s fine. Like I said, something is better than nothing.
Is Buddha rolling in his grave because I’m saying you don’t have to sit like a statue for an hour? No, because the Buddha is the most nonattached dude on the planet. You think he cares? Hell, no.
Also, he’s dead.
Meditation purists will scoff and laugh at this. They may even hate it, which would be funny, because hate is about as attached as you can get. I don’t care what meditation experts think. It’s been amazing to do it this way for even a short time. I look forward to the results of doing it for a long time.
The goal of meditation, as I understand it, is to reach a state where you are in the now and the monkey-mind has no more poop to fling at your mental movie screen. You’re not thinking about your past or the future. You’re not thinking about anything. You’re in the present moment.
I don’t know if anyone could actually ever achieve that. Maybe that’s what enlightenment really is: no more mental monkey poop. I think that goal is something of a well-intentioned con. I think the real goal of meditation is actually the continual practice of nonattachment. Shit comes up, you let it go. Shit comes up, you let it go. Shit comes up, you just… let it go. For full effect, you have to whisper that last one and do a hand motion like a poof.
Science has proven beyond any doubt that meditation is good for you. It will alter your brain for the better. It can make you a better person through nonattachment, which means there’s a very good chance it can make your life better, too. And it’s pretty easy to do it in the unorthodox way I’m doing. Plus you have no excuse: you can’t tell me you don’t have time because everyone has to fall asleep at some point.
Now you have the perfect excuse to go take a nap.
Instead of waiting until everything is perfect or worrying about trying to do it the way you’re “supposed to,” you could conceivably be meditating three times a day.
Pretty good for doing nothing.