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Mindful : December 2015
If I meditate a lot, am I going to lose my edge and turn into a passive, unproductive jellyfish? Ew. Hey, let’s not dump on jel- lyfish. They’re stunningly colorful and alluring—like living lava lamps—and they’re the sea’s most effi- cient movers. They’ve been around for over 500 million years, which suggests they must be doing something right. By contrast, we humans have been around for 200,000 years. Maybe we have something to learn from the jellyfish. Instead of becoming passive, then, let’s say the “danger” of meditation is in becoming receptive—devel- oping the habit of becom- ing responsive and alert to emerging situations, as opposed to reactive. You see what needs to be done and leap into it. This includes knowing when not to do something, when inaction, or attentively listening and probing, letting situations unfold, is really the best response. Mindfulness practice can strengthen our natural instinct to see when active engagement will only run us into a corner—after all, the world isn’t always in need of a better mousetrap. Mindful jellyfish do not lose their ability to sting, but they less frequently get tricked into stinging motor- boat rotors. How will I ever find the time to do this? And how much time is the right amount? The long-distance French swimmer Ben LeCompte once described how he managed to swim across the entire Atlantic ocean: “I never jump into the water thinking about the entire ocean, I just cut it into small pieces. When I am in the middle of the ocean, I think about being in a pool and the pool moves with me.” When you’re getting into meditation, it’s easy to get psyched out if you begin by imagining that an ocean lies between you and the goal you’ve set for yourself: reduced stress, better relation- ships, more focus, world peace. Put your goals in a mental safety deposit box and forget about them, along with the ocean of breaths that sepa- rate you from them. Instead, commit to concen- trating on just the breath in front of you. Decide how big the “pool” of breaths you want to move within should be. This will change over time, and be different for everyone. It may start as five minutes a day, three times a week. Or ten minutes a day, five times per week. While more practice is inevitably going to result in more depth, setting aside an amount of time that seems reasonable is essential to building your confi- dence so you don’t become frustrated, resulting in mindfulness becoming the fad toy that ends up on the shelf once it loses its newness. With greater confidence comes a g reater willingness to pledge more and more minutes to practice. 3 2 What if I have to pee while meditating? Should I hold it, or go? Meditation experts weigh in at mindful.org/gottago meditation