Naval Ravikant is sort of Silicon Valley’s guru. Almost everyone seems to like him. In case you don’t know him, he is very active on Twitter.
I have rarely seen someone not like the stuff he says, though I have heard people say negative things about him. Or at least negative things about stuff he has said.
But one of the things he said that really stuck with me is “meditation is getting to know yourself”.
And I have found this to be true in my own practice.
Meditation has led me down this path of truly getting to know myself.
I’ve learned what my mind has wanted to think, wanted to say all along. But I haven’t been letting myself think these things and have these feelings.
Meditation has been for me less about focusing on my breath and more about simply seeing what my mind wants to think about at any given time.
And when we are running about all day long, doing things on computers and smart phones, constantly working and just rarely doing nothing, our mind doesn’t have a chance to say what it wants to.
And by “mind” here, I mean the subconscious. The part of our mind that works in the background and rarely gets a chance to show itself.
Enough about me (I am like the academic type who takes too long to intro a Very Successful Person and bores the audience 😉
I may add some of my perspective and experience to these quotes.
Quotes from Naval
Meditation – The Art of Doing Nothing:
This is the title to his tweet thread about meditation. I love this because he doesn’t say “meditation is focusing on one’s breath”. He says meditation is doing nothing. And I’ve really found this to be true for me. I barely am focused on my breath while meditating. I am almost always drifted off somewhere else. This is ok. We do the best we can.
Meditation is your birthright. It’s your natural state.
It requires no one, needs no thing, and has no technique.
If something requires a guru, a mantra, or a teaching, it isn’t universal, and it won’t free you.
Here it is again: meditation isn’t a skill or class or book. It’s just doing nothing… with yourself.
We say that we want peace of mind but what we really want is peace from mind.
I’ll just add that if we don’t let our minds have their own space, well it’s constantly trying to “get out”. Think of a dog in a kennel or something.
Once you let that dog run around for a bit, it’ll be fine going back inside it. But if you keep it trapped inside, it will constantly bark and irritate you… until you let it out.
All chases, whether flow, drugs, beauty, thrills, orgasm, or devotion, are attempts to escape from the mind. Meditation is the direct path
Have I said I agree with this guy yet? I’ll even add exercise to this list. For me, even exercise, while helpful to calm my mind in the short-term, it wears off.
My personal theory about exercise and mental health is that we get temporarily exhausted from exercise and get some endorphins, but those wear off after a while. Our mind is still there wanting to rear it’s head.
In an age of mental gluttony, meditation is fasting for the mind. Before paying a therapist to listen to you, listen to yourself. Before clearing your inbox, clear your mind.https://twitter.com/naval/status/1261481752448524289
Yup. We’re almost always doing something with our brains at a conscious level. Whether working, talking, watching or doing, if your conscious mind is occupied, our subconscious cannot get a word in.
It’s like the smartest person at work in a meeting trying to get a word in over the more confident, louder types.
If the talkers would stop for a minute to listen, maybe they would learn something.
Prepare for meditation by sitting quietly in the morning, with eyes closed and back upright, in any comfortable position that will minimize movement.
All you have to do is sit there. You should be upright though.
I have found that unless I am sitting upright my focus is just not there at all.
And while I don’t think we have to be perfectly focused on any one thing or our thoughts, if we are laying down, we can’t, or at least I know I can’t even be aware of what I’m thinking.
I think that is the minimum state we should be in: able to see what we are thinking sometimes.
So if we are super tired or it’s late, or we are lying down, it is very hard for me to even be able to be aware of what I’m thinking, even just some of the time.
Sixty minutes are easier than thirty, as it takes time for the mind to settle down. Sixty consecutive days are needed, just as it takes time for the body to go from unfit to fit.
Honestly I have never done sixty minutes. I have done thirty minutes quite a bit. I get excited after a while. My mind sort of says what it wants to say and then I want to go on about my day.
Make no effort for or against anything. Whatever happens, happens. Surrender to yourself in the moment. Resist nothing and reject nothing, including the urge to resist and reject.
I will say that I do try to focus on my breath, when I am aware that I’m not focusing on it, which is rarely. So for Naval, meditation is purely doing nothing.
For me, it’s attempting to focus on my breath when I’m aware that I’m not. I don’t know if it fits perfectly, but 10% comes to mind. I’m focused on my breath 10% of the time.
Sometimes when I try really hard to focus, even for only a few seconds, it does seem to let through sort of the next level of thoughts for me.
So I think there is some value, at least for me, in trying to focus on an anchor.
Naval may have reached some guru state which is beyond me. I mean sixty minutes is quite a long time, yeah.
Meditation is not going through thoughts but rather letting thoughts go through you. The thought “I am meditating” is also a thought.
Agree. Meditation for me is letting my mind have thoughts that I don’t let it have in normal daily life.
No focus, no mantra, no dharma, no chakras, no Buddhas, no gurus, no gratitude, no scripture, no temple, no music, no gadgets, no apps are required. Some may be helpful, but eventually all will have to be left behind. Start simply, because that’s where this all ends.
He says that “some may be helpful”. I agree. When I started meditating I tried three apps, the big ones: Headspace, Waking Up and Calm. All were nice. I’ve settled on Waking Up, probably because it is quite a bit more cerebral.
But the others were very helpful. I definitely recommend using an app to start.
I’ve likened using a meditation app instead of meditating alone to going to an exercise class versus exercising alone.
I know that when I exercise with others, I push myself a bit harder and seem to get more out of it. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get benefits when exercising alone, it just means that as a beginner, I did get more benefits out of attending exercise classes (for me it was Crossfit but this seems to be true of other people and other classes).
And the same thing was true for me as a beginner meditater: I tried various apps and techniques until I found what felt good for me.
I switched from nose breath to crossing my hands on my stomach after a while. It was great to get perspective of others who had meditated way more than me.
Meditation is a single player game. There is no point in comparing to other meditators or to even your own previous meditations.
Very true. It’s like talking about music or food: words just don’t do them justice. And meditating is a very personal experience. It’s hanging out with our minds.
Just like no two people have the same exact relationship with one another, no two people are going to have the same experience meditating.
There is no arrival. There are no points, belts, trophies or awards. It’s just you and yourself. Alone at last.