For most of my life I thought meditation was about checking out from reality, and living in this fantasy, floaty, blissed-out state where you lost all your drive and ambition to succeed. Where you become lazy and useless, staring at the sky, doing nothing.
All of which repulsed me. As the descendant of German Lutheran farmers and Filipino plantation workers, there’s something in the core of my being that finds any wastefulness or idleness distasteful. Even offensive. Who’s going to get all this work done, while you’re sitting on a hill meditating?
I thought it was like that story in the Odyssey, about the island of the Lotus Eaters. These people lived on an island and ate Lotus and it sent them into this lovely, apathetic sleep. They lost all desire to do anything. When Odysseus’s crew come upon this island, they drifted into such a state that they no longer wished to continue their journey. They simply wanted to remain on the island, eating Lotus, and chilling. Odysseus had to forcibly remove them from the island, and bring them back to the ship. So they could get back to the hard work of making their way home.
If that’s what meditation is, then thanks, but I’m good. I have work to do.
So I really appreciate when someone asks me if meditation will make them lose their edge. Or turn them into a head-in-the-clouds, “everything’s cool, man” slacker. I get it.
What I learned is that meditation can be a tool that actually builds strength. That it brings clarity, focus, and a sense of relaxed wakefulness. I think of it as a ninja-skill, where every application of energy is so precise and efficient, it appears effortless. Yet it is extraordinarily powerful.
It also supports the systems that give me my best cognitive and creative power. It’s really hard to think clearly and creatively when your body is exhausted, or when your mind feels cluttered and distracted, or you’ve been in a state of high anxiety. The brain just doesn’t work as well. And meditation helps bring me to a place of alignment with reality, so I can take action in a more purposeful way. Applied mindfulness, and meditation. Not disconnected from reality, but actually more present to what’s happening now.
I recorded some thoughts on this, and you can listen to them below. There’s more to tell about what shifted my mindset and perspective, but I’ll save it for another post. For now, just know that I understand if you’ve secretly worried that meditation will make you lose your edge. I used to think so, too.