If you think of every stimulus you experience on a day to day basis as a 'request' of your mind, from the first time you look at your phone in the morning to, say, the sound of a car door closing outside your window before you fall asleep, the modern mind certainly gets a lot of requests every day. No wonder meditation is such a hot trend right now.
Our capacity for distraction is seemingly limitless, and apps like Instagram gamify our user experience to keep us entertained, engaged, and you could say aroused. But we have enough self-awareness to realize all the mindless staring, scrolling and tapping might not be making us feel so good, hence, I think, this big migration toward meditation (the political climate in the U.S. also probably has something to do with it).
I've only been meditating regularly (which is to say, every morning) for a month, having dabbled for a couple of years before that as part of my program of sobriety. But committing to it every day has had a huge impact so far. I can't say exactly how it's working, but the simplest explanation is that every day in my brain feels like Sunday.
You know how on Sunday, traditionally everything is slower, you wake up later, less seems to be required of you, the mailman doesn't come, and you might deviate from your routine wildly and not feel bad about it? That's sort of what meditating every day feels like.
I find myself thinking less, reacting less, worrying less, smiling more, laughing more, and having more conversations throughout the day. I'm less impatient to get to the next thing. It feels like my blood pressure has decreased to an almost unconscious level. I'm a cat on catnip. When I have an impulse to go down some destructive or negative rabbit hole in my mind, I catch myself: Today is Sunday, my subconscious seems to be saying to me. The rabbit holes are closed on Sunday.
Meditation might not be the only reason for the changes above. Around the same time in January, I also deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone and changed my passwords to a randomly generated jumble of characters that I didn't bother to write down (the impulse to check them was that strong). Not having them in my life has significantly brought down the number of 'requests' on my mind, and with it, I find that the daily experience of living in my head has become vastly more proactive than reactive.
With an addiction to social media, entertainment, infotainment and the like, it sort of feels like our brains are just going, Show me something new! Show me something new! Show me something new! all day long. We like new things. They make life less boring. They make us feel new. Every time we look at Instagram we're seeing something new (and increasingly being encouraged to purchase something new, in between memes and pictures of friends' brunch spreads). Avoid this stimulation and you're simply giving your brain space. Meditation also gives it space, to learn how to observe thoughts without becoming consumed by them. And with both those things together, a familiar phenomenon starts to happen, one we so often forget about, and one which we more closely associate with childhood: imagination, make-believe, play, spontaneity, creativity. As a creative person, I need that daily habit in order to thrive and succeed at my creative purpose. Being proactive, as opposed to reactive, is the harder thing to do. But with meditation and some serious impulse control, it's becoming much easier than it was.
Want to get started with meditation? Some free options are YouTube (type in something like 'singing bowls' or 'guided meditation' and you're off and away), the app Insight Timer, or try a two-week trial with either of the incredible companies MNDFL or Headspace.