Do you ever meet someone who seems so laid-back, carefree and happy that you can’t help but to wonder, “what is their secret?” Probably they are not sweating the “small stuff.” We all have crap that gets in the way of our expectations of what a happy life should look and feel like, but to an extent we can take control of how we react to that crap. Some things you have no control to change and need to be accepted. Some things are really not as bad as they may seem at the time. Your mind has the power to accept the situation or to change the focus to a more positive mind-set.
So how the heck do we learn how to control our minds???
I convinced my friend, Nick Applebee, to let me interview him. Nick is a long-time meditator, meditation instructor, and yogi.
Me: Nick, what is your background in meditation?
Nick: I came into the door in martial arts because I needed martial arts to protect myself. I was at the academy early one day and tried the meditation the class all did together. I had a very, very, even to this day I had a deep, deep experience of meditation. It stimulated me to say “whoa, this is something” and to pursue it.
Me: What do you think the benefits of meditation are?
Nick: If you were to group things together that produced good health, you would say “exercise, eating good organic food, … yoga,” all these things. Meditation or spiritual exercise is something that opens up your energy to the divine cosmos. It changes your metabolism, your chemistry, your magnetism all in a flash it can do those things. So gone is the idea “oh, I have to go get some groceries…”. I think it’s the deepest of all things. Today I am in the fourth stages of cancer and I was thinking of calling you and telling you that I was too sick to come. I got the strength together to meditate and chant for about one hour. Then I napped for a little. When I woke up I felt like a million bucks. I have suffered with many health problems, and meditation has been the one thing that makes the difference – a huge difference.
Me: So meditation is rejuvinating?
Nick: Yes. It changes your perspective. So what does it take to do it? (laughter) You just do it! It’s not like I have to get someone or get some money. A lot of the kinds of meditation that I instruct is very simple and not dogmatic.
Me: As in non-religious.
Nick: And removing the esoteric elements from meditation, which the esoteric elements always create a priest-craft, they always create intellectual authorities. There’s big, huge bucks, ego exchange. What I’ve found is just observing what people do to be happy and putting them into meditation practice gives the best results.
Me: What is the best way for people to get started? So many people struggle to get started with meditation; they say “I tried to meditate and I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t sit still, I have too much on my mind…”
Nick: I don’t think that it’s fair to say those things. To be great at anything, a doctor, a pianist, you have to suffer, you have to be disciplined, there will be some isolation. Everything has its difficult side. It’s the people who a lot of times are up against a wall are willing to try it. I always say, “It’s not how are you going to meditate but when are you going to meditate?” It doesn’t make a difference how much you pay for seminars if in 2 to 3 months you’re not doing anything. Until you become disciplined with it; it’s like anything we learn – it’s on us. That’s really the bad news! (laughs)
Me: Let’s say I’m a very beginner in meditation, how would you instruct me to get started?
Nick: In my experience, many different types prefer many different make-ups. To find one thing that works for everyone it’s very difficult. There are some things that will work for you. One of the things I like to talk about is the mindfulness – using thought and information and analyzing what is out there in terms of meditation and seeing it realistically. For instance the most powerful thing to my meditation is making a sound. Not making a mantra, but just making any sound: “mmmmmm-haaaaaayyy….” When you learn to work with the breath and that sound, and you learn to push that sound into your head and down into your feet; what you’re doing is energizing your whole body. You’re changing your metabolism. How could something like that help somebody? What is the first thing you think when you see someone walking down the street humming?
Me: They’re happy.
Nick: Those people are our teachers! They’re telling us that “all you have to do is make a sound and you will be a happier person.” Why do people all like to dance? Is it the sex, the drinks, the bar? It’s because it’s one of the few time that the mind shuts down. It’s relief from the internal dialogue. Making sound, making movement, and incorporating mantras are all things you can do. Be creative, do your own thing. You can say “I like this, I like that, what would happen if I add this onto it?” It’s good for people to do this and empower themselves. These hidden things are very close to the surface.
Me: It’s so profound that you could just use sound and movement – basic things anybody can do – to change how you’re feeling. It sounds too easy!
Nick: I don’t want to get on a big political thing here, but there are people who want spirituality to be difficult. My Sifu was one of the greatest ever. His books always showed pictures of him meditating. I was asking Jeffrey (my husband) what happens if you have your students come in and you give them 10 things to do. At the end of the month, they can choose 9 of these 10 things to do on a regular basis. There’s a good chance that most people would not want to meditate! You don’t want to choose to do something that you are going to lose at! The mind is a foe that all of the dark things in the world come out of. It’s beyond comprehension. People are always looking for the softer and easier way. That is what we are running into all the time. People who don’t want to pay their dues. Fortunately if you do it, it does get better. I can’t believe how much it’s helped me.
Me: I always found in my martial arts practice that when I had a good meditation before the class that I practiced better. I was blocking faster and moving quicker…I have a philosophy also that whatever your mind is thinking your body will follow, so I think it’s important to develop the mind in a positive and healthy way if you want your body to follow. Your body is an obedient servant and will do whatever the mind asks, so you want the master to be very kind!
Me: Thank you for coming today and sharing your wisdom.
Nick: My pleasure.
Your weekly challenge: try your hand at sound meditation. Any of the vowels (for example “I”) are a good place to start. Go somewhere you won’t be bothered for a few minutes and try it. How do you feel afterward? How can you incorporate meditation into you daily routine?