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Why I Meditate



Breathe in, breathe out….breathe in, breathe out. As I try to focus on my breath, a million thoughts are racing through my mind. I keep going back to the two movies I watched this past weekend - both on world wars. Life during wars was T.O.U.G.H. You either served in the army or involved in some way or the other - there was no choice. Today, we’re overwhelmed with choices. 


I’m mindful of the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza - despite no world war type conflict, people in those countries are living that tough, war life. They’re suffering and their only daily choice is where to escape to so they can live another day. It’s crazy. Where and when you are born is completely out of your control, but makes a massive difference to your life’s potential. Do you think Bill Gates would be Bill Gates if he was born in the slums of India? Or do you think that your life would be as comfortable as it is if you were born in another era, in another part of the world? Something to think about.


But wait, back to breathing - breathe in…breathe out.


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Meditation has been part of my daily routine for the last 10 years. I take out 5-10 minutes and spend some time with my thoughts. Here’s the key - it is first thing in the morning, before I brush my teeth, have my coffee, get out of bed. I’m convinced how you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. 


But why meditation? Why not yoga, or working out or something else to kickstart the day? I can think of a few reasons why, but first - 


Let me start by explaining what meditation is not. It is not a magic pill, it does not solve anxiety, feeling overwhelmed or any other negative emotion that you experience on a recurring basis. And what makes it even harder is you don’t see results until you practice it consistently, for a long time. Just like any other habit - the results are slow at first and hard to see. But, there is light at the end of tunnel if you’re persistent enough. It’s like author James Clear once said: “Habits make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five or ten years later that the value of good habits becomes strikingly apparent.” 


Here are some of the reasons why kickstarting my day with a short meditation routine has served me well. By no means is this applicable to everyone. In fact, I tried pushing my wife, parents, and brother to get into the habit of meditation, but it rarely worked - I think it is one of those things that needs a deeper reason and has to come from within. 


It has helped me manage extreme emotions. Teenage Kushal was an angry young man. I’d have outbursts regularly and while that faded as I matured, it was something I wasn’t too happy about. I’m still working on it but meditation has helped me exercise greater patience - sitting with my feelings a bit longer, being less reactive, and putting myself in the other person’s shoes. 


I’m able to get out of my head more often. In a conversation, how often do we think about what to say next or are replaying what we just said? We’re either living in the past or thinking about the future. Meditation has helped control this. By sitting for 10 minutes every morning and focusing on my breath, I’ve been able to translate this into being present in everyday life.


I choose to be optimistic. Why? It feels better. And the reality is, it is easy to be positive when life is good, but poses a challenge when the wheels fall off. Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, spent 3 years in a concentration camp. If you can think of what life is like if you ended up in hell, his 3 years would probably top that. He had people around him take their own lives because dying felt less painful. Yet, he persisted. Why? He says “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.”  If he can have a greater purpose to live, find optimism in the most dark circumstances - can’t we do the same with the privileges we have? 


Meditation may not be for everyone, but if you ever want to try, it’s that simple -  breathe in….breathe out. Ok that’s all for now - more to come!


P.S. If you’re wondering what movies I was referring to, they’re classics and a must watch if you haven’t yet:

  • All Quiet on the Western Front

  • Inglorious Basterds 

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