I started meditating regularly when I was 15 or 16. Since then, I’ve gone through periods where I’m on a strict schedule and spend at least 20 minutes per day just sitting still and then I’ll have a stretch of several months without any quiet introspection.
Even with my sometimes neglectful attitude towards meditation, I can’t deny it’s usefulness and practicality. Especially in a world where so much of our time is spent staring at a screen and being fed new information constantly from a variety of outlets.
Meditation is helpful. That should come as no surprise.
Meditation is also simple. Sit down, close your eyes and try not to think about anything.
Those are the two main reasons why I haven’t covered meditation in a post on this blog. There is an immense amount of resources online on both the benefits of meditation and on how to meditate. I don’t think we need any more of them.
However, I’d like to talk about a favorite meditation technique that I rarely see discussed. It probably has a more proper name, but I’ll just call it an ‘externally focused meditation’.
The basic idea is this: instead of going inward as you normally would for a meditation, focus your energies on something external.
I like to pick a small object (tiny sculpture, tennis ball, dollar bill) and set my timer for 5 – 10 minutes. During that time, I’ll focus intensely on whatever object I picked. I examine each and every detail of the object, making sure I could visualize the entire thing upon closing my eyes (imperfections, subtle details and all).
The interesting thing about this exercise is that usually when I think I’ve seen every detail of whatever I’m looking at, I find something new and it amazes me. Even the tiniest objects have an incredible amount of character that we don’t usually take the time to appreciate. It’s really pretty neat.
But that’s only one side of the practice. In addition to the insight you’ll gain about tiny objects, you also get an enhanced appreciation of the rest of the world, and this is where it gets really cool.
After I finish one of these external meditations, as soon as I look up, I begin to notice the subtle details in everything. I’m seeing folds on books that I would have never paid any attention to, or intricate shadows being cast by a nearby lamp. It’s almost like my vision and analytical skills were upgraded.
Of course, this doesn’t last forever, but it’s almost like having a super power for the first few minutes.
Now, if intense external focus and examination of details in the physical world can create an almost super-human feeling, just think about what intense internal focus can do for your mind.
This is the beauty of meditation.