I’m sure I learned what meditation was sometime before college, but I didn’t spend much time absorbing the concept until then. I had an Eastern Philosophy teacher that is still probably the most self-assured person I’ve ever met.
He genuinely did not give a shit about what anyone thought of him, as he said, “other people’s thoughts are none of my business”. I found him to be hilarious, and always unintentionally so. (The best kind of funny.)
He said the purpose of meditation was to widen the gaps between thoughts, allowing for observation of the peaceful quiet that exists behind them. And that we’d enjoy a more pleasant mindspace as a result. He shut off the lights, had us put our heads in our folded arms, and asked us to focus on our breathing. Whenever we had a thought we were supposed to acknowledge it without judgment, let it go, and return to our breathing.
Most of the time I thought about a guy, wondered if he liked me. Thought about how cute he was. Replayed our recent conversations. I kept returning back to my breath just to have my mind pipe up again, “He’s so cute. He reminds me of Floyd from Dazed and Confused…”
But then it happened, I thought—“…………..”, for a few solid seconds.
“Oh! And that’s the same dude as in Out Cold!” — But it had happened, however briefly, I experienced my first sizeable gap between thoughts. I wanted more of that peaceful feeling. And, apparently, whomever that dude was.
Though I enjoyed the peace I discovered in that philosophy class…I lacked focus. The first real application of meditation to my life was using it to get rid of the hiccups. I drank a lot of cheap beer quickly in those days, so I’d get them pretty frequently. At some point, I realized that all of the solutions offered up (swallow a spoonful of sugar, stare at the ceiling whilst hopping on one foot, BOO!) were all just various ways of *not thinking* about the hiccups.
So I tried using meditation to do so, and low and behold — it works like a charm! In those days most of my meditation was done in graffiti-covered bathroom stalls. Focusing on my breath, calming my mind, and dissolving those cheap beer hiccups.