After a run-in with a particularly interesting fake-woke individual who claimed they could not meditate though able to do Yoga - I knew I wanted to write this article. Meditation and Yoga share several fundamental overlaps in themes and could absolutely be considered complementary practices.
Western interpretations of these practices have always been a bit confusing for me, where often, monotheists attempt to repackage these long-held traditions to match their view of the world. When your religious monotheistic worldview reflects an all-powerful external god, while eastern religion are fundamentally an internal practice as a source of enlightenment, we are at a fundamental impasse.
For those who don't know, Hindus believe every person is God in disguise, and everyone is capable of reaching the highest reality by shedding their ego. This process can be achieved in various methods/practices and depends on the sect of the religion.
While Buddhism rejects worldly pleasures (in most sects) and relies on meditation to escape the cycle of samsara (suffering). Once you accept the four noble truths, you can follow the eightfold path and transcend this realm of suffering.
These are both introductory summaries of the religions, they are much more complicated than that. Both religions have a deep history and assortment of holy texts, which I am not qualified to speak on.
Recently, I have seen a rise in the practices of McMindfullness in the West, where people practice Mindfulness as a means to work more efficiently or get ahead. Mindfulness is a secular exercise of meditation meant to achieve those same net benefits devoid of doctrine. It also gets worse with religious groups creating events around, 'wine and yoga' or 'Christian meditation' - to say this is absurd is an understatement.
I have no issue with people using these practices as new-wave/spiritual religious experiences in which you find different spiritual practices that work for you. To repackage it, however, as its own addition to a religious ideology with no bearing of similarity, that is impossible. Many will say that meditation and prayer are the same thing, which I disagree with due to the nature of what each religion is getting at (internal vs. external).
With that background out of the way, how does one meditate?
One can meditate in several ways, and it's up to the practitioner. Often, a skilled Yogi or teacher will guide you down a particular path, depending on which practice could work for you.
The most common critique people will say is 'I can't meditate,' even though they are. They are so caught up in their own egoic construct they will refuse to entertain ideas that lay below the surface. Meditation naturally makes your insecurities, fears, self-criticism, and other negative emotions surface - all that scary shit that is inside you, regardless if you want it to be or not.
This is where most people quit because they can't handle diving into this fundamental separation of self (your constructed self based on your external environment) and other (higher self). Both Buddhism and Hinduism explicitly talk about this separation of self, and their path to experiencing it is from introspection.
In my experience, meditation has brought about intense spiritual experiences in my life that could not be explained through the lens of monotheistic religions. A Christian even told me at a bar (of all places) that I was demonic for experiencing ego-death or astral projection - while Buddhists and Hindus would say that's natural.
Now, I would not consider myself a Hindu or Buddhist, but I cannot in clear consciousness, act like both ideologies (and Daoism) haven't been a substantial help in my life. I was raised Catholic, turned atheist nihilist, and now consider myself a spiritual positive person with a heavy lean toward Eastern ideologies.
When I was young, I began to experience constant sleep paralysis and intense undiagnosed mental health issues when I was only ten years old. Without specifying, it's shit no child should have to go through. It was only with therapy in my early 20s that I could come to terms with the experiences I had.
While shedding these horrible experiences, I began learning intensely about Eastern spiritual practices from esteemed yogis and philosophers. These processes were some of the most intense times of my life, often involving confrontations with myself and extreme depressive episodes.
I spent around a year and a bit in this state before I had an ego-death experience in which I felt part of myself die. This experience was sober and one of the most intense things I will ever experience on this planet. The process took over an hour to complete.
It was nothing short of a spiritual experience and appeared outside the realm of day-to-day consciousness. In addition to that significant psychic shift, I had several spiritual experiences that Buddhists and Hindus have terms for across that time period. They naturally came up during my times of introspection and were not forced.
After that ego-death experience, I began to see the world differently and more optimistically. I slowly started to drink less (now not at all), be less reliant on others' feedback, became more conscious of the role of my ego, less afraid of confronting my thoughts, and more willing to self-actualize and become my true self.
My entire demeanour has changed, and I even look at old photos of myself, like who is that? This isn't due to the physical experience, but the mental headspace I was in. Everyone I know notices it, and many mention it explicitly without elaborating.
This separation I built up through meditation during that era was my fundamental insight from Eastern ideologies and has made me a complete person. There's no way I would be as happy as I am now if I had not dove into this head-on. When people say, 'they can't meditate,' they are really saying they are unwilling to have confrontations with themselves.
They will continue to be tied to the cycle of suffering, committing lower consciousness mistakes based on undesirable emotions. In my opinion, the longer you hold off on this introspection, the harder it will be to do it.
Watching someone like Rick Rubin speak (who has practiced meditation for years) is an example of someone who has undergone this fundamental shift. Watch how he speaks or thinks about creativity - it's beautiful. Introspection of this nature can be a substantial source of inspiration for creativity and has been a massive inspiration behind Cosmos.
I want to leave you with one practice of meditation that can start this journey. I'll start with TM, which is beautifully explained by director David Lynch. This video is one of the most coherent and intelligent explanations of a spiritual practice I have seen.