Meditation As A Side Effect


        One of the more liberating things I’ve done on my continuing quest for minimalism was donating my last car and deciding that I’ll never own a car again, and for a variety of reasons. I’ve never really liked driving, to be honest, probably as a side effect of the places I’ve lived and my aversion to spending ridiculous amounts of money on things for...sometimes hedonistic reasons, I mean, sure I get where people come from when they get excited about the performance of cars, and I’ve been in sports cars and felt that “power” that comes from acceleration, but that rush that people claim to get from it, I’ve never really felt. Not downing on it, just different strokes for different folks, you know?

        On another hand, as a self-proclaimed designer and artist, I appreciate the lines of a well designed vehicle, but I’m happy to let other people pay the cost of owning them while I admire them from afar. And as far as the whole “vehicles as status symbols”, that just is what it is, whether we all admit it or not, everyone has things they count to themselves as status symbols, if one of them happens to be a car, so be it.

        Then there’s the incredibly skewed perspective on vehicle ownership you get from living in California, where it’s ridiculously expensive to maintain licensing, tabs, insurance, and all that other government mandated silliness, not to mention that in California, pretty much every moving traffic violation can somehow be escalated to a felony, probably because California is so desperate for money they need to be able to fee-rape the populace as hard as humanly possible. Just...not worth it, especially if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where public transit, whether it’s trains and buses, or public-ish transit, like Lyft or Uber, can meet your needs. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever even renew any of my drivers’ licenses at this point, got my passport, I’m good to go.

        So as you can imagine, I’ve been taking advantage of the available public transit options, and in the process, I’ve been walking quite a bit as well. One of the things I’ve always loved about walking, aside from it being an amazing “movement hygiene practice” according to Rafe Kelley, is that I tend to just zone out a lot when I’m walking, and not in a bad way. I think it was either Joe Rogan, or Tait Fletcher, or one of those guys whose podcast I listen to on a terrifyingly regular basis that said something along the lines of “I don’t meditate actively, but I do breathwork, and meditation is the side effect,” and I think that really expresses succinctly the benefit I get from spending a bit more time in transit.

        Now, I’m not downing on the active practice of meditation at all, and I’ve certainly had some experience with different practices, but me being me, I like to maximize the result of my time and activities if at all possible, not because I love multi-tasking or I have some sort of OCD, but I’m just a fan of optimization where possible. What was super beneficial to me was doing both Systema and Silat at the same time, and being able to contrast how meditation and breathwork can vary between sources. In Silat, for example, we started class with between five and twenty minutes of...let’s call it meditation with guided breathing, but the focus, at least from my perspective, seemed to be more on the meditative aspect, focusing very much on your breathing and using simple visualizations to establish and hold patterns.

        In Systema, breathwork is integral to the practice, and you’re constantly focusing on and evaluating your breathing throughout the entirety of the session. You’re also given tools to “explore your breathing,” for lack of a better term, such as patterns for tensing and relaxing certain parts of your body coincident with your breathing, different counts and patterns for breathing such as “square breathing” (breathe in for n counts, hold for n counts, breathe out for n counts, hold for n counts), “burst breathing”, and synchronizing breathwork with movement, from the simple (walking), to the much more complex (rolling, changing levels, combative work, etc).

        Now for me, the most important take away was that at the end of both sessions, on some level, I felt about the same, regardless of which method I practiced, i.e. I felt centered, focused, relaxed, and ready to work. The plus of the more active methods from Systema, at least, in my opinion, is that the tools you get from this sort of training can be employed anywhere, so when I’m walking between bus stops or airport terminals, I can employ the measured step breathing, walking meditation, whatever you want to call it. The flip side is that when I’m sitting on a bus, plane, elephant, whatever, I can employ the more focused meditation techniques, or of course I can do the Systema tension exercises, which is usually more what I end up doing.

        So you can probably tell I’m a huge fan of Systema breathwork, which actually wasn’t the reason I wrote this article, but I’m going to go on record as saying if you’re interested in breathwork, you should definitely look up some Systema breathwork references or even check out the teachings of Wim Hof, whose work has definitely blown up in the last couple years, and for good reason. Takeaway being, everyone should do breathwork and/or meditation, and yes, you have time for it. Whether you choose to meditate actively, do breathwork with meditation as the side effect, or find some balance that works for you, get you some air, son! And of course, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any specific questions are need some guidance, always happy to help. Onward, then...

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