Author: J.J.

Meditating, but not “Meditating”, for a Work/Life Balance

You read the title, right? I know what you’re thinking: “Oh here he goes. Meditation. Next thing you know he’s going to try tell me to ‘look inward’ and sell me CDs that repeat the word ‘ohm’ for three hours.” No, that’s not what I mean by meditation.

You have that image of someone in yoga pants sitting in the lotus position with incense burning in front of them. What I mean by meditation is: rock climbing, drawing, going to the gym, running, walking, and even sewing.

A Journey to the Countryside of Japan

A long time ago a friend of a friend did this journey through Japan’s countryside, specifically the island of Shikoku. He visited over 100 Buddhist temples in a month. As a fan of Japan I thought that was super interesting and within a few months booked my first trip to Japan.

Now I was NOT a walker, my daily walking was from my front door to my car, and from my car to my office, and then 8 hours later reversing the process. I had to go from less than a few meters a week to over twenty kilometers a day. It was a lot of ground to cover, literally.

The trail in the countryside

To make a long story short, I wasn’t able to visit all the temples my friend’s friend did, but I learned a lot from the adventure itself and came back with an appreciation of meditation, even though I never meditated in the stereotypical sense. I never fully realized I was “in the zone” or having my “zen moment”. It came when I was tired, climbing up a mountain, feeling my feet pulsing and the sun shining on my face. My brain turned off, unneeded thoughts vanished, and I just walked.

Types of Meditation

One type of mediation is what I achieved through my countryside journey. But you don’t have to walk hundreds of kilometers to get achieve that state of serenity. Running, walking, rock climbing, and going to the gym can also “empty your mind”. Emptying you mind boils down to one essential point: get out and get active. Find somewhere, like a trail, or your favorite rock climbing wall and let your body do the rest. The goal is to put your body is on autopilot, so no thinking required.

Another type of meditation is a form of focused attention. It is when you concentrate on something small and/or intricate, essentially “filling your mind” with that thing. Eventually, your surroundings and even the idea of “self” is pushed out of your mind. Have you been working on a craft and before you realized that morning turned to night? Doodled so long that you didn’t realize you’re stomach was growling? Congratulations, you meditated.

How about video gaming? While a good video game can make you lose track of time, I wouldn’t call it meditation. Video games stimulate your brain in so many ways. The goal for video games is to get pulled into their world, into a story that is progressed by the game’s pace. Sights, sounds, and flashing lights vie for your attention; it is impossible to completely “fill” or “empty” your mind when you’re battling a horde of monsters.

Balancing Your Brain

Why discuss meditation? Japan is like every other country, if not worse, when it comes to unrealistic expectations, deadlines, and pressures to perform in a professional manner. With this much stress and social anxiety, getting to devote some personal time is beneficial for the brain.

Drawing isn’t expensive; it only costs a few yen for a sketchbook and mechanical pencil. Running only costs you a pair of shoes. What really matters is finding something you like which you can focus on and push everything else out of your mind. This keeps the brain fresh to accept new input and allows you to realign priorities.

Don’t let this get you down

Our brains can’t run 100% all the time. While sleeping maintains the brain’s physical health, it does little in the way of mental health. Entering a state of focused attention or emptying your brain is something not easily attainable this day and age, but highly needed.

In Japan, and especially in Tokyo, there are so many lights, people, and trains running that sometimes we are pulled into the sea of stimuli. Finding a hobby that can also act as a meditation tool is a great way to refresh the brain before getting crammed into the commuter train and head to work.

If you want to know about my treks through Japan, or you have your own methods of meditation leave a comment below!

By J.J.
Software Engineer and Blogger at TalentHub
Usually coding, writing, or exploring Japan.

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