Meditation is often a topic that garners smirks, laughs, and shrugged shoulders, but people may need to rethink their beliefs about meditation because the benefits far outweigh the weird looks you will get when you tell people that you meditate. Meditation is one form of something called Mindfulness which means being aware of the present moment. When you are conscious of the present moment, you aren’t caught up in the business of life. You aren’t worried about what happens tomorrow or what you have to do in 20 minutes. You are simply aware of what your body is doing, one breath at a time.
There are many benefits that have been known to come after you add meditation to your life such as better emotional intelligence, greater creativity, improved focus, and lowered anxiety.
Getting started with meditation is not hard at all and doesn’t require anything you don’t already have. The first step is to understand that there really is no wrong way to meditate. As soon as you realize this concept, your meditation practice will become much more natural and confident.
The next thing you should do is find a quiet place, away from distractions. You can either sit upright in a chair or on the floor. The key here is to get yourself comfortable enough that you are not in distracted by the pain of sitting on the floor or chair, but not too comfortable to where you fall asleep. For the first year that I meditated, I sat upright in a chair because I wasn’t flexible enough to sit cross legged on the floor.
Now there are a lot of different ways you can meditate and I haven’t found one particular way that is “better” than others, but for beginners, the particular method I’m going to teach you is rather easy to follow and still very effective. This is roughly a 10 minute session which is long enough to gain all of the benefits but short enough so that you do not become bored or fall asleep.
- While sitting upright in the chair or on the floor, place your hands on your legs or in your lap. Start with your eyes open and begin to take long, slow, loud, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth for about 20-30 seconds. The exact timing isn’t critical but rather a general guide. Use your best estimate without actually counting. (20-30 seconds)
- On your last out breath, close your eyes and allow your breath to return to a normal rhythm, in and out through your nose.
- Start to become aware of your surroundings. Listen to the sounds, the ones near you and the ones far, far away from you. Notice any smells, notice the air temperature and the air flow. Not really analyzing any of these, but simply becoming aware of them (30-45 seconds)
- Now transition your focus to your body. You’re going to take a physical inventory of the way your body feels. Start at the top of the head and slowly scan down to your feet, noticing how each part feels. The goal is not to alter anything or make adjustments, but rather to notice how a particular body part may feel. (60-90 seconds)
- Now spend 10 seconds reminding yourself the reason why you’re doing this meditation. You should include a reason that is bigger than just you. How will the people around you be effected by your mediation? (10 seconds)
- Start to transition your focus to your breathing. Begin to notice what parts of your body move as you breathe in and out. Notice your chest rising and falling. Notice how your arms move up and down as you breathe (60 seconds).
- Now focus simply on your breath. To help you focus, count your breaths up to 10 and then start over. In = 1, out = 2, in = 3, out = 4, in = 5, out = 6, in = 7, out = 8, in = 9, out = 10, then start back at 1… in = 1, out = 2, etc. This is the part of the exercise where it’s really easy to become distracted… and that’s ok. Simply become aware that you were distracted by that passing thought and then return your focus back to your breath and start your count over. My teacher taught me to think about my mind like a busy highway. The cars going back and forth are like all of the thoughts you have running through your head. You would be crazy to think you can jump in front of all those cars to try and stop them… you would end of as roadkill. Instead, you should simply sit by the side of the road and watch the cars go back and forth. That’s what you should do when you are breathing and counting, sit and watch your thoughts come and go. And again, don’t get mad at yourself from becoming distracted. The act of actually realizing that you are distracted boasts your ability to become mindful. (4-5 minutes)
- After several cycles of counting, the next time you get to 10, simply let your focus go and allow your mind think about whatever it wants to think about. Don’t try to redirect its focus or anything. Simply let it do whatever it wants to do (15 seconds).
- Shift your focus back to your surroundings. Start to hear the sounds…feel the air…smell the smells, and feel the weight of your body in the chair or on the floor (10-15 seconds).
- Slowly open your eyes but don’t change your sitting posture. Look around and become aware of the space around you (10-15 seconds).
- Now sit back and enjoy the feeling of calmness and stillness you are experiencing (10 seconds)
As you go about the rest of your day and start to get caught up in the business of life, you can now recall this feeling of calmness and begin to slow yourself and thoughts down to make better decisions and feel better about your life.
It is going to take you a couple times to memorize this outline, but with practice, you will get it in no time. If you find yourself wanting more, you can easily extend these sections for longer periods of time. Experienced people often meditate for 20-30 minutes at a time each day. The particular time of day you choose is not overly important, but should be experimented with to determine which time is best for you and your life.
I encourage you to practice daily and it is amazing how much better you feel after just a few days in a row of meditating. Don't get discouraged and don't give up. I'm still learning how to be better and I've been doing this for a long time.