5 Easy Tricks to Meditation.
Most who are not familiar with meditation may imagine some robed yogi up on mountain in Tibet becoming one with the universe. The truth is that most people who meditate work the 9-5, have a t-shirt on and still get pissed off in traffic. So if meditation intimidates you, chuck the idea of invoking the spirits of Hindu gods. Scratch the inclination that meditation is religious. Although it is incorporated in many religions, it is no more religious than peeling potatoes. Meditation is simply a practice that centers the mind and slows racing thoughts. The byproducts of regular meditation are peace of mind, reduction of unnecessary stress and anxiety, increased sleep quality, increased focus and even relief from pain.1
Here are 5 easy tricks to learn how to meditate and take the mystery out of the practice.
Obvious enough right? In my meditation classes the number one concern new students have is not being able to stop their thoughts. Telling your thoughts to just “stop” is about as effective as stopping a full speed locomotive train by stepping in front of it. It’s okay to think, that’s what the brain does. The practice of meditation helps your thought become less sporadic and more focus over time.
You are going to have thoughts - about plans you made, about your mother, about something you forgot to do, about your boss, about sex (or sex with your boss), about cookies, about a movie you saw last week, about your cat, you get the point. Thoughts are like millions of ping pongs ball bouncing around in every direction. When you practice meditation the number ping pong balls decreases. Eventually there are just a few floating around and they won’t bother you so much. People hate the quiet not because it is quiet. They hate it because when the room gets quiet they realize there is a zoo up in their head. With a little routine and practice, you’ll sit and meditate and it will be very quiet in your mind. This is called peace of mind and it’s pretty nice.
2. Have a spot.
It is important to have a regular spot to meditate. The actual location is not as important as a consistent location. Your comfy chair, the train, a quiet room in the house, park bench - any spot that is convenient for you on a daily basis. If you pick a meditation spot that is too much of a hassle to get to every day it will be too easy to find an excuse not to meditate. Make it easy and convenient for yourself.
Meditation isn’t only psychological, physical or spiritual, it is all three. Having a consistent spot imprints all three of these areas. Your body and mind begin to associate that specific place with meditation. When you lay it bed, your body and brain know it’s time for sleep. When you sit at the dinner table it is time to eat. When you sit in your meditation spot, it is time to meditate. You are creating a new healthy habit in the daily routine.
Pick that parch bench with the dried piece of gum stuck to it or that old ratty chair grandma left behind. That couch cushion your daughter spilled chocolate milk on 15 times will work just fine.
3. Set the bar low.
Another excuse to not meditate is lack of time. Nonsense! Do you have 1 minute a day to spare? That is all you really need. 1 minute every day is more beneficial than an hour meditation once a week. Make it easy for yourself, set the bar low and go for a minute everyday. You can always increase or decrease the duration when you desire. When I started cycling I didn’t start with 100 mile days, I worked my way up from much shorter rides.
Maybe you are the type who gets a routine going but then slips off the path for a while. This is one of the primary reasons people fall out of a regular meditation practice; they make it too big of a task. Let’s face it, most of us are not quitting our day jobs and joining the Buddhist temple. You’ve still got to get you butt to work, clean the house and participate in life. Start small and work your way up. As you begin to reap the benefits of meditation you’ll be surprised at the extra time that start appearing from nowhere. When you quit burning up useful energy with a restless mind, you start becoming more productive.
4. Don’t slouch in your chair!
Like they used to say in school. The reality is that most of us are not going to be sitting in the lotus position on the floor. You are not doing yourself any favors. The ground is not any more spiritual than a fart is melodic. It is incredibly hard to sit up straight when you are in an unusual sitting position. The most important posture point is having a straight spine. This will encourage attentiveness rather than dullness. If you lay down or lean against the wall, you’ll get sleepy and your mind will wander. Sitting up straight creates focus and attention.
If you can’t get your leg behind your head and turn into a human pretzel, don’t sweat it. If you have sat in chairs your entire life, sit in a damn chair. If you are used to sitting on the floor, that is great too. Everyone wants to sit on the floor because they think it's more "spiritual." It's not. The whole point of meditation is to find enjoyment in meditating and gain some peace in your life. Find a seat that works for you. Sit tall with a straight spine. And fricken relax.
Bad posture, sad spine. Good posture, happy spine.
5. Focus on your breathing.
There are thousands of meditation techniques out there from chanting, visualization, mantra, transcendental meditation, mindfulness, trance, and many many more. I even found an article online that was titled “23 types of meditation!” It doesn’t have to be that complicated. I couldn’t imagine even starting with a mountain like that ahead of me. Keep it simple.
Amongst every tradition of meditation I’ve studied, they all have one concept in common. Focus on your breath. This technique has been around for thousands of years. We do it without realizing it. When you friend is in a panic, what is the first thing you tell them before anything else? Just breathe. Keeping your attention on breathing gives you a single point of concentration.
Here’s how to do it.
Sit tall in your spot and close your eyes. If you’re not stuffy, breath in and out through you nose. Take gentle full breaths. Feel the air pass through your nose, expanding the lungs and filling the tummy. Notice your body immediate becomes relaxed, your chest loosens up, and your shoulders and hands release tension. You immediately feel better. When you meditate, just sit and watch your breathing. When you catch your mind wandering off, bring your attention back to your breathing. You can even say in your head, “I am breathing in, I am breathing out.” That’s it.
There you have it, pretty easy right? Now the hard part is to start doing it. Set a time each day that works with your schedule. Everybody has 1 minute. Meditation is not like an ibuprofen or a glass of wine. It doesn’t always have immediate effects. It builds in strength over time. My suggestion is to meditate every day, for 1 minute, for an entire month. If you are not sure if it did anything, stop abruptly. My suspicion is when you do stop you will notice yourself getting irritated at little things again, your attention will be less concentrated, and a few of those aches and pains will come back.2
This meditation thing really works. If you want to find a greater potential you never knew you had, this is one way to begin. With meditation in your life you will find it much easier to control your emotion nature and handle stressful situations. You mind wont be clouded up with racing thoughts. It’s easier to be a better listener and better friend. The best way to improve the world is to improve yourself. This is about you becoming the best you. Enjoy.