A few weeks ago I posted an article about Creating New & Lasting Habits and one of the habits I wanted to master was meditation. I can report to you that so far things are going great. I listened to my own advice and the habit has fallen into place without any extra stress or major adjustments to my life or schedule. I have changed my name to Soul-Child, I now only wear a Hemp loin cloth and only eat alfalfa. So nothing out of the ordinary.
Meditation is fabulous. It’s an ancient practice and the benefits seem to be extensive. I really don’t need to tell you how beneficial meditation is as I’m sure you already know this. I reckon we all know, deep down, that it’s something worthwhile to do regularly.
New York Times Best Seller and author of 3 phenomenal books, Tim Ferriss prolifically interviews the world’s best performers on his podcast and the majority of these highly successful people adopt meditation as a success strategy. It’s just something successful people do.
Meditation can be easy. There are different forms but if you are just getting started, like me, it is easy to get discouraged because a lot of us have this vision of a Tibetan Monk, sitting on top of a mountain with enlightenment within his grasp and if YOU are to be successful at meditation you also need this type of discipline.
I thought that to meditate I had to block everything out, all thoughts, feelings and noise, be in a quiet, peaceful environment and wear yoga pants to gain a calm mind. It’s simply not the case. In fact, it takes years of practice, total commitment and the discipline of a Ninja to get to this point. I don’t have the time or the desire to do that. I just want to nurture myself and give myself a break from myself. You get me? I can be really annoying at times, so annoying in fact that I need a break from myself.
I have an active mind and the only way to shut it down for a little while is to distract it with a meditative process. Whether it’s 10 minutes or 40, that time is valuable in giving myself time to rejuvenate. If I don’t do this my mind goes round and round and I start to waiver. I drive myself mad and my mood goes South, I get anxious and my productivity is erratic. Meditation kick starts me into action in a productive way and settles any anxiety I have. Insert smiley face emoticon and a thumbs up emoticon.
Meditation can be done anywhere, even on the toilet. When I’m not contemplating the meaning of life, sitting cross legged on top of a remote mountain, I do it at the dining table, just after waking, looking out onto my dark street with lots of noise and traffic buzzing past. I’d rather be somewhere peaceful but for me, meditation needs to be easy and convenient and doing it at home means I can still be in my PJ’s.
Watching the traffic go by is actually a good metaphor for meditation. Meditation or training the mind isn’t about eliminating or stopping thoughts going on in your head. That’s the biggest mistake people make and it stresses people out.
If we imagine we are sitting on the side of a busy road the passing cars represent all the thoughts and feelings that buzz around in our head. For me it’s peak hour on a 4 lane main road. To meditate effectively all you have to do is sit there, with a cuppa tea, in a nice comfy spot with good posture, feet on the floor and watch your thoughts or the cars go past. We usually feel unsettled by all that busyness in our heads and we try to run out onto the road and try and stop the cars (our thoughts) or maybe even chase after a few, forgetting that the idea of meditation is to just sit there, watch and breathe.
Training the mind is about changing our relationship with the passing traffic in our heads, learning to view our thoughts and feelings with a little more perspective or detachment if you like. By doing this we naturally find a place of calm. And if we do get distracted and chase after our thoughts we can easily just bring ourselves back to the side of the road, watching the traffic go by and breathing. I’ll explain this in a bit more detail now.
Breathing is an important aspect of meditation. It’s a great anchor and acts as a way to bring us back to the side of the road where we can observe our thoughts rather than follow them down a rabbit warren. The simple act of being aware of our breath and how it affects our body is a powerful tool in calming your mind and stops the chase.
So to effectively and easily meditate get comfy. Sit up with good posture and place your hands on your lap. With your eyes open, take 4-5 deep breaths (loud enough so a person next to you could hear) and on the 5th breath close your eyes.
Slowly, scan your body from head to toe, while continuing to breathe at a more natural level. Feel the weight of your body pressing down against the chair beneath you. Become aware of the contact of your feet on the floor and your arms resting on your lap.
Take a moment to assess what’s going on around you? What noises are there? Allow the sounds to come to you and just notice them. Don’t try to block them out.
If the mind wanders off its ok. Just bring your attention back to your breath and keep scanning your body, noticing what areas feel good or what feels stiff. Notice the movement of the breath, the rising and falling sensation. Notice the rhythm.
Another easy way to bring yourself back into calmness if you get distracted is to slowly count to 10. Breathe in on the count of 1 and out on the count of 2 and so on up to 10. If you get side tracked just restart the count and breathe. Gently bring back the focus and just count.
Allow your thoughts to come, and go, just like the traffic on a busy road. Our only job at this point is to sit by the side of the road and watch the traffic (our thoughts) go by.
Your mind will wander off and you’ll think about the weirdest stuff but as soon as you realise you are chasing a thought bring your attention back to your breath and pick up on the number you left off on.
It should only take you around 10 minutes to do this.
Another good way of getting into the groove is to pick a 10-minute music track you like and go through your breathing exercises to the music. YouTube “meditation music” and you’re away.
Alternatively, there are multitudes of apps you can get but for me the best one of them all is Headspace. They do a fantastic 10-minutes for 10 days program that’s free and it is a game changer for me. Most of the info for this post was sourced from one of the Headspace meditations. Deepak Chopra and Oprah also do a really good series.
Last week I wrote about being too busy and I know that this will be one excuse to not meditate. I literally set my alarm 20 minutes earlier than usual. I get up, put the kettle on and make a nice cup of Chinese Pu-erh tea and get it started. It really is a wonderful start to the day.