Mindfulness meditation – it’s easier than you think!
I feel strongly that stress contributes to a lot of illnesses that we get. Meditation, praying, tai-chi, yoga, or some other type of relaxation exercise on a regular basis does wonders!
- Sit comfortably in a quiet room. Not too hot and not too cold.
- Sitting cross-legged on a pillow is ideal, but many, myself included, are unable to do this comfortably for an extended period.
- I sit on a comfortable, low stool without a back.
- Make it the same place every time, if you can. We’re going for a condition response type of scenario.
- We don’t want to have to process something new every time. We want to train ourselves to expect a meditative state every time.
- Set a timer or have a counter or “meditation beads” so that you can sit without having to think about where you have to be next or how long you’ve been doing it.
- Your back should be straight and you should not lean against anything (if possible).
- A big part of “mindfulness” is that you are aware of the process – not falling asleep!
- Keep your hands and arms relaxed – loosely at your side in your lap.
- Your eyes should be open – again, this is part of being mindful.
- Focus them (or “blur” your vision) on the floor a few feet in front of you.
- Feel the sensation of your breath coming in through your nose and out through your mouth as you take a few deep breaths.
- Try not to adjust the rate and rhythm that you breath. This will slow over time.
- When you are ready, inhale through your nose.
- Count “1” to yourself as you release the breath slowly through your mouth.
- Focus your attention on a part of your body. Thinking about how that part of your body feels makes it easier to get into a relaxed state the next time (conditioned response).
- Take in the next breath through your nose and count “2” as you release it.
- Relax your face. Think about your eyes and forehead. Do you have any tension there? I’d bet that you do. Release it.
- Do this with the other parts of your body as well. You’d be surprised where your storing tension and how much easier meditation is once it’s gone.
- If you find your mind wandering, as we all do, just say “thinking” to yourself and go back to concentrating on your breath.
- A wandering mind doesn’t mean you “can’t meditate” as people often say. Just acknowledge that it’s happening, label it, and go back to focusing on your breath and the in-between moments.
- Meditation/focus/”clearing your mind” isn’t a light switch – it’s a spectrum. It gets better with time – be patient!
“[It’s not] a light switch – it’s a spectrum. It gets better with time – be patient!”
- When you get to “10,” start over. Everytime I get to 10, I click my counter or move my fingers to the next bead. When I use this method, I know that it takes me roughly 30 seconds to get through 10 breaths. If I’ve counted up to 30 clicks, for example, I know I’ve done about 15 minutes of meditation.
- Remember – meditation is a little like riding a bike: it seems very difficult initially but once you’re used to how it feels and how to enter that state, it becomes second-nature.
Mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to start but something else you can try is “Focused Attention” meditation. In this case you just pay very close attention to a particular sound or sight. This could be:
- The furnace
- Sunset or sunrise
- Flowing water
- Relaxing music (Enya or nature sounds)
- A candle
I would recommend trying to meditate for at least 10 minutes, maybe 20, initially. Over time it will get easier and you’ll want to do it for longer. I read somewhere that someone said “people always say they can’t afford to meditate for 20 minutes. My response is that you can’t afford NOT to meditate for 20 minutes.”
The point is that it does you so much good, mentally and physically, that it’s hard to justify not doing it. The problem with meditation is that it’s a kind-of “leap of faith.” We are trained to expect an instant result like you’d get from taking a pill.
You’re going to get a fast result that will get better over time, but it’s not the concrete result we are used to. If you need to, log your results in a journal and I promise you will see a change over time.
Here’s a Meditation Toolkit