Where's your head at?
Let’s talk meditation. I’ll kick us off with a quote;
For me, this quote from the late Steve Jobs perfectly describes meditation and one of its key benefits; clarity of mind. The truth is that the meditation techniques that have been practised for thousands of years have an array of benefits for your mind and body. Clarity, focus, calm, improved self-esteem and self-acceptance, and reduction of stress, anxiety and depression – these are all proven benefits of a regular meditation practice.
Common reactions to meditation; that’s way too hard, I don’t have the discipline to sit still for that long, I don’t have time and I don’t know how to do it. Let’s tackle a couple of these issues now;
I don’t have time.
Make time. Putting aside ten little minutes from your day to invest in yourself is possible for everyone. Set the alarm ten minutes earlier; lock yourself in a meeting room over your lunch break; go for a walk after work and find a quiet place to sit for a while. Build it into your day the same way that you buy a coffee or brush your teeth so that it becomes a habit or a little ritual – something that becomes second nature.
How to meditate
When undertaking yoga teacher training I was taught this method of mindfulness meditation which I now practice daily for 20 minutes:
Location, location, location – trying to sit quietly and calm your mind in a noisy, stressful and disruptive environment is almost impossible, especially if you’re new to meditation. So remove yourself from distractions; close the door, switch off your phone, ask to not be disturbed for 20 mins or go somewhere where you can be alone. If you can find a place amongst nature or by the ocean then even better.
Posture – start by sitting in a comfortable position. This can be crossed legged, hands resting on your knees with your palms facing up. Tilt your chin down slightly and keep your eyes half closed, looking downward. Keep your gaze soft, not really focussing on anything. Relax your muscles – not just the large muscles in your body but also the tongue, jaw, forehead and eyes. Make sure that you can be comfortable in this position while you meditate, perhaps by sitting on a blanket or leaning your back against something to maintain a straight spine.
Breath – once you find a comfortable seat, become aware of your mind and the thoughts that are coming and going. Now become aware of your breath, imagining that with every exhale you are pushing your thoughts away and clearing your mind. I often imagine that my thoughts are like leaves and every exhale is a broom sweeping them all away. If thoughts arise, acknowledge them but don’t follow them. Breathe slowly and with control, counting at the end of every exhale. Once you get up to ten, start again at one.
Going back to our quote from Steve Jobs, it is when you try to quieten your mind that you realise how active it is. Persistence is key; start small and build up, and try to meditate at the same time each day so that it becomes a routine. You might like to keep a journal of your practice so that you can track your progress, making a note of how you feel after each session.
Finally, why bother with meditation at all?
Because you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve when your mind is calm and focussed.