Meditation? Isn’t that some hippy sh!t? Not anymore it isn’t. Here’s why meditation is what you need right here, right now.
Over the years, I have had a few starts and stops with meditation, not really understanding the benefits of what regular practice can bring. I didn’t persist or make time for it until this year.
So why the change? I read a lot about how meditation can calm and centre your mind. At times – and like most folks – I got busy with work and home, and got to a stage where my head was cluttered so often it gave my persistent headaches. I wanted to find a way to relax my mind and body and not feel stressed all the time. That’s when meditation made more sense this time around and made me more aware about being in the present, rather than thinking about the future or the past.
So what have I learned and what has meditation done for me?
Meditation is about focusing on just one thing for a set amount of time. This is mindfulness meditation. So it’s not about clearing your mind, rather thinking about one thing only, the breath. I count ‘one’ when I inhale, then ‘two’ on the exhale all the way up to 10, then start again from one. The mind will wander and this is completely normal. Just notice that you have been distracted, then take your focus back to counting. It can be difficult, but regular practice will help.
Meditation is not a religious experience. One of my initial fears was that I had to be religious to get involved. Of course its rooted in Buddhist, Hindu and Chinese origins, but you certainly do not need to pray to a god to practice meditation. It’s less about spirituality and more about concentration and quietness of the mind. But if you are religious and it brings you closer to God, then that’s great!
Daily practice helps you focus. Just like you would set aside time for exercise and other daily habits, doing the same for meditation first thing in the morning will provide the most benefit. Focusing on your breath for a few minutes every day centres your mind and helps you focus when you get back to work, making you more productive. Sometimes I try fit in a couple of sessions a day and the second one always helps get over the post-lunch fuzziness!
You don’t need any special equipment. You don’t even have to sit on the floor. I sit in my office chair, with my arms and hands resting on my thighs during my 10, 15 or 20 minute sessions. I would turn my computer off or put it to sleep, and enable flight mode on my mobile to minimise any obvious distractions.
You don’t have to learn to meditate in silence. It can be really difficult to mediate without any assistance, so I nearly always listen to guided meditations to help me achieve a mindfulness state. The two apps I have firmly planted on the home screen of my phone are Buddhify and Headspace.
Buddhify is a great app to start and learn about how to meditate. It’s packed with numerous meditations and scenarios you can take with you on the go. A great introduction and some deeper learning too. When I wake up in the middle of the night, there’s a particular one I always listen to to help me get back to sleep. Invaluable.
Headspace is for you if you want to learn more. You get some great explanations and animations on the benefits of meditation, along with a free 10-day course so you can try it out yourself. If you subscribe you can take a number of specific meditation courses on health, relationships and performance. As of June 2015, I have been meditating every day for 155 days. I am finding it a very worthwhile investment so far!
You may or may not have overnight success with mindfulness meditation, but persist, have faith in your practice, focus on your breathing and you will get there eventually, and you will wonder why you didn’t try it years ago. I’d love to hear about your experiences with meditation in the comments. Thanks.