I’ve talked a lot about the importance of creating good habits, showed you why, and how to create great habits. It’s the key to living an exceptional life. But if I were to single out one habit above all others, if I was plopped down on a desert island with only one habit, which would I choose? Meditation, no question.
Meditation is the gateway to creating all other habits, it is both the healer and strengthener of the mind, body and the soul. With a strong meditation habit you will be more focused, more at peace, more intelligent, a better overall person. These are not just me blowing smoke up your ass, these are REAL WORLD, scientifically provable things that are within your reach, and without the aid of anything but your will to do it. It costs nothing, yet it will be the most valuable skill you will ever attain.
And it’s not what you think. To meditate effectively, to receive these benefits, you don’t have to become a chanting monk or park yourself in a dark room for hours. You can learn to do it anywhere, anytime. You can learn how to perpetually be “In The Zone.” Most importantly, meditation will help you understand your own mind. I know, it may be a very dark and scary place, or maybe not.
Before I started meditating, I never thought about what was going on inside my head — it would just happen, and I would follow its commands like an automaton. Since I’ve learned to meditate, all of that still happens, but now I am aware of what’s going on in there. I can objectively see and control my thoughts, and therefore my emotions, my will, and develop my intuition. I can make a choice about whether to follow the commands or not. I understand myself better (perhaps not completely, but better), and that has given me increased control, flexibility and freedom.
Okay, you’ve bought into the idea that mediation will help you, even though you are probably wondering how, and what is it exactly that you need to do to get there…what is the goal? The goal is to train your mind to do whatever it is you want to do, how to behave, or what it is you want to become. And to train your mind, you first have to learn to get your mind in a trainable state. You are the coach, and your mind is the student, and the student must give the coach its undivided attention.
Q: What is the best body position for meditation? A: Whichever is most comfortable, or whichever makes most sense. There is no best.
So, these tips below are designed to do that, help you get your mind in that state where it is open to conditioning, suggestions, directions, and programming. Your mind is greater than the most powerful supercomputer on Earth, and you’re going to learn how to create your own personal software that is beyond any known system man has ever and possibly will ever conjure up.
But first you must practice on gaining control of your thoughts. This will take time, it will take practice.
Meditation Is a Practice
Meditation is called a “practice” for a very good reason, it takes practice, and like any habit, you won’t see immediate benefits until you train your mind to get in a meditative state. But once you do, everything starts getting easier, the possibilities will start to unfold, and ideas will start flowing towards you. The practice part is disciplining yourself to use this incredible power to within you.
So, while this article isn’t a comprehensive guide on how to meditate, I would seriously doubt that any such guide can actually exist. It is a guide to help you get started. Meditation is a very personal thing. You don’t have to follow any specific guru, you can follow any or all of them, or none of them. So, here are some tips that can help you get started.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Don’t feel like you have to do them all at once — try a few, then come back later and try one or two more.
- Sit for two minutes. This will seem ridiculously easy, to just meditate for two minutes. That’s perfect. Start with just two minutes a day for a week. If that goes well, increase by another two minutes and do that for a week. By increasing just a little at a time, you’ll be meditating for 10 minutes a day in the 2nd month, which is amazing! Start small at first and build.
- Do it first thing each morning. It’s easy to say, “I’ll meditate every day,” but then forget to do it. Instead, set a reminder for every morning when you get up, and put a note that says “meditate now” somewhere where you can’t miss it. Maybe on your bathroom mirror, or in front of the toilet. By the way, it doesn’t have to be in the morning, but we’re trying to establish a habit here, so do it at the most opportune time, just do it consistently.
- Don’t care about how — just do. Most people worry about where to sit, how to sit, what cushion to use … this is not that important. Start just by sitting on the side of your bed or in a chair, or on your couch. Try on the ground, sit cross-legged, whatever makes you comfortable. It’s just for two minutes, so just sit. Later you can worry about optimizing your position so you’ll be comfortable for longer, but in the beginning it doesn’t matter much, and quite frankly after you’ve become a master, you’ll be able to meditate anywhere, anytime.
- Check in with how you’re feeling. As you first settle into your meditation, check to see how you’re feeling. How does your body feel? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Anxious? Know this… whatever you’re bringing to this meditation session as completely okay.
- Count your breaths. Now that you’re settled in, turn your attention towards your breath. Notice your breath as it comes in, and follow it through your nose all the way down to your lungs. Try counting “one” as you take in the first breath, then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start over at one.
- Come back when you wander. Your mind will wander. This is going to happen, and it’s normal. There’s no problem with that. When you notice your mind wandering, smile, and gently return to your breath. Start counting your breaths again, and start over. You might feel a little frustration, but it’s perfectly OK to not stay focused, we all do it. This is the practice, and it will take a little while before you a good at it.
- Don’t worry you’re doing it wrong. You will worry you’re doing it wrong. That’s OK, we all do. You’re not doing it wrong because there is no wrong or perfect way to do it, just be happy you’re doing it.
- Don’t worry about clearing your mind. Lots of people think meditation is about clearing your mind, or stopping all thoughts. It’s not. This can sometimes happen, but it’s not the “goal” of meditation. If you have thoughts, that’s normal. We all do. Our brains are thought factories, and we can’t just shut them down. Instead, just try to focus your attention, and practice bringing it back when your mind wanders.
- Stay with whatever arises. When thoughts or feelings arise, and they will, you might try to stay with them for awhile. Yes, I know I said to return to the breath, but after you practice that for a week, you might try and stay with a specific thought or feeling that arises. We tend to want to avoid feelings like frustration, anger, anxiety … but an amazingly useful meditation practice is to stay with the feeling for awhile. Just stay with it, be curious and examine it.
- Get to know yourself. This practice isn’t just about focusing your attention, it’s about learning how your mind works. What’s going on inside there? Watch your mind wander, watch it get frustrated, notice how it avoids difficult feelings … by becoming an observer of your mind, a mind outside your mind, you can start to understand yourself.
- Scan from head to toe. Another thing you can do, once you become a little better at following your breath, is focus your attention on one body part at a time. Start at the soles of your feet — how do those feel? Slowly move to your toes, the tops of your feet, your ankles, all the way to the top of your head.
- Notice things around you. Another place to put your attention, after you’ve practiced with your breath for at least a week, is the energies and things around you. Keep your eyes on one spot, and notice the light in the room you’re in. Another day, just focus on sounds. Another day focus on the things, furniture, pictures, cracks in the wall…seriously. Try the Mind Palace exercise.
- Really commit yourself. Don’t just say, “Sure, I’ll try this for a couple days.” Really commit yourself to this. In your mind, be locked in, for at least a month. Remember that it takes at least 4 weeks to establish a habit, and maybe as long as 8 weeks, so stick to it. Nothing good comes without practice.
- Do it anywhere. If you’re traveling, at work, or playing pool, you can do meditation the meditation wherever you are. In the park. During your commute. As you walk somewhere. Sitting meditation is the best place to start, you can even doing it while moving about, like playing pool or running. We call this walking meditation. In truth, you’re practicing for this kind of mindfulness in your entire life.
Bonus: Walking Meditation
- Find a place to walk, someplace where you can be alone in your thought. A hallway, beach, a trail, a sidewalk, it doesn’t matter. If you can, walk barefoot, as it helps provide additional awareness that you can focus on. Perhaps you can shift your awareness from your breathing to your feet, down your leg and up and around to the other leg.
- Shift your weight from one leg to the other. Stand tall with good posture, look straight ahead, and breathe. Try hanging your hands by your side, with your fingers curled in slightly ( a suggestion from Don Juan in Journey to Ixtlan), or gently clasped behind your back. As you walk, notice your weight distribution, and how your feet contact the ground, and if there’s a breeze, how it washes your face or moves your clothes.
- At the end of your path, however long, come to a complete stop and finish with a deep breath. Swing your leg around and walk back with the same awareness of your body and the environment as you interact with it.
Start mindful walking for 5 minutes at first, then gradually increase that time. If you can do more, then go for it. Also, find other activities you can do with the same degree of mindfulness, like washing dishes, raking leaves, practicing your pool game. Now get to it.
WARNING: Meditation isn’t always easy or even peaceful, because you may unlock some truths about yourself that you will want to deal with and may struggle on how. Don’t worry about that, you’ll get there. For now, just know that mediation will open up some truly amazing benefits and powers within you. And you can start today, then continue for the rest of your life.