Ahh, Meditation. You’ve probably heard of it. In fact, I’m almost certain you have by now. The word has been mentioned an insane amount over recent years; whether you’ve heard it from humble old Brenda in the office, or from our lord and saviour Jim Carrey explaining its benefits mid-way through a red carpet event. People seem to be really getting something from it – so much so that entire schools are adopting it as an alternative to detention. Tech Billionaires swear by it, hundreds of generations swear by it and Ken, that gleeful neighbour you never really talk to, also swears by it.
You wonder: how can it possibly benefit you by sitting in a dim-lit room, wearing essentially pyjamas, doing absolutely nothing but sitting on a pillow like a patient dog at dinner and letting time go by? And more importantly, why is everyone doing it?
Well here’s the trick; the point of meditation isn’t to think of nothing and do nothing.
The exact point is to think.
What if I told you by simply watching your thoughts for a few minutes a day, you will be much more capable to live a life with reduced stress and anxiety, all with significantly increased happiness. Would you be up for giving it a go? Making a habit of Meditating for only a minute a day has been proven to be beneficial, so let’s get right into it.
Getting Started With Mindfulness Meditation
The most commonly practiced form of meditation, at least in the western world, is mindfulness meditation. We’ll focus on that for now. There are many types of meditation which we can go into another time.
All you need is some comfortable, loose fitting clothing, a nice place to sit and your lovely little self.
Dim the lights
Meditating inside is recommended for your first time. Make sure your phone’s on silent and your wifi router isn’t flashing directly into your face. It also helps if there isn’t a large amount of natural light piercing through. Close your curtains, dim the lights and find your position.
Find a pillow, blanket or anything squishy to perch on. Typically, the more elevated you are from the ground, the less pressure there is on your legs. Cross your legs – in no particular way – and try not to hunch your back. Wiggle your bum around for a short while and find the ‘sweet spot’.
The sweet spot is the position your body is in that feels totally natural when you’re sitting. There’s no tight hips, no over or under-arched back and your legs will feel more at ease. Spend a minute slowly adjusting the tilt of your pelvis. You’ll feel when your spine and legs are in the right place.
Relax those eyes and place your hands down
Begin with your eyes directed towards what’s about a meter in front of you, then either fully close your eyes or keep them at a relaxed gaze.
Do whatever feels comfortable with your hands. Simply put them on your lap or rest them on your knees. Give your shoulders a little shake to limber up the day’s tightness.
Focus on your breath
That’s right. Breathe in and out through your nose, making a note to pay attention to each inhale and exhale.
Breathe from your tummy
Let go of any tension in your stomach and core. Think of yourself as a bellow – when you breathe in, your stomach should expand naturally and fully. As your lungs fill hold on to the breath, just for a second. On the exhale, ever so gently let go of the breath; not forcing it, not pushing it, but guiding it slowly out of your belly and chest. Naturally. Naturally. Naturally. As the last bit of air comfortably escapes, repeat the process. There isn’t anything fancy to it.
It's okay to think
Don’t beat yourself up about where your mind goes. You’re mental and we all know it. You might not think that a normal, functioning human being will be thinking about what the average size of a hippo is, or which way the nike tick actually points, or, better still; that girl you dated in school, I wonder how many teeth she has now? Well guess what, they do. Everyone’s mind conjures up weird scenarios when they start meditating, but that’s the humour of it… We’re all mad until we condition ourselves.
Instead of pushing stressed, anxious or absurd thoughts away be sure to observe them. When a thought emerges, try to imagine it as a cloud and your mind as the sky. In it’s natural state, the mind is a clear blue sky free of worry, guilt and desire, and it is our past experiences and future worries that create clouds of thought. These taint the clear blue sky with a dull, uninspiring grey. If you observe the clouds of thought, they eventually pass – as clouds do – and the clear blue sky returns. However, if your mind produces a constant stream of things, the sky will never clear up. Logic. Instead, simply watch the clouds the mind creates without producing more.
You might drift off. That’s okay.
Your eyes might be darting around under their lids. That’s okay.
You might fidget uncontrollably. That’s okay.
Your back might ache. That’s okay.
Your legs might go dead. That’s okay.
Your posture might not be perfect. That’s okay.
Your schedule might be extremely busy. That’s okay.
You might be thinking ‘what’s even the point?’. That’s okay.
You might think meditation is bullshit. That’s absolutely okay.
You might not believe in the benefits. And that too, is okay.
Just stick at it. Even if you are aware of your thoughts and actions for a minute longer than before you started, you’re winning. Repeat this process as often as you can and it becomes much easier, much quicker.
Now go and throw your nicest cushion on the ground and show it who’s boss. Leave a comment below letting me know how you got on. Were the instructions clear enough? What did you struggle with?
If you’ve meditated before, please share your experience below too!
And as always, enjoy life.