The following article has been excerpted from 8 Minute Meditation by Victor Davich, the manual for an eight-week meditation program that is tailored to beginners and consists of exercises that take up only eight minutes per day. 

Where you are

Welcome to the start of the 8 Minute Meditation program.

Anytime you start something new, questions, doubts and hopes usually arise. Perhaps you hope that when you sit down to meditate, you’ll suddenly become “enlightened,” whatever that might mean to you. On the other hand, you might have already decided that meditation is just one more exercise in futility, like the diet you tried last month that didn’t work.

All of this is, of course, normal, and completely to be expected. And the best way to deal with both positive and negative expectations is to drop them completely. Instead, decide that you will approach this meditation program one minute of meditation at a time.

Today is Day One. By this time next week, you’ll have meditated seven times—which adds up to almost an hour. So ask yourself, Can I devote an hour of my life to see if I can change my life?

Sure you can.

What you’ll be doing: Watching your breath

The 8 Minute Meditation program commences with the simple yet powerful technique of watching your breath.

I once stayed with a Zen master at his mountaintop monastery in California. His sole teaching instruction was “Just notice breath.”

When I heard that, I figured meditation was going to be super-simple, a real no-brainer. So I told him I wanted something a little more challenging, more macho. The master smiled knowingly, patted me on the shoulder, and told me to just follow my breath for three breaths. I sat still, closed my eyes, and began.

By the end of my first breath, I had planned the menu for a dinner party four months in the future. By the end of the second, I was figuring out how to make sure my Honda passed the California smog check. And by the end of the third breath—well, you get the picture.

Following your breath may sound simple and easy, like child’s play. But, thanks to our constantly Roving Mind, we’re anywhere but here. My friend Josh Baran calls this “living in the elsewhere and ‘elsewhen.’”

But forewarned is forearmed. When (because there is no “if” about this) you are meditating and suddenly find yourself mixing up a batch of brownies or deciding whether to eat Chinese or Italian tonight, just realize that you have strayed off. Then, without judging yourself a “bad” meditator, gently return your awareness to your breath.

This is what breath meditation is about: watching your breath, straying off, realizing it and gently returning. Over and over again. Like I said, meditation is a practice.

And don’t worry, I’ll be giving you a lot more detailed meditation instructions than that Zen master gave me.

Let’s do it.

This week’s meditation instructions: Just one breath

Preparation

» Set your timer for eight minutes.

» Take your meditation position on your chair, comfortable and alert.

» Gently allow your eyes to close.

» Take a long, deep inhale that sweeps up your current worries, hopes and dreams. Hold it for a moment. Then gently and slowly “sigh” it out.

» One more time. Deep breath. Release any remaining tension.

» Start your timer.

Instructions

» Notice if you are controlling your breath. If so, release control. Relax.

» Notice that place in your body where you are most aware of the sensation of breathing. It may be your chest, diaphragm, or nostrils. There is no “right” place.

» Gently direct your attention to that place. We call it the “anchor point.”

» With your attention on the anchor point, observe the natural rise and fall of the breath. Try to view this as not “your breath” but “the breath.”

» Allow . . . allow . . . allow. There’s no need to become involved or figure anything out.

» Thinking? No problem. Simply notice this. Gently return to your anchor point, your breath.

» Try to follow just one full in-and-out cycle of breath. If you can, then follow another. If you can’t, fine. Just start over.

» Frustration? Irritation? Just notice these sensations. And return to your anchor point.

» Continue in this way. Simply observe the natural cycle of breath at your anchor point.

» Can you follow just one breath?

» Do this until your timer sounds.

» Repeat this technique for eight minutes a day for one week.

How’s it going?

Most meditators feel awkward when they begin to meditate. In fact, I’d be surprised if you didn’t feel this way. This can prompt you to think that maybe you’re not cut out to be a meditator. But that isn’t true at all.

Consider this: The eight minutes you just spent in meditation may be the first time in your life that you’ve been still, silent and awake—simultaneously! Even if you only were like this for two seconds, it is a radical new way for you to experience the world. No wonder you feel a little strange.

Learning to meditate is like learning any new skill. At first, you probably are mentally and physically off-balance. Perhaps you feel stupid, uncoordinated, even angry—like a real klutz. But you stick it out because you want to do it.

Right now, you may feel weird and awkward. But don’t let that sideline you. Keep up your daily 8 Minute Meditation periods. One day soon, you’ll sit down to meditate and will have what I call your “aha” moment.

When that happens, meditation won’t feel strange anymore. And you’ll be glad you stuck around.

Victor Davich is an authority on meditation and mindfulness. His books are published worldwide and have empowered over 100,000 people to change their lives. His newest release is the 10th anniversary expanded edition of 8 Minute Meditation (Perigee/Penguin). He has been a copywriter and marketing attorney for Fortune 500 entertainment and advertising companies. Victor also created the Simply8 meditation app. He lives in California. To learn more, visit www.8minutes.org.

Excerpted from 8 Minute Meditation Expanded: Quiet Your Mind. Change Your Life. by Victor Davich. © 2004, 2014 Victor Davich. A Perigee Book, Penguin Group USA, A Penguin Random House Company.

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