So what is meditation, really?
People always ask me, “What exactly is meditation?”
It’s not rocket science. It’s not something weird and totally out of your reach.
Meditation is very simple. It’s focusing on one thing so that you think of nothing else. The point of this is to rest your mind from the randomly firing thoughts that encompass us all day, every day.
We need to exercise our minds just like we exercise our bodies. What happens when you’re lazy all day and don’t move around and exert yourself? You get irritated, grumpy, bored, and anxious. When you go for a run or swim, or a nice long hike, how do you feel afterward? Most likely, your body rewards you by allowing you to feel more relaxed, happy, and optimistic.
Exercising the mind is the same. If you don’t do it, there’s a tendency to feel bad, but if you do it, you feel better. Easy, right?
The body and the mind complement one another
Look at meditation as exercise for the mind, just as moving and using your body is physical exercise.
We need to consistently exercise both the body and the mind. You know when you go to the grocery store and they have the “buy two, get one free” deal? Well, when you exercise your mind and body together, you experience something greater than the sum of the parts, as if you’ve received something for free. The two types of exercise complement each other—physical exercise will make meditation easier, and vice versa. They’re a professional tango-dancing duo. Together, they rock!
Meditation tips for first-timers
So, you want to try meditating? It’s not that hard, as long as you pay attention to the tips below.
Only do two minutes the first time – I know you’re an amazing, talented person, but regardless, do not start with a 30-minute meditation your first time. Give yourself easy, realistic goals in the beginning. With meditation, it’s much better to set a smaller goal and rock it than set a higher goal and totally fail.
Sit comfortably with a straight back and closed eyes – You can start in a chair with back support or, if you want, try sitting in the traditional Buddhist-monk way, which means sitting on a cushion on the floor with an erect (not stiff!) back. This type of sitting position is another reason why it’s good to start with just two minutes of meditation, as sitting with an erect back can be difficult if you’re used to your plush office chair at work. Give your back muscles ample time to warm up and get used to sitting up straight for longer and longer periods of time.
Observe your breath coming in and out of your nose at the tips of your nostrils – That’s it—yes!—that’s meditation. Watch your breath go in and out, as an observer. Don’t try to change its natural flow and pace, but rather, step back and simply watch it go in and out, in and out.
Dealing with random thoughts
Once you’ve started a period of meditation, you’ll likely experience a random thought firing into your mind, cutting right through your breath-observation. Don’t worry! That’s what’s supposed to happen in the beginning.
Don’t get mad that you’ve had this thought. Instead, welcome it. Remain the observer and notice how the thought may change the way you feel. Does your heart sink a little bit? Does your breathing rate increase? Do you tense up somewhere?
Next, let the thought subside and fade, as it always does, and return to watching your breath move in and out of your nose at the tips of your nostrils. Guess what? Yes, another thought will come crashing in! Maybe the same one, but perhaps another one.
With each thought, rinse and repeat the “welcoming” process above. This is a great time for us all to see how random and crazy our minds are. They literally fire random thoughts at us all day, all the time! However, we don’t really notice this mechanism until we stop, sit, watch our breath, and observe ourselves—which is meditation.
What do I do after my two minutes are up?
Tomorrow, consider trying three minutes. Someday, after you’ve totally rocked five or 10 minutes, you’ll be able to work up to 30 or even more.
The most challenging part of a practice such as this won’t be sitting and meditating. The most challenging part you’ll encounter is motivating yourself to do it every day. No, you aren’t too busy. No, you do have the time. If you have two minutes to check your Facebook wall or look up some random Wikipedia factoid, you surely have time to meditate for just two minutes a day.
To learn more about meditation, you can take part in the guided meditation exercise found within the short video below:
Once you’re used to two or three minutes of meditation, you may want to check out JUST ONE BREATH: Week one of an eight-minute meditation program for beginners»