Meditation does not have to be some complicated, intricate, process. You don’t need to be an enlightened monk or yoga guru to participate and reap the incredible benefits associated with meditation.
Meditation can be made simple and can be done anywhere, at any time. Think of meditating as an opportunity to focus on bringing your awareness to your breathing, rather than focusing too much on silencing the thoughts that are controlling your mind.
Even if you don’t know much about meditation, you have likely heard that the overall point is to silence the mind. With nearly 70,000 thoughts cruising through our heads each day, this can be difficult and even seem impossible, especially when you first begin to practice.
You see, when we are not consciously focused on one thing in particular, a part of our brain referred to as the default mode network (DMN) is switched on, resulting in our minds aimlessly wandering.
This activity within the default mode network (DMN) is often referred to as the ‘monkey mind’. This scattered, random flow of thoughts make it difficult to concentrate and live consciously as the mind is too busy being overwhelmed by the excess clutter.
Taking the time to meditate helps tremendously in the process of “training your brain” by physically altering grey matter, improving attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being.
The minds of those who suffer from anxiety or depression tend to wander even more than average. This is due to the inability to stay fully in the present moment. Focusing on events from the past and worrying about what has yet to come in the future are signs of destructive, negative overthinking patterns and habits. Practicing meditation and mindfulness helps to silence the “monkey mind”, reduce clutter, increase concentration and allows people to live more peaceful, happier lives. Often times when people suffer from anxiety and/or depression, they feel hopeless and often turn to prescription medications in order to feel like themselves again. Meditation brings forth lasting improvements and results without harmful side effects rather than masking and numbing them.
You can practice meditation regularly (once or twice a day) to experience all of the awesome benefits we have discussed. Meditation is also a great stress reducer that you can utilize when you are feeling overwhelmed or upset. Stepping outside of your thoughts brings forth excellent clarity, calms the mind and body, while allowing you to recharge your brain, leaving you feeling refreshed and energized.
If you are feeling badly, the thoughts in your head are not serving you. You can work on sorting out letting them go or changing your perspective, but if you truly cannot pull yourself out of a funk, then practice meditation. Meditation does not have to be some intricate, spiritual process. Just think of it as an opportunity to focus on your breathing, rather than the thoughts that are controlling your mind. As I said, you can practice a mindful breathing meditation at any time, any place. It may be helpful to set aside some time to begin practicing the technique at home before you start meditating in traffic or while trying to center yourself in a stressful work situation.
It can be difficult to have any concept of time while you are meditating. Designating an allotted amount of time is helpful in the sense that you won’t sit there wondering “How long have I been doing this for? How long SHOULD I be doing this for?” Choose an amount of time that you are comfortable with in order to begin. I recommend starting with anywhere from 10-15 minutes. Once you are ready to start meditating, you may place the alarm within reach. I’d recommend a nice, calm, soft ringer for your alarm. No one wants to come out of their meditation with the sound effects of a nuclear blast warning (that iPhone tone scares the crap out of me every time. Ha).
Find a comfortable spot where you can be unbothered by distractions (parents, I know all too well that this can seem impossible or even comical, but do your best to escape for some healthy “me time”). Once you have found a nice, quiet area to practice in, get yourself into position. Traditionally, meditation is performed in lotus pose, with your legs crossed, but for now… let’s just focus on being comfortable. You can choose to either sit or lay down, just ensure that your spine is as straight as possible in the position that you choose. Most people close their eyes while practicing meditation, but you may also pick an area of focus for you to focus on, such as a random spot on a blank wall.
Once your alarm is set and you are in a comfortable position, it is time to begin! In order to practice mindful breathing, you must simply bring your awareness to your breath. To do so, simply inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four. As you inhale, think “in”. Hold your inhale for a second or two and then exhale slowly through your mouth with pursed lips (as if you are slowly blowing on a candle flame) as you think “out”.
This is where people often find the most difficulty. You are in your comfy, meditative position and begin focusing on your breathing, seems simple enough, right? It is at this point where the meditation practice is interrupted by that “monkey mind”. You may never realize how much your mind wanders until you attempt to keep it still. The most random thoughts are going to come flying in, seemingly interrupting your meditation. But fear not, you do not have to work so hard to silence your thoughts. Trying to do so likely won’t be successful anyway. Do not become frustrated with yourself and give up. Instead, simply acknowledge each thought and do your best to bring your attention back to your breathing pattern.
As a thought pops up, imagine it as a passing cloud. Allow each thought to drift by without taking over your mind and potential mood. If it helps you to remember to breathe, use your exhale breaths to blow the thought clouds away (regardless of how corny that may sound). Continue to keep yourself clear of attaching your energy to your thoughts and learn to simply be.
Understand that you are NOT your thoughts. You are simply the observer. You have an awesome ability (some may say super power) where you get to determine which thoughts that you cling to and focus on. Let go of the attachment you have to your thoughts. Practicing daily mindfulness will help you to strengthen your ability to simply “be“.
You can also practice focusing on your breathing regardless of where you are or what sort of physical position you are in. Especially during times of stress, deep mindful breathing can help you to calm both the body and mind. Stressed out at work? Upset with someone? Feeling anxious about the future or difficulty letting go of the past? Just breathe. While it may not be a complete miracle worker, it does significantly help.
One conscious breathe in and out is a meditation.Eckhart Tolle
Try out these tips and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear your feedback. Challenge yourself to practice meditation twice daily for a minimum of 2 weeks. At the end of that time, reflect on how you feel compared to when you started your consistent practice.