Meditation is powerful. It can help train your brain to be more productive, de-stress, and can even lengthen your life. The concept of meditation seems simple in principle – take some time out to relax, be still, and focus your mind. However, in reality, the fast-paced nature of our lives makes it much more difficult to ‘switch off’ and master our thoughts. We’re forever bombarded with notifications, overflowing inboxes, tasks, and attention-grabbing stimuli. Our attention spans our shorter than ever, and our schedules are pushed to the limit. If your mind is as busy as your life, then these simple meditation tips may be exactly what you need…
The most basic type of meditation involves mastering your breathing. Find a quiet and comfortable place, close your eyes, and focus on breathing deeply in through your nose, and out through your mouth. If your mind wanders, simply bring it back to focus on the rhythm of your breath.
This is a great way to train your mind to stop jumping from thought to thought and to stay present in the moment.
Meditation teacher Jack Kornfield has come up with a great analogy to represent meditation, known as “The Puppy Technique”. Instead of being overwhelmed about whether you’re doing it right or wrong, simply think of meditation as just like training a puppy.
“To steady and calm the mind takes kindness and patience. Training the mind in meditation is like training a puppy. We put the puppy down and say, “Sit. Stay.” What does it do? It gets up and runs around. “Stay.” It runs around again. Twenty times, “Stay.” After a while, slowly, the puppy settles down.” – Jack Kornfield [Source]
It’s easy to give up after trying meditation and not being able to settle your mind, but making it a habit is key. Even if it’s only for five minutes, make an effort to try and fit meditation in daily, and you’ll soon help your brain to develop a new habit. Morning is a great time for meditation as your mind will be fresh and alert, without the distraction of looking at your emails or phone.
Sites like Meetup are great for finding local meditation and mindfulness meet ups. If you struggle to meditate alone, why not start with a guided meditation? Alternatively, if you don’t have time to go out, check out YouTube or a meditation app like Headspace for guided practice.
A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself. Using a mantra is a great way to quieten your mind and give it something to focus on. It can be something inspiring such as “I am strong”, a random made up word, or a traditional mantra such as “So Hum”. “So Hum” comes from two Sanskrit words (so – meaning “that”, and “hum – meaning “I”), so the literal translation is “I am that”. Vedic scholars often refer to “that” as the universe, so this phrase is a way of symbolising being “at one” with the universe. If you’d like to try “So Hum”, close your eyes and quietly repeat the word “So” as you inhale, and “Hum” as you exhale. Sometimes, a made up word can work well, as your mind does not attach any meaning to the expression.
Some people prefer to stay active, and actually find it distracting sitting still and being alone with their mind. If this sounds like you, go for a walk and rather than being distracted by your phone, focus on being completely present and looking at the things around you. Ideally, a walk in nature is best.
Another great way to focus your mind is to do something called a “body scan”. Start with focussing on your feet, and observe the sensation you’re feeling. If there’s any pain, acknowledge this, and breathe through it, imagining the tension exiting your body through your breath. Slowly work your way up through different parts of the body, until you reach your head.
Whether you’ve got children, or a demanding job, or perhaps both, many of us struggle to find spare time to meditate, so if this is the case, find a task you do daily, such as drinking tea in the morning, and use this as a moment to combine meditation with this activity.
Many people stop meditating as they can’t stop their busy thoughts, however one of the most important things to remember, is that meditation isn’t about having an empty mind. Instead, see it as an opportunity to keep “bringing your mind back” to the task in hand – whether that’s focusing on breathing, repeating a mantra, or doing a body scan.
It’s a great idea to go to the same spot to meditate each day, so why not dedicate a place in your house as your meditation spot. Ideally somewhere uncluttered, where you won’t get disturbed. Perhaps use your meditation as an excuse to treat yourself to a new item for the home such as a meditation cushion.
Rather than rushing to be a meditation master, start slowly. Begin with five minutes, and increase slowly over time.
Don’t feel the pressure to sit cross-legged if this position isn’t comfortable for you. Instead, choose a position that allows you to relax without feeling any pressure. If this is in a chair or lying down – that’s fine too.
If you’ve just eaten, your body’s energy is focused on digestion so it’ll be harder to focus on meditation. Allow your body at least 60 minutes to digest the food before meditating.
Recording details about how your meditation goes each day can help you track the progress you’re making. Perhaps some days you just don’t feel in the mood to meditate? That’s totally fine. Try to track the reason you’re feeling like that and read back over your diary each week.
We hope these tips help get you started on your meditation journey. Did you know there are lots of different types of meditation, including “Qi Gong”, guided visualisations,
transcendental meditation, and zazen meditation? Explore different types of meditation and see which one works for you. If you’re struggling, rather than seeing meditation as an unconquerable challenge, see it as an opportunity to switch off and give you mind a well-earned rest.
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