So I started dabbling with daily meditation in November. First off, a few caveats: I am not converting to buddhism, and I don’t fancy myself some spiritual guru.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I would love to share what meditation means to me, how I think it will help you, and how to get started.
It’s one of the most difficult things i’ve ever tried to learn because it takes a different type of discipline – total concentration, time, and lots of practice.
When I first started I literally had no idea what was going on. I would sit there, eyes closed and breathing… basically waiting for it to end.
But… before pulling the chute, I did some research. I reached out to Jonathan Fields after reading his book, Uncertainty, and he pointed me to a few really cool resources. I was also inspired by this really cool personal anecdote on meditation from JC Deen.
So here I was, confused guy looking to meditate his way to a stress free, hyper-productive life, but how did I actually start meditation?
The premise of meditation for me is focused awareness, living in the present moment, and being aware your body.
I’ll save you the spiritual cheesefest, whilst trying to explain a bit about each below.
Starting out I struggled like crazy
I started meditating in November for a few reasons. Long days and bad sleep, but also i’m also just curious about ways to promote well-being, increase productivity, etc.
Coming from a psychology background, stress and anxiety are two things I spend a lot of time thinking about. The spiritual aspect of mindfulness meditation always popped up in psychology research as viable alternatives to your standard drug therapy approach.
I also, have this issue where I can never turn my mind off and ‘let go.’ When I go to bed, my mind goes crazy and I can’t sleep because its racing so fast.
I feel like a lot of people share similar issues – daily meditation can help you because it’s helped me.
My early days of meditation went something like this: I’d set a timer on my phone, sit in a dark, quiet room and count my breaths. I did four minutes to start, then added 30 seconds every day.
For me starting out, after a few minutes I got bored / frustrated and thought how ridiculous this meditation crap is.
“Am I doing it wrong? Do I need to sit cross-legged with my perched up and humming like a those guys in the movies?”
You will hit this wall.
But it’s part of the journey. Anything worth having doesn’t come easy.
Breathing = your anchor
Start with and always return to your breathing. This is the one constant which you can control.
So you’re in a dark room, eyes closed in an upright position – not too comfortable, but if you can’t cross your legs, don’t sweat it.
The first thing I focus on slowing my breathing. Start with five seconds in, and five out.
Breathing this slow is hard at first but if you really focus, you can make quick progress. Focus in on your breathing until it becomes clockwork.
*Note: Before you cuss me out for steering you wrong, tough it out and try pushing through the initial boredom wall. The benefits are going to surprise you… I promise.
Pay attention to your body
Our bodies are in a constant state of change. Tightness here, aches there, etc. These are called visceral changes: some you recognize, others you may not.
When i’m sitting and feeling good about my breathing, i’ll start to focus in on any body sensations. Make yourself aware of any tightness, sore spots, or pressure points.
Does your neck feel tight or ass hurt from sitting and trying to meditate? Great! Being aware of these things was a huge breakthrough for me.
Once you recognize these sensations, consciously make yourself aware of what it is. Slap a label on it (ie chest soreness), then return to your breathing and move on to the next spot or thought.
I find the simple act of recognizing these sensations and consciously labelling them for what they are brings a deeper state of relaxation.
Live in the present because nothing else matters
Nothing else really matters when you’re meditating. The sooner you embrace being content in the present moment, in meditation or everyday life, the sooner you’ll start living a better life.
You are relaxing, processing, and thinking. This sounds pretty cheesy, but being ‘present’ allows your mind to wander onto what is important.
Embrace the randomness. Personally, I get some crazy ideas from meditation. From work, to writing, to shity business ventures, and everything in between.
Focusing on the present helps to put things in perspective.
You’ll quickly realize what is truly important to you, what matters, and what is worth your most precious resource: time.
Next step: Label your thoughts
I talked a bit about this above, but what the hell does it mean?
Try to label every thought that enters your mind. Since you are attuned to your body and ‘present’ – you may start to notice your thoughts.
Allow your mind to wander. This is where things get really fun because literally the most random thoughts and themes start popping up. Embrace the randomeness.
As soon as you consciously notice a thought, label it.
When i’m meditating, if I start thinking about my day tomorrow – maybe something I need to do, I will consciously label it as: preparation, planning, strategizing… anything.
The act of labelling with a word or phrase is so powerful. It immediately puts the thought at ease.
You can now move onto another thought or random musing.
The key with meditation is catching what crosses your mind. If the same thoughts reappear, keep labelling them – these are obviously things which your brain is tagging as important.
Rinse and repeat.
It becomes pretty fun when your mind starts wondering.
I challenge you start meditation
Bear in mind, this is all coming from a guy who can’t sit still and turn his mind off for a second, let alone 15 minutes.
I started small in November, and now I am up to 17 minutes a day. Committing to daily meditation is honestly one of the hardest things I have ever done, but for me, the benefits are worth it.
My goal is to work up to 25 minutes within the next few months. I would love for you to join me in this process.
We all have struggles and stresses in our daily lives. Meditation is one small, safe thing which can help shift your whole mindset on life.
Do you meditate? What does your practice look like? Please share your experiences in the comments.
Also, if you’re interested in more resources to help you start meditation, leave a comment or email me and I will happily pass them along to you.
Image cred: houseofjapan.com