If you haven’t tried meditating, what is holding you back? Many people are realizing the benefits: increased focus, reduced anxiety, fear and depression. Meditation has also been shown to help with reactivity, anger management and improve feelings of equanimity and peacefulness.
From high level CEO’s and entrepreneurs to stressed out parents, people are adding meditation to their morning routines or carving out a few minutes to sit and be quiet. I used it to help in my healing from my double cancer diagnoses and continue to meditate for all of the benefits mentioned above. I’ve shared about my experience meditating on this blog as well as in my book.
There are numerous clinical studies looking into this ancient practice and the verifiable positive impact it has on soothing our nervous system as well as boosting our immune system. And in today’s busy, stressful world, meditation appears to be the perfect antidote. Are you interested in giving it a try but don’t know where to start?
Maybe you’ve tried it but feel you failed. What I hear most from people who have given it a try is, “I tried meditating once. I couldn’t get my mind to turn off.” I then share that turning your mind off isn’t the point, nor is it even possible. Your mind is a thought-producing machine! For as long as you live, it is and always will be creating thoughts. The point of meditation is not to eliminate thoughts, but rather to notice the thoughts and not hitch a ride on the train of thought. The point of mediation is simply to be present.
When we catch a ride on the Thought Express, we are no longer present. We are either in the past or the future depending on what that thought is about. You may start in the present, like hearing the birds chirping outside but then you might start thinking about what kind of bird that is, and then decide it is a crow and remember the documentary on how smart crows are, then wonder if they are getting into your garbage can outside. Now you are no longer present. You are on The Thought Express.
The first thought that happens after hearing the bird sound, is the point at which you want to catch yourself and bring yourself back to the present. If you catch yourself several thoughts later, don’t feel bad, it just means you are human and developing this new skill takes practice.
With practice, you may experience your thoughts like clouds drifting by as you experience what is happening in the present. You don’t get pulled by the thought, simply notice it as it floats by. Eventually you may find that there are bigger gaps between the thoughts and you may even be able to hang out and experience the gap. People have reported amazing physical experiences when they have fallen into this gap—a sense of deep relaxation or conversely, a sense of energy. I have experienced very brief moments of both. Both times I had a thought, “Oh I think this is what they’re talking about.” And then I was out of it. Ha!
So how do we not get pulled by our thoughts and catch a ride on that train of thought? By giving our minds something else to do. I learned a method of meditation called Mindfullness Meditation. I like it because it is so simple. Here are the easy steps to take to begin practicing.
- Sit comfortably with your hands in your lap (I have my palms facing upward). Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, filling your lungs to capacity and slowly releasing the breath.
- Focus your mind on your breath. In and out. Feel the air going in and out of your nose. Feel your chest rising and falling with each breath. Notice your belly moving in and out.
- That’s it! You are meditating. You are present in this moment right now in your body feeling the breath go in and out. If your mind gets pulled off of experiencing your breath by a thought, simply bring it back to your breath. In and out. Some people have mantras or phrases to give your mind something additional to do which can be helpful.
Setting a timer before hand can also be helpful so you don’t wonder how long you’ve been going or when the time should be over. If you’re brand new to meditation, you may want to try just 5 minutes and see how that goes. It will probably be the longest 5 minutes of your life! For most people in our culture, being fully present for any length of time is very difficult. I usually meditate for 20 minutes because it takes me a good 5 minutes to settle in. Many people go 15 or 10 minutes a day, some people 30 or 45. However long you meditate, it’s all good—the most important thing is to do it!
Let me know in the comments below if you give meditation a try. What was your biggest challenge?