Meditation is about learning how to create a gap between stimulus and response. You can learn to hit the pause button and to rest in the present moment, without getting so entangled in the sensations, judgments, opinions, ideas, worries, stories, sounds, sights, fears or whatever else arises within us or around us. In fact, most of us have already had a few undefined meditative moments in our lives -- we just didn’t think of it as meditation.
Some common misperceptions about meditation:
- “I have to sit on the floor, in the lotus position.”
No particular position required. Sitting in a chair works just as well.
- “I have to sit still a long time.”
Length of the sit is not important. Just giving yourself permission to do absolutely nothing for a few moments can create a positive impact.
- “I need to stop thinking.”
Nope. You’re not trying to stop thoughts, just disentangle from them.
- “Meditating will interfere with my religious beliefs.”
Meditation can be done in a completely non-religious way.
To breathe? Really?
Three easy-to-learn methods:
- Concentration: This method trains your mind to concentrate on one object (thoughts, sensations, a word, or other external item like a candle). Strengthening your mind’s ability to focus has positive effects mentally and physically, and improves the decision-making process. This method may be as simple as focusing awareness on the tiny sensations of breathing in and breathing out. Thoughts, feelings, and even sounds arise. Include those in the process by imagining them to be like clouds in the sky. There will be moments when you realize that you are distracted. Celebrate them! Those are moments of being fully present. Then simply return your attention, again and again, to the sensation of breathing. Research shows that even if you think you are doing it wrong, just trying has a positive impact.
- Awareness: This method retrains the experience of you and the world by going beyond any conceptual thought. In various forms, it enhances awareness of being alive. Practice being aware in the present moment, regardless of whatever thoughts, emotions, sensations, or situations might arise. There is an experience beyond the mind’s thoughts. This natural state is non-conceptual. In its more advanced state, the knowing and the knower are no longer separated.
- Positive Imagery: Research shows that practicing positive states of mind, like loving-kindness and compassion, enable you to more often experience those states in everyday life. Athletes will often visualize a successful performance, including every detailed sensation. For this practice, guided meditations can be a helpful tool.
Make it a habit: It is important to have some quiet time dedicated to meditation, AND these methods can be practiced in any moment of any day. Making it a habit accelerates the benefits. You can practice awareness while you eat, walk, interact with others or do the dishes. Try single-tasking! Slowly, natural awareness begins to arise with less effort.
Practical integration ideas for everyday moments:
- Phone calls: Each time the phone rings, take one deep, aware breath before you answer and one more after you hang up. Be aware of how the phone call impacts your thoughts, feelings and sensations.
- Red lights or standing in line: Instead of letting irritation arise while you’re driving or waiting in line, imagine using that delay as an opportunity to be aware and breathe deeply, aware of internal sensations, emotions, and thoughts, as well as externally aware of the people and circumstances around you. To cultivate a positive state of mind, try wishing everyone around you more happiness in their life, simply by radiating out a sense of loving-kindness and compassion.
- A wristband: Wearing something like a simple colored bracelet can be a visual reminder to take a few deep mindful breaths throughout the day.