You know the drill - wake up in the morning and check your Facebook and email. On the way to work you run through the litany of tasks you need to finish by the day's end. In the evening you 'unwind' by browsing the internet, getting upset about politics, and watching one or more episodes of whatever show you're binging currently. By the time your head hits pillow you've exhausted an entire day without taking a single breath in mental silence.
So now, do something for me: close your eyes and take in a slow, deep breath. Hold it for a couple seconds then slowly release it.
Do it now.
Weird, right? Did you feel that brief moment of peace? That's what meditation is all about. It's a calming sensation that you can easily achieve throughout your day and during meditation sessions.
You can easily google the health benefits of meditation, but here are a few of the changes I have noticed since adding meditation to my daily routine.
- My mind is less frantic which leads to sharper focus while working on projects that require creative brainpower (like writing for you guys in this blog).
- My OCD habits have softened by about 50%. For instance, I'll now only check that the oven is off before leaving the apartment once or twice instead of four or five times.
- Overall tension has been reduced. My shoulders and jaw find themselves more relaxed more often.
- An unmeasurable, but noticeable increase in happiness.
- Reduced fear of the future/unknown. Having a foundation of calm makes that underlying fear-of-death feeling all but disappear.
The easiest way to get into meditation is by following a guided meditation session. This can range from a spiritual journey to a more modern, no-nonsense style. I prefer the later, which is what led me to start using Calm. This website + app creates 10-minute recordings of a woman talking you through your meditation. In the beginning she teaches you the basics, then later you can break out and learn different specific techniques or ways of thinking.
You should go ahead and check out their site or app - the first seven sessions are completely free, so you can feel it out and decide to pay for the full experience or meditate in other ways. Even if you don't explore that option, I'll break down the basics which you can get started with immediately!
- Find a place with minimal distraction that you can ideally make dark. Silence and darkness help me stay focused for longer. Being out in nature would also be a great option if you're able.
- Sit on a cushion on the floor, legs crossed. It will be tempting to slouch down and relax while you meditate, but keeping an upright posture keeps your body open and allows air to flow into your lungs easier.
- Set a timer for ten minutes (with a gentle alarm sound). This will remove your need to worry about how long or how little you have been meditating for.
- Place your hands on your thighs palms up. Doing this removes all sensation from your fingertips, which can be distracting if your hand twitches and you feel the fabric of your pants.
- Now close your eyes and focus on your breath. At first, this will be easy, but then your mind will want to wander. When this happens, gently guide yourself back to your breath. It helps to think the words, "Breathing in...breathing out." Thinking those words blocks out other thoughts.
- As noises or distraction happen, acknowledge them, but don't fixate. Just bring your focus back to your breathing.
- Continue until your alarm gently brings you back into the room.
It's as easy as that! And if you don't want to dedicate ten minutes to this, even two minutes would be a good start. More than anything, the goal is to release your thoughts while focusing on your breath. With enough practice, you'll find yourself focusing on your breath throughout the day without the need for a dedicated sit-down session.
Have you adopted meditation into your daily routine? If so, let me know how you do you! And if not, is there anything holding you back?