Module 3: Lesson 2
Start Meditating (20 min)
> Meditation is a scientifically proven way to lower stress
In the past few years, meditation has been in the mainstream media spotlight. A lot of people think meditation is about sitting with your legs in a contorted position and chanting “Om” for hours on end. The reality is that meditation is simply just personal quiet time.
You may have even seen or heard the term ‘Mindfulness’ or even read an article or two about it. Mindfulness simply means focusing your mind’s awareness and attention to the present moment, not in the past and not in the future...just the here and now.
And by doing so, it helps to calm the mind, which is one of the main goals of meditation. With time and practice, you can reverse your body’s negative stress responses and build up greater stress resistance all through meditating.
This Harvard Medical study proved how meditation actually created measurable improvements in the brain region related to stress. MRI scans showed how meditation actually helped to heal and improve the brain.
Now that is crazy amazing.
The challenge is that in today’s world, you’ve got a million things happening from the moment you wake up.
You’re planning your day in the shower while listening to the news (or even worse, checking email - blame waterproof smartphones), joining conference calls while commuting, multi-tasking at work, shuttling the kids around, prepping dinner with your right hand and reviewing notifications with your left.
It’s non-stop until we bed down late at night. And even then, sometimes our minds still race around in our dreams. It can be relentless.
When our minds and bodies are in a stressed state all day long without a break, the stressors will eventually crush our mental, physical and emotional well-being.
It’s not good.
Meditating can calm our frantic minds down.
There are many different meditation styles, methods and techniques. We’re going to start with the most basic form of meditation.
Meditation 101 - A Simple Breathing Meditation
The goal of meditation is to calm the mind by allowing it to race around and then bringing its focus back to something very simple, like breathing. It’s this back-n-forth process of mental mayhem to simple focus that will calm your mind.
Each time your mind jumps to a thought, feeling or emotion and you bring the focus back to your breathing, you’re essentially doing a mental stretch.
And just like stretching your body, when you first start out, you’re stiff and inflexible. With each successive reach, bend and twist, your body slowly gains more flexibility.
Your mind is no different.
Your mind is like a tightened and tensed up muscle. We’re stretching the mind to get into a more flexible and relaxed state.
The reason why we focus on breathing is because the mind can’t focus on nothing. It’s impossible unless you’re a Buddhist monk.
Your mind needs something to latch onto. So, breathing is commonly used as the focus target.
This simple breathing meditation can be done easily at work, home or anywhere else and just about at any time too. It doesn’t require money, gym membership, fancy items, etc. All you need is 5 minutes and a quiet place.
Everybody has 5 minutes in their day to do this. You can do this first thing in the morning when you wake up, during the day while working or at home in the evening right before sleeping.
Find a 5-minute time slot where you can do this meditation consistently every day. Make it a habit like getting a cup of coffee in the morning. This is key.
Review the general steps below and then watch/listen to the video.
Find a quiet place in your office and set a 5 minute timer.
Sit in a comfortable position with a straight back.
Slowly roll your head in both directions to loosen up
Let go of all the tightness in your body.
Feel the sensation of breathing air.
Close your eyes
Slowly inhale to a five second count
Feel the sensation of the air flow
Pause and hold your breath for a 3 seconds
Slowly exhale to a five second countdown
Again, feel the sensation of the air flow
Repeat the inhale-hold-exhale five times
Increase the count to deepen your breathing
Or, breathe normally without counting
But keep focusing on the airflow
Continue the breathing until 5 minute timer ends
TWO HELPFUL TIPS:
Tip #1: Pick a spot where your mind can easily latch to the actual feeling of the flowing air.
This could be the tip of your nose, inside your nasal passages, throat, lungs or stomach. Focusing on this spot during the exercise will redirect your mind’s attention away from the current stressors and other random thoughts.
Tip #2: Counting up and down is a good way to keep your mind focused
Counting up the inhales and counting down the exhales also helps to keep your mind’s attention on the breathing. As you get better, you can eliminate the counting altogether and just focus on the airflow sensation. However, for many of us starting out, we need both the ‘distractions’ for our minds.
Okay, let's give this a go with the video below.
VIDEO: Mindful Breathing Meditation
YOUTUBE CHANNEL: Stop, Breathe & Think
Your Mind Will Go Bonkers
Getting your mind to focus on the breathing is the key part of the method and the most challenging.
Your mind will definitely scatter off and get distracted by other things - guaranteed.
It’s almost like your mind turns into a hyperactive terrier dog surrounded by treats and toys. The thoughts that are bouncing around in your head will hijack your mind’s attention away from the focused breathing.
Don’t fret about it. It’s part of the process. Remember, it’s like stretching for your mind.
Here’s another way to look at it.
The train analogy
Think of each thought as an inbound train and your mind is waiting on the platform. As each train enters the station, your mind will jump on the train and off it goes.
When this happens, acknowledge the thought as “just a thought”, let it dissolve and then, redirect your mind’s attention back to the focused breathing.
It's really hard, but eventually as you keep doing it, it will get easier.
For example, your mind may jump on the “agonizing monthly reports” train. Acknowledge the thought, “okay, it’s the monthly reports again. It’s just a thought.” Allow it to dissolve and drift off. Then, tell your mind, “let’s get back to the focused breathing...inhale...1, 2, 3...”
That’s the mental “stretch” right there.
The goal here is to consistently return your mind’s attention to the breathing when it gets yanked away. Each time you do this, you’re stretching your mind into a more relaxed state.
Here’s another one that may really get to you.
What's that itch?
It’s the physical sensations and/or body irritations. Meaning, you’ll get settled into a comfortable seated position and as your mind just begins to settle in, your body senses elevate.
Why? Again, it’s because the mind is searching for something to latch onto and your body senses are one easy option. The body senses come to the forefront of thought.
When we’re sitting still with eyes closed, itches become amplified and the mind jumps on that train immediately, “what is that itch on my left forearm? Are there flies in the office?”
Go ahead and scratch the itch and get back to focusing on breathing.
With time and practice, you’ll get to the point where you can see various trains approaching the station, acknowledge them for what they are and then, let them pass through without jumping on.
As you get better at this, you’ll be able to concentrate for longer uninterrupted sessions. When this happens, it’s magical and so incredibly refreshing.
This is because you’ve successfully cleared your mind of all the worries and stresses of the past, present or future. Your mind is only focused on the present activity of breathing and nothing else. It is in the here and now.
You, my friend, are in a mindful state.
This little 3 minute segment from ASAP Science summarizes things nicely.
VIDEO: The Scientific Power Of Meditation
YOUTUBE CHANNEL: AsapSCIENCE