20 Jul 5 Simple Steps to MASTERING MEDITATION – and why you should even bother
In a world full of automatic news updates, never ending feeds of photographs and advertising that seems inescapable, it can be hard to hear what your inner voice is saying without all the influences. Before the voice on the radio, podcast or vlog, before the article on the blog or the opinion in your inbox or the likes (or lack of) on your newsfeed, what was it you wanted for you? What was it you felt or needed? When was the last time you checked in with you?
I teach meditation not because it’s trendy (although I’m glad that it is becoming so), I teach it because it gives us a chance to be ourselves without the stimulants and influences. To just sit without being influenced by anything but yourself and your breath. To be in silence, training your mind to take respite from thinking about… well anything at all. Sound like a vacation? I can tell you, it feels like one! In meditation the practice is to focus your attention singularly (usually on the breath or a mantra) for long enough that perhaps one day that single focus will also evaporate and you’ll attain what the yogi’s call “samadhi” or a bliss state and in this bliss state you are completely free from thought. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had someone say to me “I can’t meditate because I can’t stop my thoughts,” I’d have paid for at least 4 lunches at *Erewhon (being a hippy is not as cheap as it used to be). I digress, the point is, a lot of people seem to think if you cannot reach the ultimate state of samadhi (thought free bliss) in your first sitting, then you should give up because you’re not doing it right. I’m here to offer a different perspective and if you’ve read this far chances are you’re semi interested or in a bout of deep procrastination, either way do read on. You don’t have to clear your mind from thoughts in one go to receive the benefits of meditation. You’ve been thinking your whole life, you haven’t necessarily been focusing or practicing selecting those thoughts with meditation, so it might take a little practice, press on and here’s why.
What is it? Meditation is an act of focus, imagine the mind is like your safari browser and when you move through your day you normally have 30-40 browser tabs open at any one time. Now we all know if we left 40 browser tabs open on our laptops and never gave it a reboot, it’d be sluggish and slow at best or not functioning at worst. Meditation offers the practice of closing down the 39 tabs to focus on 1, your *breath. If you can just focus on your breathing and not focus on the 7000 other things you’re guaranteed to have going on, you might feel the same respite that laptop would feel if suddenly you closed those 39 tabs and chose to run only 1. Then through focus and daily practice maybe one day; the computer reboots, the browsers all close, the mind stops thinking and when your timer sounds to indicate the end of your meditation you become aware again that you have a body, after what feels like forgetting. You become aware again that said body was sitting in a room doing a thing called meditation, after what seems like forgetting. You might feel like you’ve just woken up from the deepest most refreshing sleep you’ve ever had, only you’ll feel like you’ve never slept before until now. Upon returning to the ‘doing of the human things’ in said and newly reclaimed body, after what felt like your first ever deep sleep, you might laugh wondering how you ever got through life without doing this sleeping/rebooting/meditation thing, as it may seem kind of necessary for optimal function. Yep, this can and will happen, if you practice. Sure it’ll look and feel different for you but I can promise you’ll get to your version of a complete reboot and even when you aren’t ‘rebooting’ just yet, sitting still, silently focusing on your breath and not your worries, practicing witnessing thoughts as they come but not engaging in the drama of them, is as much of a vacation as it sounds like. Plus it’s cheaper than the cost of the cheapest RyanAir flight (without the indignity), it’s free! So, how to start?
5 Simple Steps to Mastering Mediation
- Make a beautiful space in your home that you actually want to sit in. It doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant but do make it engaging sensually; candles and crystals (or whatever you find beautiful), colours, scents, textures. Let it engage all of your senses and feel like a space you are delighted to be in.
- Make time, schedule when it is every day you can meditate. I always recommend that clients meditate in the morning so they can take the incredible benefits into their day but it’s entirely up to you. The most important factor being that you do it, thus set the time appropriately so you can follow through.
- Now sit in the beautiful space you’ve created at the time you’ve set. For some people cross legged is comfortable and if so go ahead and sit like that. If that ain’t you or your knees, no worries, just sit up any way that you can that is comfortable with a straight spine and an open chest.
- Set a timer, there are lots of applications for your phone if you don’t want the sound of an alarm to pull you out of meditation (I don’t) or you could go old school with an egg timer. That way you don’t have to keep peeking at the time or talking yourself out of it by saying “I’ve done enough now.” No you haven’t friend, sit your butt down and be yourself, without distraction, for the time you allocated and don’t be bringing that self sabotage up in here, not today buddy.
- Focus on the sensation of your breath as it travels in and out of your nose, focus on the depth of your breath and adjust it to feel as relaxed, deep and satisfying as possible. Now focus on where you feel the breath as it enters your body, perhaps you feel it expanding. Then notice how you feel the air leave your body when you exhale. Now you can start to count your breath, I like to count to 10 then start again. If you’re visual you might like to imagine the number being written in your mind as you breathe and count. Simple; breathe and count, simple but perhaps not easy. This level of singular focus takes practice.
Remember, the focus of this exercise is not to entertain you. It is, to unwind your nervous system, slow your heart rate, assist your brain in shifting from Beta (waking consciousness) to Alpha (deep relaxation) and eventually Theta (dreaming or deep meditation). Thus it may not be as interesting or stimulating as most of the activities we fill our day with but it could be the most rewarding. Don’t just take my word for it, try it out for yourself. Every time your mind wanders from focusing on your breath or the count, draw it back. As if you were gently pulling a dog on a leash who steps off the path, you continually practice gently nudging your focus back to your breath without attachment or engagement to the thoughts. There is no being bad at it or getting it wrong, it’s a process or a practice. There is always further to go and yet never anywhere to get.
This art of selecting what we focus our attention on or ‘selecting our thoughts’ is something that has serious impact not just on our meditation practice but on our state of emotional wellness. Why? You’re practicing creating space between you and your thoughts. Instead of just thinking the thoughts we think, without ever considering if we want to think those thoughts, we practice choosing. In meditation we are choosing to focus on our breath and any other thought is let go in our selection process. In life we can utilise this process of choosing our thoughts by considering if the thoughts we are thinking are kind, useful and conducive to our most productive self and if they aren’t, we let them go. How? Well after the letting go of thoughts in your meditation every day, you’ll of had lots of practice. You’ll have had lots of experience witnessing the way your mind works and at cutting out all of the external noise so that you can hear your own inner dialogue, your own voice. Upon tuning in and being able to hear, you’ll have a choice, does this inner dialogue serve me? If it doesn’t, you can course correct, you get to choose which thoughts you think and this is a great power I want to live to see the whole world realise.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor E. Frankl
You see as a coach it is my job to guide people into their highest potential and it is my intention to guide them into deeper union with a far greater resource than I, themselves. Yes we will always have each other as human beings to reflect, to respond, to sense check, to express and listen to, to share life with but what would be the point of sharing life together if we didn’t experience each other’s uniqueness? I can’t experience you’re uniqueness if you don’t express it to me. Or what would be the point of experiencing each other if I cannot connect with you? I cannot connect with you, if I don’t know how you feel or what you think truthfully because if I don’t know how you feel or what you think, how can I know you? I cannot see you if you’re not willing to be seen, I cannot hope to understand you, if you don’t share with me who you are. I cannot offer you the opportunity to see the world differently, if I don’t share my unique experience of it with you and thus I deny you of an opportunity for growth. In meditation we practice tuning in to our own and unique inner dialogue without all the noise and in this we can better express from the place that is uniquely us. I believe the greatest gift you can give to this world, the most impact any one of us can have, is being the best version of you. They weren’t lying when they said everyone else was taken. I don’t believe it is possible to be the best versions of ourselves without tuning in and knowing where we are, right now. If you don’t know how you feel or what you think because it’s being so drowned out by all the external noise and influence, how can you express it? And if you don’t tune into that inner voice of yours, how will you know if it is serving you? Because if it isn’t, I imagine you would want to adjust it so you can live as your best self, to have the best chance at having the best experience of life and you deserve that, we all do!
Tuning into ourselves through meditation is a practice that helps us get good at understanding who it is we are without all the noise. When we know who we are; our own thoughts and opinions, our own preferences – we can get good at satisfying our own needs. If you can satisfy your needs by hearing your own voice you won’t be selfish, you’ll be more equipped to serve others than anyone because your cup will be full. So you see self care isn’t selfish, it’s a service to the world. Meditation isn’t just for you, it is a gift you give every person you interact with simply by the way you show up to that interaction. Cutting through the noise, ready, willing and able to express the truth of who you are and how you feel, which is of course something that no one else can do but you.
PS Don’t just take my word for it, try it out!
Want some guided meditations to get you started? Check out our Healthy Habits Kit
*Insanely expensive but RIDICULOUSLY delicious health food store (shoot me).
*Focusing on the breath is only one of many many techniques, I share it because I find it the most easy to apply and effective for people starting their journey with meditation.