In the hustle and bustle of life, amongst all the opportunity and adventure, one thing is for certain: stuff happens. At some point in your life there will be problems, challenges, bumps in the road. In fact, depending on what you do, these bumps in the road could be more of a daily occurrence than rare events. Regardless, the most important thing is how you respond to the challenges life presents you – as the quote goes: “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.”
So it doesn’t matter where you are or what you do, one of the most beneficial practices you can take up is meditation. Now there are a myriad of different types and styles of meditation, but at a fundamental level, secular meditation is a practice in mindfulness. What is mindfulness? I like the definition given by Jon Kabat-Zinn – moment to moment non-judgmental awareness.
Now if you’re asking: “where’s the science?” – you’re in luck because a ton of scientific studies have been done showing the beneficial effects of meditation; from stress relief and pain reduction to positive changes in gene expression and beneficial changes in brain function and the immune system to increased cortical thickness and gray matter (although this study showed correlation not causation, so more studies need to be done here).
Those are just a handful of studies, if you dig deeper you’ll find many, many more, so I think it’s safe to say: meditation is good for you. Not only that, but meditating makes you sexier too – okay, you got me, that’s not proven (yet), but I like to believe it’s true. That aside, one thing is clear: when it comes to reducing negative stress, meditation is one of the best practices you can take up. And these days, unless you actually live in a cave in the Himalayas, who doesn’t want less stress? With that said, let’s move on to some meditation techniques so that you can be a more relaxed, happier version of you, starting today.
This is probably the easiest meditation technique you’re ever going to learn, yet with just a few seconds of practicing this technique you will feel a measurable shift in your state of mind and body – try it and see for yourself.
Find a quiet, comfortable place where you can sit down and relax for a moment. Eventually, as an advanced meditator you will be able to meditate in just about any place, but that takes a significant amount of practice. Close your eyes and sit with your spine erect.
Breathe as you would normally, don’t try to alter your breathing in any way. You will probably find that as you get into the meditation your breathing will change all by itself – just follow it to wherever it leads.
Focus on the space.
While you’re breathing, put your full awareness on the space between your inhalation and exhalation. Do the same with the space between exhalation and inhalation. Aim to enter into this space as fully as possible with your awareness.
In other words, if a thought comes up, don’t try to chase it away and don’t follow it either. Aim to simply observe the thought from a detached perspective and bring your attention back to your breathing.
That’s it! A super-simple meditation technique that you can start using right away, and it works really well – sometimes the simplest things are the most powerful. You can do this meditation for as short or as long as you like, it’s usually a good idea to start small and then build up to longer times, but the choice is yours!
Even though the technique above is simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy – especially if you’re a beginner. The good news is that it gets much easier with consistent practice, and you don’t need to be a master of meditation before you start to experience the beneficial effects.
In the meantime, here are some tips to help you get started:
14 Meditation Tips
Really small. Instead of long sessions, aim to do 1 – 2 minutes at a time, but commit to doing it every single day without fail. By doing this, pretty soon, meditating will become a way of life.
Respect the process.
Don’t just go through the motions – meditation can transform your life if you allow it to. A great attitude to have is one of playful respect. Have fun with it; being too serious will just make it seem like a chore.
Same place, same time, every day. Personally, I like doing 3 sessions, spaced through the day (and if they’re only 2-3 minutes long, that’s only 6 – 9 minutes of your day). Throw in as many spontaneous meditations as you want, but stick to a schedule with your main ones.
Use an alarm.
Use a timer to let you know when your meditation is done, this helps you forget about the passage of time, a state of mind which fits in nicely with your meditation practice. Just make sure it’s a gentle alarm if you want to ease out of it gracefully.
Scratch that itch.
If you’ve got an itch, scratch it – just be mindful of the action you’re taking, do it with awareness. Sometimes an itch will go away by itself, so you could wait for that to happen too.
Accept wandering thoughts.
Unless you’re already a meditation master (and if you are, thanks for reading this) then you’re going to have distracting thoughts. In fact, when people start meditating, they’re often surprised at just how unruly their mind actually is. Accept that this will happen and keep gently brining your awareness back to your breathing. Do not berate yourself about it, the best thing to do is to laugh about it and gently bring you awareness back.
Remember, meditation is an active process. So even though you can reach profound levels of mind and body relaxation (with practice, deeper than sleep), you still want to be consciously aware – relaxed attention. Which is why I don’t recommend meditating lying down, because you will probably fall asleep. The ideal state is one of being more aware than you usually are, and at the same time profoundly relaxed.
Try a longer session.
If you’ve been doing short meditations, try doing a longer session and see how that goes – you will probably find that it’s a very different experience.
Try a guided meditation.
Guided meditations can be a very powerful way to help you get into a meditative state. These are useful as a learning aid, especially when you’re beginning, but remember to do some meditations on your own.
Commit to 30.
I really like doing 30 day challenges – if you’re on the fence to the benefit meditation will have on your life, try it out, with an open mind, for 30 days and then decide when you’re done.
Aim for mastery.
Once you’ve seen the benefits meditation has for you personally, and you decide to continue with it, commit to mastery. In other words, think of it as part of your lifestyle rather than this weird thing you do. Remember, the benefits of meditation will arrive far sooner than it takes for you to master meditation (which is a lifelong process) and even better, the longer you practice, the more you’ll get out of it.
Bring it to life.
Once you’ve had a bit of practice at meditation and you know what it feels like, aim to bring that mindful state to other activities: making a cup of coffee, brushing your teeth, exercising – the list is endless.
But not too quickly. Try out different postures, different meditation techniques, different breathing patterns – try new things, but make sure you give them a good run (e.g. try it out for a week or more before you decide whether to keep the change or discard it).
When you finish meditating you feel better than when you started. If that isn’t the case, then you haven’t been meditating. You’ve been doing something that looks like meditating, but isn’t – it’s that simple, and it’s okay. Think about what you were actually doing and do less of this in future. If, on the other hand, you feel more peaceful, energized, happy, with a greater sense of clarity and joy, then well done: you’ve just been meditating – do more of this in future!
Meditation has the power to totally transform your life for good if you stick to it and make it part of your daily life. We want you to be the happiest, healthiest person you can be. Start small with the meditation technique above and incorporate some of the tips if you need them – soon you’ll be the one giving us meditation tips.
Have you tried meditating before? Why do you want to start?Let us know in the comments below!