Meditation Can Be Intimidating
I get it. I am someone who has a very hard time slowing down. It’s hard for me to make time for myself that doesn’t involve errand running or checking things off a list. It’s hard for me to put on a face mask and not also respond to emails at the same time. I’m a doer. A rusher. A keep-it-moving-type-women. But if there’s anything that meditation and yoga has taught me, it’s that no matter how many things are on the to-do list, you ALWAYS have 5 minutes to sit and just be.
That’s the beauty of mediation; it’s a tool that is literally accessible to you anytime you need it. You don’t need any fancy gear, it doesn’t cost money, and you don’t have to travel anywhere to reap the benefits.
What Does It Mean To Be Present?
Being present is paying attention to the moment your in without judgement, and with loving kindness. It’s an experience of what is happening through sensation of your body and observation of your surroundings.
Awareness and being present in the moment is about learning to simply experience things without labels. Without perceiving it from the mind. Without conceptualizing it from the conditioned thinking. This isn’t about stopping your thoughts or having some transcendent experience every time time you sit down to meditate. Just be where you are. No judgements, no expectations.
Eckhart Tolle says, “the easiest way to access the present moment is to simply just find your breath.”
Take your attention away from where it usually dwells (in the head and the thinking mind) and bring it into the body and into the physical realm. So let’s give it a try.
Where to Begin
Where do we begin? We begin where we are.
There’s no need for a mediation altar or a special cushion to sit on (although it can be nice to have those things, they are not necessary). All you need is 5 minutes and a desire to clear your mind and get grounded. You can do this in your car, at your home, or literally anywhere in the world.
Step 1: Find a quiet place and take a seat. It’s best to sit on a hard surface or something that allows you to sit tall with your spine straight. You can try sitting up on a yoga block if you have one. If you’re sitting on the floor place a blanket under your bum. The idea is that you can sit comfortably but also alert. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
Step 2: Avoid hunching your back, reach the crown of your head up and pull your shoulders back so they stack over your hips. Let your hands rest on your thighs or knees, wherever they are most comfortable. Relax the muscles in your face. Relax the jaw. Relax the forehead and the space between your eyebrows.
Step 3: Close your eyes and begin noticing your breath. Notice the depth of each inhale and the length of each exhale. Notice what happens when you breathe in, how the belly expands. Notice what happens when you breathe out, how the diaphragm softens. Let the breath come in and out of your body naturally, no forcing or exaggerating. Just gently breathe in and breathe out. It’s not necessary to use ujjayi breath here, but you if you can, try breathing through the nose.
Step 4: Notice any desire to fidget and try to be very still. The only movement that you should feel is the breath flowing in and out of your body. This is where it gets hard. You’ll probably want to check your phone, you’ll probably wonder how much longer till the timer goes off. The moment these thoughts come up, just notice them and then come back to your breath. Over and over again, however many times you need to.
It’s very natural to get distracted. Your mind will wonder, your thoughts may still be racing, but by focusing on your breath, the idea is that you can distract yourself from the mind and be in the body. If you’re focusing on your breath and your body it will be impossible to focus on anything else. The breath is your anchor to the present moment. Use it to bring yourself back into the now.
Benefits of Meditation
According to scientific research, here are some benefits of meditation:
- Decreases depression
- Decreases anxiety
- Decreases stress
- Improves productivity
- Boots endorphins and and increases happiness
- Increases immune function
- Decreases inflammation on a cellular level
- Improves your ability to regulate emotions
- Increases emotional intelligence
- Improves concentration and focus
Remember, the goal is not to stop your thoughts but rather to slow them down and observe what comes up. Don’t be surprised if at first this feels difficult. Don’t be surprised if this is difficult for awhile. Try not to get frustrated and keeping bringing yourself back, over and over again.
I suggest starting with 5 minutes. Do this for 1 week and see how you feel. You can do it in the morning right when you wake up, or at night before you go to sleep. You can do it on your lunch break, or while the onions saute before dinner. You can do it anywhere, any time. You just have to do it.
The following week see if you can sit for 10 minutes. Then 15 the next week, and so on. If you stick with this practice it will be undoubtedly life changing.