The month of April is meditation month. Ok, maybe not really but if you check out the limitless list it is a personal goal of mine to meditate everyday in the month of April. Looks like I am not the only one.
This has been something I have tried to do off and on for the better part of my life. Usually participating in the practice for a few days, then falling off the wagon. I may hop back on in a few months but it has never really stuck. I am constantly making excuses as to why I am not practicing.
I’m to busy, not enough time, it’s just so hard, what’s the benefit?
I recently watched a video with Jonathan Fields and in it he mentions how through his research and studies he has found a very interesting common trait between some highly successful, motivating, and inspiring people. That trait was the practice of meditation or mindfulness. Actors, athletes, high-profile CEO’s, inspiring individuals that are living a life that makes them come alive all seem to be doing this.
It was time to educate myself on the practice of meditation and mindful living.
What is Meditation?
I found a million and one definitions that define meditation. As I kept researching and speaking with individuals that participate in the practice I found one underlying theme that resonated throughout all of the descriptions. Not one of them mentioned having to eat granola, hug trees, or let your arm pit hair grow.
That theme was AWARENESS.
“A thought free state of pure awareness”
The act of letting all of your thoughts and emotions come and go without clinging to them. To see reality the way it is. With complete mindfulness.
What Are Some Types of Meditation?
There truly are hundreds upon hundreds of types and methods to meditate. Yogic, Buddhist, Zen, Taoist, and Christian. Each has its own methods but all similarly come back to the idea of focusing your mind inward and away from distraction.
- Hindu (Yogic) meditation is extremely concentrating. Typically focusing on a single object. Like a candle flame, rock, or symbol.
- Buddhist meditation can emphasis awareness by brining it on by force or will. The main goal is to detach from the ego.
- Zen meditation has used unsolvable riddles to “trick” participants into states of inner calm and awareness
- Vippassana emphasizes experiencing and recognizing your thoughts and emotions but letting them pass. A way of self observation.
- Yoga meditation emphasis the connection between mind, body, and soul.
Guided meditation is great for beginners and this is how I have currently been practicing. There are tons of CD’s, books, mp3’s, phone applications. The first few days of my practice I used mindfulness meditation. It was a great resource in walking me through the process of building the meditation habit. From how to sit to how to breathe.
Find the Right method for You.
Which one will you be able to participate in on a daily basis? You can read in-depth descriptions of other types of meditation right here
Life without meditation
Lets not try to pretend that we don’t get stressed out, anxiety, depressed, sick, fatigued, or overwhelmed. Even the most energetic, successful, and happiest people I know go through these emotions. Just less often than most of us. One reason is because of their practice of awareness and meditation.
The transcendental meditation organization has conducted some research that shows “stress, pressure, fatigue, poor nutrition, alcohol, and drugs (prescription and non)” cause our brain to by-pass its normal thought process patterns and returns to a more primitive state of thinking. When this occurs powerful emotions like fear, anger, jealousy, and regret take over and disrupt our view of the world (tm.org)
some signs you may experience include but are not limited to the following:
- Impulsive decision-making
- High blood pressure
- Low self-confidence.
Benefits of Meditation
I can definitely attest to most of these. Even in my brief experiment with meditation thus far I am noticing a difference on a daily basis.
There truly are hundreds upon hundreds of benefits to meditation, physical, mental, and spiritual. Studies have shown that daily meditation practice can improve on the following.
- Self confidence
- Compassion for others
- Boosts immune system
- Stress relief
- Slow down the aging process
- Improves happiness
- Mental clarity and effective thinking you’ll find yourself to be more creative and productive
- Energy and vitality
Personally I have noticed a monster change in my stress levels throughout the day. When problems arise or I am forced to think quickly everything seems to slow down for me. My heart rate, my brain activity, my breathing. I am able to make decisions in more of a “clean” mindset. I’m curious as to what I will notice as the thirty days approaches.
So How Can I Get My Meditation On?
All jokes aside, meditation is not that easy. I definitely struggle to shut off what Buddhists call “crazy monkey.” You all know what I’m talking about. Some of us get it at random times during the day, when we are trying to relax, when are stress gets elevated, or even when we are trying to catch some Z’s. It’s that voice in your head…. and NO, I’m not crazy. That voice that just won’t shut up. It’s thinking about what you need to do tomorrow, what you’re going to wear, the big project at work, the workout you had, really anything and everything that you can think of you probably are you have “crazy monkey.”
For beginners the challenge is to shut of that “crazy monkey.”
1. Define why you want to meditate. How will it serve you? Are you looking to de-stress, clear your head, relax, all of the above?
2. Commit to it. Whatever you do it is most important to dedicate yourself to the practice. How do you get at sports, cooking, painting…. like Allen Iverson said, “I’m talking about practice.” Make it an appointment with yourself. Do it daily. Do NOT skip a day
3. Time. Set aside time each day when you know you will not be disturbed. Find a quiet place. It’s even better if the room or area is fairly empty. If you can even dedicate it as “your space” where no one else goes, even better. There is no reason you need to meditate for 30-40 minutes to start. Work your way up slowly. I started with 5 minutes every day for a week. Once I accomplished that I started to do 10 (That’s where I’m at right now). The most important thing is that I am doing it every day!
4. Sit quietly with excellent posture. Chest up and shoulders back. Don’t lay down. We want to be fully conscious and aware of what is going on. The goal is to become aware of our thoughts and to let them pass as they come.
5. Your eyes can be open or closed. Whatever your preference. Some focus on a candlelight.
6. Focus on your breath. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Long, slow, and deliberate. Actual try to focus on the sound. If you need to, count your breaths. Every time you exhale count 1. Work your way up to 10 and then start at 1 again. This method is used to bring you back to center.
7. After a meditation session take a few seconds to stretch. To be honest… it just feels good 😀
Some other tips I found to be useful are taking a warm shower before a meditation session. The hot water acts as a natural relaxation technique. Also, it has been said that meditating at 3am is the most beneficial. Well I’ll be damned if I am getting up at 3am but I did find that meditating first thing in the morning was the easiest for me (6:00-7:00am). I am also trying to get a quick session in at night. I find this to be more difficult due to all the distractions and mental stimulus throughout the day.
Want to know more about meditation techniques? Look here.
You Don’t Need t0 Meditate to Meditate! Say Whaaaa!?
Meditation doesn’t mean you have to sit lotus style on top of a pillow. You can experience some of the same benefits of traditional meditation if you engage in activities that allow you to de-stress, participate in extreme concentration, or just zone out.
Try going on an easy jog. NOT on a treadmill! Get outside. To the beach or the woods. Listen to the sounds of the waves, the woods, just lose yourself in nature and relax. let your mind be free. Allow thoughts to come and go freely.
Catch some waves. I’m probably the worst surfer in the world. That’s why it’s on m limitless list. But regardless, there is something about being out in the ocean that is just to peaceful.
Go journaling, painting, or drawing. Not a writer or an artist. So what! Finger paint then. Just have fun and relax.
Yoga and Tai Chi can serve as excellent options as well.
Practice while you eat! I’m serious. Chew your food slowly and methodically. Slow down, take 20-30 minutes to eat a meal. Try eating your entire meal with your eyes closed. You may notice that it enhances the taste a bit. Enjoy it.
What are some activities you like to do that let your mind be free or have high levels of concentration?
The Wrap Up.
I think Ferris Bueller said it best
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
One day you look around and it’s different. Why not slow everything down a bit and enjoy it. Take in as much as you can around you. Relax, think clearly, and be aware.
Meditation can help you feel better, deal with fear, and overall make you healthier.
If you are looking for a wonder drug…. I think it’s already been found.
Try it for 30 days! Let me know how it goes.
PS: If you would like to learn more about meditation please visit the following sites.
- Transcendental Meditation Program
- Oprah (Yeah, if it’s good enough for Oprah, it’s good enough for me!)
- Meditation society (excellent resource for different types or ways)
- 10 remarkable ways meditation improve your mind