Meditation: building the power you did not know you had
Perhaps you go about your life just like everyone else – school, a job, and the regular habits and cycles that come along with it. But what you don’t know is that there is something missing in life, an undeveloped potential that’s actually inside of you – something waiting to be awakened.
And then one day everything changes.
Meditation is training your mind to achieve self-control, focus and the ability to alter your mind to meet the challenges of any situation and conquer the day.
When we are on our regular commute and someone is impolite or obstructive, we get angry. We don’t seem to have a choice in the matter – we just GET ANGRY. When a friend says something stupid, or something wonderfully intelligent, we react. There is no deliberation, to decide how you should feel and respond. This shows a lack of self-control where one is dominated by emotions.
Meditation: The Science
Meditation is simply the practice of learning how to pay attention. It’s not something magic. Its backed up by thousands of years of tradition as well as modern scientific research.
Meditation is supported by a huge body of scientific research, and has been shown to help manage symptoms and reduce risks for a wide variety of conditions, including:
- Anxiety disorders,
- Blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Sleep issues
- Low confidence
It’s not isn’t a panacea, but hits the bad stuff pretty darn far and wide. At the end of the day, our goal here is to give you the tools to live healthy and happy life. And it turns out, at any given time almost half of us are lost in thought unrelated to what’s in front of us. And when we are mentally wandering, we are significantly less happy.
How to Meditate
Ready to give this a go? There’s not a single thing you need to have to start other than your brain. If you’re reading this right now, chances are good you still have it.
To start, pick a time in your day you can regularly designate as time to meditate. It should be a time you can find a quiet place, without distraction or interruption. Similar to physical training consistency is they key.
As a beginner, you don’t need to meditate for long. Just five minutes a day is a great place to start. Too much? Try TWO minutes. The important part is the building of the daily habit. Before going any further we would like to recommend both Calm.com and Headspace.com these websites and their apps can help guide you through meditation as a beginner
The meditation practice I’m going to describe for you below is a basic mindfulness practice. There are many different styles of meditation, but every style of meditation is about cultivating attention and awareness. Be sure to set a timer before you begin.
- Find a place to sit that allows your back to be in an upright position. You don’t need to sit cross legged, but you can if you wish. A chair or sitting against a wall also works well. Feel free to use a cushion to help your posture and make yourself more comfortable. The goal is a posture that helps you stay alert, but is still comfortable. You can meditate with your eyes open or closed.
- As you begin, take several deep, slow breaths to gather concentration. Inhale deeply, filling your lungs to the brim. Then slowly exhale. Follow your breath carefully with your attention through this process.
- After a few breaths, or when you feel your concentration has settled, begin to breathe naturally. Keep your attention on the breath at a specific point, most commonly with the rising and falling of the chest, at your nostrils, or at your abdomen. Follow your breath from the moment it begins to the moment it ends. Use your breath as an anchor; notice any sensations in your body, but always return to the breath.
- When you get lost in thought, simply return your attention back to the breath. Bringing your attention back to the breath is a central part of the process – think about it like performing a repetition. Each time you do this you are rewiring your brain – no different from doing a repetition in strength training. So, don’t feel guilty just return to the breath.
This is where we recommend most beginners start – think about this no differently than starting with just the bar before adding weight, when learning to squat. However, if you’ve been meditating for a few weeks and have built up some concentration, move on to step 5:
5. True meditation is neither holding focus on the breath, nor avoiding thought. Rather, meditation is about noticing what you notice; if you notice a thought arising in the moment, simply notice it, and let it pass. If you feel the pressure of the seat on your back, let your attention focus on this pressure. If you hear the sound of the wind outside, let your attention and focus settle on the sound. The important part is to stay mindful throughout these actions. Notice what you notice, rather than forcing your attention back to the breath or losing yourself in thought.
Again, use your breath as an anchor – something to be returned to after you notice various sensations or thoughts.
Beginners often find it difficult to stay aware when thoughts arise, and find themselves noticing they have been thinking only after being lost in thoughts for several minutes. If you find yourself unable to observe thoughts without getting lost in them, spend more time simply keeping your concentration on the breath itself as described in steps 1-4.
Meditation as a Practice
Now that you know how to meditate, you need to understand one final thing.
You have to train this power like a muscle. Even if you have a good day or a good week in the gym, you need to be at it for months and months, and then STAY at it, to live with the benefits for a lifetime.
You are training your body to change. No different from squatting incrementally more weight, you are training your brain to get stronger, you won’t see profound benefits after a single session. Instead, you will notice improvements after weeks and months of consistency.
So before you dive in, you need to be in for the long haul.
It might feel intimidating now to think about, but just like with diet and exercise, once the habit is established, you won’t even notice. Once you become someone who goes to the gym regularly, that’s just who you are now. Once you become someone who meditates for five minutes a day, that’s just what you do.