Meditation can seem like an elusive concept, something distant and out of reach. I used to think meditation was a very narrow activity: sitting with crossed legs, hands on the knees, and breathing – but it is much more broad and diverse than that. After a lot of reading and exploring different ideas I learned that it’s really much simpler than what I had imagined.
At its core, meditation is about quieting the mind through focused attention. Meditation is less about WHAT you do and more about HOW you do it.
There are many different things that can be focused on to quiet the mind, the most common being the breath, but everyone has different preferences and it is important to build a practice that is tailored to you.
Below are several different ideas on meditation, be sure to adapt them to your personal preferences!
1) Meditate on your distractions
If you are having difficulty settling down for a meditation because you keep getting distracted by something, make the focus of your meditation the distraction! Whether its an annoying beeping sound, people talking, kids playing, or whatever else may be going on around you, just breath awareness into the distraction.
In essence this is you accepting the reality of your environment. By focusing on the distraction, it is no longer a distraction – it will now be the focal point for your mind to quiet itself.
Last week I had a really stiff neck from practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, at first I thought that it would prevent me from focusing during meditation but then I thought to just make it my focus. That night as I sat there counting my breaths and focusing on the pain in my neck, I was able to concentrate and meditate for about 15 minutes. At some points the pain even faded away through my focused awareness of it!
2) Meditate on a simple activity
This may sound a bit silly, but you can meditate by focusing on a simple repetitive activity such as stepping up onto a step and stepping back down.
You will see that the mind can get quite active about such a small thing: “Why am I doing this? This is silly, I look crazy. Has it been 5 minutes already? I don’t have time for this.”
Setting out to do a simple activity for a defined period of time is not only a way to focus and meditate, it also builds willpower. Just breathe, focus on the sensations of the activity, and let go of your thoughts. Observe how the mind wanders from the task.
Start small, set out to do a simple repetitive activity for 5 minutes. Repeat each day until you can go the full time with a quiet mind focused solely on the activity.
3) Try out audio meditation
With the amount of media and distractions that you see throughout your day, you may find it hard to quiet the mind at first. Some people like to listen to audio meditations to guide them and give them something to focus on.
I don’t personally use audio meditations these days, but when I did I used some with hemi-sync technology. It is a type of audio meditation that synchronizes the two hemispheres of your brain to the same frequency, thus producing a third frequency together.
4) Try different positions to see what is comfortable
You don’t need to sit upright with crossed-legs to meditate! Experiment and find what is most comfortable for you.
I prefer to sit on a couch with back support so that I am not leaning back, I cross my ankles and lace my fingers, open my chest by shifting my shoulders back, and keep my spine lengthened by stretching the crown of my head toward the ceiling.
Try lying down and sitting in different positions to see what feels right for you.
5) Usa a mantra
A mantra is a word or a sound that is repeated to help with concentration while meditating. The mantra helps by taking the place of your thoughts, with practice it can be a powerful tool to bring you to a peaceful state of mind.
Pick a word that has meaning for you and is related to the state that you wish to associate it with. In theory it doesn’t even have to be a word, it could be a one syllable sound or even a short sentence. One example is “be here now.”
Once you select your mantra, you can make it the focus of your meditation. Some people like to start off chanting it verbally, personally I prefer to repeat the mantra in my mind.
With repetition (lots of repetition) the mantra will be associated with a certain state of being and through using it you will be able to reach that state quickly. Experiment with repeating the mantra both quickly and slowly – by repeating it quickly you can amp yourself up, repeating it slowly will calm you down.
6) Experiment with different breathing techniques
Breathing techniques are extremely powerful tools for relaxation, heightened awareness, increased focus, greater strength, and even withstanding extreme environmental conditions.
I could write a whole post about breathing techniques – and I likely will – so I will limit the discussion here to a relatively simple one for relaxation.
To relax into a meditation, the most powerful technique I have found involves lengthening the exhale and keeping the inhale the same. Starting out with a 4 count inhale, 1 count hold, an 8 count exhale, 1 count pause before inhaling again, and then progressively increase the count for the exhale as you become comfortable. Going from 8 to 16, 16 to 32, and then allowing that to become your natural rhythm for the meditation.
Like all the methods I talk about here, this too requires patience and practice.
7) Don’t take your meditation too seriously
Be easy on yourself. Relax. Judging yourself and your progress won’t help you meditate, observing and learning about yourself will.
Don’t be too serious or harsh with yourself, instead notice where you are accept that. Practice patience and allow yourself the time to develop your meditation.
There is no rush here, no deadline. Just go with the flow and adapt things to suite yourself.
I’m Ben! I’m a travel-obsessed abstract thinker here to help you extract the hidden lessons behind your day-to-day experience.
Integrity Health is a franchise company residing in New Hampshire. We specialize in health coaching centers combining fitness with weight loss to optimize and promote optimal health. We are also the national purveyors of the EZCOACH Fitness Prescription System licensed by fitness professionals.