by George Danellis
Ok, so “meditation”. The word itself makes most people a little bit uncomfortable, sort of like being sat at Thanksgiving dinner right next to your most obnoxious relative. Meditation often provokes images of flaky people, or figures in golden robes. Maybe you’ve tried it yourself and have memories of an uncomfortable experience where your body hurt or thoughts and emotions seemed to come in a relentless, uncontrollable stream. So you gave up, or never started.
And that’s wholly understandable. I know, because I’m human too.
But maybe you’re one of those fortunate folks (like me, some of my friends, business colleagues and the more than 20 million Americans) who have gotten past these initial obstacles and are now enjoying the benefits of a regular meditation practice. If so, please let me know in the comments section below how I do at both explaining why meditation can improve the quality of your life, and how to get a practice started the easy way.
- Improved Health. From being able to maintain a more stable and healthy weight, to reducing blood pressure, to dealing with pain, to addressing unhealthy habits - developing a meditation practice is a winning proposition for your health. Doctors today are rapidly recognizing the benefits of meditation for their patients.
- You’ll Become Less Bothered by the Small Stuff. Over time a meditation practice will help you better see how things really are in any given moment, rather than how we often make them out to be. Day by day you’ll develop a bit more of a ‘No Big Deal’ attitude.
- Improved Effectiveness. Whether handling a work duty, a creative activity or a personal relationship, meditators report improved concentration and a general sense of awareness, with less anxiety.
- Not Why You Thought. You’ll have your own reasons for starting. Over time I guarantee that other benefits will arise. That’s just how it goes.
While there are many types of meditation, the one here is a secular practice that can be done by anyone, and is commonly called Mindful Awareness.
- Take Your Seat. Find a comfortable, quiet place. Sit with upright posture in a chair with your palms resting naturally on your thighs. Close your eyes. Or if you prefer to leave your eyes open look slightly downwards with an unfocused gaze.
- Bring Your Awareness to The Breath. Take one big breath and fully let it go. Thereafter breathe normally, gently noticing the breath go in, and then out. Perhaps allow your jaw to relax and your mouth to rest slightly open -whatever feels natural.
- When Your Attention Wanders, Bring it Back To The Breath. Because it will wander, over and over again - from what’s for dinner tonight, to how you might have handled “that situation” differently yesterday, to how you can’t keep your attention on your breath. It’s been said that just as a dog barks, a mind thinks. So there’s no reason to judge yourself, just let the thought go and bring your attention back to the breath. Over time you’ll get the hang of it.
- Conclude with Gratitude. Give thanks for whatever you want, including your new meditation practice!
To start, I recommend doing this meditation for 5 minutes, three or four times a day, whether in your living room or car, sitting in a park or wherever it works out for you. Over time, increase the length of your meditation sessions until you are up to 15 minutes or longer. A goal to sit for thirty minutes a day is good but not necessary, and I recommend allowing yourself one day a week that you set aside to not meditate.
Enjoy your new meditation practice!
George Danellis is a Corporate Sustainability consultant, surfer and lover of a good meal enjoyed with friends and family. He's had a sitting meditation practice since 2007.