Above is the most boring YouTube you’ll ever discover. It’s an hour long recording of my daily meditation practice. Please don’t watch the whole thing. I’ll refer to parts of it in this article.
So you know about the scientifically proven benefits of meditation and the most inspiring teachers are just a mouseclick away … but still you’re not meditating daily. Why is that?
You think it’s more difficult than it is
All you really need is a minute to yourself and a simple technique. You don’t need an exotic method, incense, a guru, a perfectly peaceful place, or lots of time. You don’t have to spend an hour pondering “What am I?” while going through series of yoga postures. For now, you can just read “Meditation basics” below and get started right away.
You’re not sure if it’s for you
There are lots of techniques and theories out there. Teachers contradict each other. Info overflow. It might take a while before you find what really resonates with you. If you continue to feel drawn to meditation, just trust yourself, pick something that speaks to you and give it a go. In my experience you’ll only know if something is for you after you tried it for at least a month.
You haven’t made it a priority in your daily routine
It’s probably clear at what time you wash yourself in the morning, how late you arrive at work, when you have lunch, what you do after dinner … but have you made up your mind about when to meditate?
To make this habit part of your routine, start small, pick an existing daily trigger and do your meditation right after. Some examples:
- First toilet visit in the morning: As Deepak Chopra would say: “Rise, Pee, Meditate”.
- Daily commute: Not the most reliable solution because there can be a lot of distraction, but you can meditate while walking, on the bicycle, driving your car, waiting for public transport, on the bus or train …
- Arriving at work Are you the first one in the office? You’re too nice! Rebel and spend a couple of minutes doing absolutely nothing (but breathe).
- Lunch break: You figure it out.
- Screen-time: Take a mini-retreat before watching your favorite TV-show or browsing your favorite website. Or skip the screens altogether and see how long you can be with yourself without getting bored.
- Bedtime: This trigger is pointless if you fall asleep as quickly as I do, but many people meditate in bed last thing at night or first thing in the morning.
Sit, stand or lie down. Notice that you’re breathing. Isn’t it amazing it’s happening all by itself? When distracted, gently bring your attention back to the breath. A 1000 times if necessary. There’s no need to get frustrated. Just be kind to yourself, the way you would train a cute playful puppy to stay in its basket. You gently bring it back again and again.
You might find it useful to count the breath. When you inhale, think “1”, when you exhale “2”, up to “10”. Then start over at “1” … repeat. When you lose count, start back at “1” as well. Remember that you don’t need to change anything about your breathing, just observe how it happens by itself.
Go a bit deeper
- Get interested in all the details of the breath. Are you breathing through the nose? How does it feel to breathe in? Can you follow the stream of air flowing from the nostrils to the lungs? Can you feel your chest expand? What about your belly? What tenses? What relaxes? Can you feel the pleasure of breathing fresh oxygen? It’s like quenching a thirst with every inhale. Bliss!
- Notice the pause when the lungs are full, right before the exhalation.
- When does the outbreath start? Can you feel the warmth of the air you exhale? Can you feel your chest, belly and shoulders relax? Savour the relaxation with every exhale. Bliss!
- Notice the pause when the lungs are empty, just before the inhalation.
- Go back to step 1.
In stead of focusing on the breath, you can also meditate with sound, music, a question, a mantra, while moving … but maybe I’ll write about that another time.
Helpful but optional
- Use a timer. I like to use an old fashioned kitchen timer or Zazen Meditation Timer on Android.
- Need some guidance? HeadSpace or Calm will do.
- Keep a log. Lift is nice, but so is a paper notebook. The latter has helped me a great deal to make my formal meditation practice a daily habit. I just write down the date, time, place and technique after every meditation session, and maybe I’ll add some thoughts about my experience.
- Sit properly. I like the Burmese posture and seiza (see the YouTube above at 6:45 and 35:08). When I use a chair, I often get sleepy, unless I don’t lean against the back.
The best things in life are free
… and so are these excellent resources:
But don’t forget to keep it simple
Remember, to meditate well all you really need is some minutes to yourself. Use a simple technique like observing the breath. Start with a minute or two a day and go from there. It’s better to meditate daily for just a minute than to meditate for 2 hours once a month.
Let me know (in the comments or via e-mail): what trigger will you use to add meditation to your daily routine? What technique or app will you try? How long do you plan to meditate every day? Will you use an analog or digital timer? Will you keep a log? Also let me know if you have any doubts or questions.
My next article will be a collection of answers to Frequently Asked Questions about meditation. For example: “What if I lose motivation?” or “Why does my favorite technique no longer work?”
Some more info about the YouTube at the top, featuring yours truly:
- 4 x 15 minutes pondering “What am I?”
- 1st quarter: Sitting, Burmese posture
- 2nd quarter: Yoga asana flows
- 3rd quarter: Sitting, Seiza posture
- 4rd quarter: Yoga asana flows + corpse pose
Take care now! Bye bye then!