How To Meditate

You know you should do it. But do you know how to meditate?

The benefits of meditation are far-reaching and well-documented. Meditation reduces stress, improves concentration, increases happiness, boosts self-awareness, helps the immune and cardio vascular systems, and slows aging. It is a universal panacea recommended by all.

It’s easy. It’s free. It’s really good for you. So why don’t more people do it? Either they don’t know how to meditate or they think they can’t ‘quiet the mind.’ This notion of quieting the mind prevents people from reaping the rewards of meditation.

I mean, who can quiet the mind?! We live in the United States! There is no mind quiet on Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the Interstate System, in traffic jams, in 9-5 work! Mind quiet does not even exist at Whole Foods! Quieting the mind is the domain of ascetics and holy men (and women) who don’t have mortgages and car payments.

If you are trying to meditate to improve your life, chances are you’ve had little luck finding a calm, quiet, still, thought-free mind. Enter Mindfulness Meditation.

Mindfulness Meditation encourages us to observe thoughts. Rather than getting swept up on them, mindfulness meditation advises us to notice thoughts without becoming attached to them. Lorin Roche, a Ph.D Cognitive Anthropologist and meditation teacher describes such meditation this way:

“During your meditation time, you will often find yourself feeling safe and snug, and other times you will be involved in a complete play-through of all the emotions you experienced in the past day or two…You will find yourself entering states of very deep relaxation, and then suddenly you will recall in some detail a time when you were stressed. In your mind’s eye you’ll see an image, a face, hear a conversation, and in your body, you will feel twinges of the stress response…You might find yourself replaying a situation over and over and over in your mind until you can go through it and have no stress response at all, just relaxation.

What is going on here is that your body’s survival wisdom has hijacked your meditation time for its own purposes. Nature is not stupid. Your body knows that you are not going to go into physical combat with the person at the office who sets your nerves on edge. Or, you are not going to be in physical combat in the next couple of seconds, so turn off the stress juice. The body is saying, “Stop yelling at me to get ready to fight or flee.” This hidden agenda of the body is not an enemy to meditation. In fact, it is a great ally, because it is only through this sort of de-hypnosis, the deconditioning, that you can learn to stay relaxed during your daily life and really enjoy the benefits of meditation…What happens is often like this: one moment you are focusing on your breath, the next moment you are in the movie theater of your mind, watching a soap-opera like scene from your day, and you are noticing feelings you had in your body that you didn’t fully appreciate at the time.” (www.lorinroche.com)

Using this “movie theater of your mind” idea, meditation is a much more approachable – even attainable – prospect. In mindfulness meditation, meditation can be as simple as just closing your eyes and breathing. Try it!

  • Find a comfortable seat – in a chair or on the floor – in a quiet place.
  • Make sure your phone is turned off.
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Close your eyes until the timer sounds.

Et voila. You might not become immediately enlightened, but chances are very good that you will feel more calm. Even in only five minutes!

HelpGuide.org describes the benefits of such meditation this way:

“The cultivation of mindfulness has roots in Buddhism, but most religions include some type of prayer or meditation technique that helps shift your thoughts away from your usual preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment and a larger perspective on life… practicing mindfulness can bring improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health, attitudes, and behaviors.” (www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm)