Fail Proof Meditation For Beginners
MRI studies confirm this age old practice bestows significant improvements in body & brain function.
My concentration is shot. I can walk from one room to another and forgot why I walked into the room. Sometimes it comes back to me in a moment, sometimes not. Cognitive scientists say these brain freezes and are common and not necessarily a sign of Alzheimer's or dementia. While that information is comforting I am finding it harder and harder to stay focused on any task.
I wonder if meditation could aid my aging brain? What do I have to lose, a few minutes each day? I blow that time away on social media everyday.
Research, research and more research
There are thousands of clinical studies on the benefits of mediation. I will list a few below, but it's simple enough to perform your own internet search on benefits.
Benefits Of Meditation:
- Slows Brain Aging
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Improves Stress Response
- Lowers Anxiety
- Improves Heart Health
- Increases Happiness
Where To Begin?
There are many styles of meditation. Me, I’m a beginner, so I want something simple and easy to do. Something fool proof. Well, maybe not fool proof, fail proof may be a better target.
How long to meditate. I’m a beginner. Some people think one minute mediation is a good place to start, others five minutes, some swear by 15 minutes. I decided to start with two minutes. Not ridiculously short, but short enough where I can always fit it into the beginning of my day.
Active Not Passive
Many people believe mediation to be a passive endeavor. What’s so hard? You sit comfortably and contemplate your navel. Well, if you ever sat comfortably and tried to contemplate your navel you would see it is ridiculously hard.
Meditation is not a free flow of thoughts, that’s called ruminating or day dreaming. Mediation tries to stem the free flow of thoughts, perhaps even stopping all thought for a few seconds at a time. The stopping thoughts, even for a few seconds, are typically only accomplished by experienced mediators.
Mediation is active mental focus, not the lack of mental focus.
Getting Into The Gap
One of the expressions used by mediators is “Getting Into The Gap”, and what it means is getting into the silence or the gap between your thoughts. Very difficult. We have what’s called a monkey mind, meaning the mind that constantly jumps from thought to thought, all the time. Never resting.
Calming The Monkey Mind
Enter meditation to rest and calm the monkey mind. If we can’t rest the monkey mind by ceasing all thoughts, the next best thing is to focus on something simple and repetitive. This is where the breath comes in. Focusing on breathing.
For two minutes, or whatever time you are allocating to yourself, set a timer. For me, I set my iPhone for three minutes, which allows me a minute to sit and get myself comfortable without eating into my two minutes for meditation.
I know some instructors advise against a timer. I’m not one of those. I find it less stressful, to know when my time is up, then to check a clock or watch for the elapsed time. I want you to focus on your breath, not the time.
You don’t have to sit, you can put yourself in any position your’re comfortable in, you could lie down in bed if you like. You are more likely to fall asleep when lying down, but that would just mean you’re probably sleep deprived, and that’s a story for another article.
Ready, Set, Breathe
The timer is set, you’re in a comfortable position, now focus on your breath. You can breath in, “one”, then breath out “two”. Repeat, one, two, one, two. You can change the words to whatever words make sense to you. Maybe the words in and out work better for you. Doesn’t matter.
You repeat these words as you breathe in and out as a kind of mantra, that occupies your monkey mind, from jumping from one thought to another.
When you meditate you will find your monkey mind is quite resilient. During meditation, you will catch yourself no longer focusing on your breath, but you’re thinking some random thought, like what’s for dinner, or I’m hungry. When this occurs, and it will, because it happens to everyone, gently bring yourself back to your breath.
Do not reprimand yourself for losing focus. Just be aware that you did and go back to your breath for the remaining of your meditation time. Repeat as many times as necessary until the timer goes off.
Don’t Pose For Vogue
When you breathe, breathe deep. Belly breathe using your diaphragm. You’re not posing for Vogue magazine. Allow your belly to expand with the intake of air. Pull your belly back in on the exhale.
This is not instructions to hyperventilate. Don’t hyperventilate. Take slow steady full breaths, that’s it.
You Can’t Do It Wrong
If you are consistent and mediate most days of the week and exert the mental effort to stay focused on your breath you will be successful. You will be successful even if you believe your mediation sessions are not successful. That’s just the way it works.
How Will You Know When It’s Working?
I think for everyone it may be a bit different. For me, it was becoming a bit less reactive to events. A pause that allowed me to consider my reaction. And sometimes that makes all the difference in the world.