“I want you to take a deep breath, and as you exhale, gently feel your body sinking into a relaxed state of mind.” This is one of the first things Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley University says in the 6 Phase Meditation that I use every day.
It may seem cheesy or you may already be thinking that this just like any other meditation, but hear me out. In 21 minutes and 18 seconds, Vishen leads you through 6 key areas of life that we all should be addressing every day.
Phase 1: Compassion and Love
No matter what we say with our mouths, we all have an innate desire inside to feel connected to other people. We evolved to live in communities, and it's programmed into our brains that we need to be connected for survival. Think of how people used to be punished. According to Shakespeare’s Romeo, being shunned or banished is worse than death. We need human connection, whether we realize it or not.
So this part of the meditation gives you a few minutes to feel connected not only with the people that you know but with the whole world. As an introvert, I often take for granted the power of connection and feel the need to disconnect to protect my energy. This activity doesn’t make up for social interaction, but it serves a unique purpose. As simple as it sounds, it’s powerful.
I found that after starting this meditation, I was less likely to notice all the ways I am different from others, and I started paying more attention to how we are alike. I have found more meaningful connections after programming my brain to feel them. I look forward to this part of my day, knowing that I am strengthening all of my relationships at once in a way that I never imagined before.
Phase 2: Gratitude
Gratitude has several scientifically proven benefits, such as creating higher emotional intelligence, giving us a sense of social connection, and providing a more forgiving attitude. Physically it is believed to improve sleep, ward off headaches, and increase energy. So Vishen guides us through a few minutes of expressing gratitude for things we have experienced in the last 24 hours. He focuses on feeling the emotions and not just making a list, which I believe makes it even more useful.
Sometimes while being guided in this meditation, things pop into my mind that I didn’t even realize I was grateful for. Being in this meditative state allows the rational mind to relax and let you find things you may not have noticed while you were operating out of your head.
Phase 3: Forgiveness
We all have negative interactions sometimes throughout the day. Whether it was a rude taxi driver, or if we were annoyed with a bank representative on the phone, this meditation gives us a moment to reconcile those petty differences and be at peace. It’s not like we have to go back and find the person that we had a slightly negative interaction with. We can just take this moment to lay it to rest. Practicing this also teaches us how we can practice going out into the world as more kind and compassionate humans.
When I first started doing this meditation, there were days when I had too many negative interactions to resolve in the two or three-minute space this meditation provides. Now I find myself examining if I had any negative interactions at all, or if there is one I could just improve upon. I could have asked my taxi driver his name, or been more friendly at the supermarket. Science shows those small interactions have more impact on our happiness than we even realize (The Happiness Lab Podcast by Dr. Laurie Santos).
Phase 4: Future Vision
Future dreaming is one of my favorite parts of the meditation because I never know what is going to come up! Vishen gives instructions to visualize how you would like different aspects of your life to unfold in the future.
He says, “ Keep in mind that as human beings, we tend to overestimate what we can do in one year, but we tend to underestimate what we can do in three years. So take a three-year stance, see your life three years from now. See moments of joy, achievements, beauty, accomplishments, success….”
He goes on to prompt you with questions about your healthy body, your family, your friends, and your career. The more you do this exercise, the more you start to feel what you want for your future.
I believe this activity is one of the most important things we can do because it tells our brains where we want to go. Imagine setting out for your destination with your Google Maps open, but you haven’t put in a destination. You are likely to wander around a lot, and you may or may not reach a place where you would like to be. Life can work the same way. We have to know where we are going, and visualization is a powerful way to let our brains know what we want.
Phase 5: Plan your day
Planning your day works the same way as designing your life but on a much more immediate and practical level. It gives you a few minutes to think about what you would need to do today to reach your desired state in your future. Whether it means you should go to the gym to get the body you imagined or start the process of leaving a dead-end job, it inspires you to take action toward the future you fancy.
It can also be a practical way to organize the tasks you want to get done, and once you imagine yourself doing them, you don’t need to make a list, you will remember them and do them almost as if you practiced in your mind.
For me, that might be as simple as seeing myself getting out of bed, taking my vitamins, turning on the hot water for coffee, watering my plants, and starting up my computer so that I’m more efficient in the morning before I’m fully awake. I may see myself publishing an article that’s been sitting in my stories for a while or reaching out to a friend I haven’t seen. Once I’ve visualized these things in my mind, I am way more likely actually to accomplish them.
As someone who works from home, these few minutes can almost determine the outcome of my day. If I skip this exercise, I feel lost about what needs to be done, and put things off. But if I visualized the day in vivid detail, I can complete my tasks more calmly and with time to relax and reflect. Sometimes I am even surprised by the amount I can accomplish when I have done this ‘practice run’ of my day in my head.
I also love the way Vishen ends this section, reminding us to imagine how we end the day, relaxed, by sinking into a deep, comfortable, rejuvenating sleep. Sometimes I forget the power of setting my intention for a restful night of sleep, but this meditation is the perfect reminder.
Phase 6: The blessing
This was the part I was most reluctant to try, and in the beginning, I would even turn off the meditation when it started, preferring an adapted 5-phase process. Even with Vishen’s disclaimer about this ‘blessing’ not being religious, I wasn’t able to detach my own limiting beliefs from the idea until recently. Now I find it to be a powerful way to remind myself that I am the creator of my own life, and my energy is what determines what I accomplish.
Vishen says, “Call upon any higher power that you believe in. Maybe a God, a saint, an avatar, an angel, a guide, it may just be the force of life that permeates the entire world, or it may be your own inner strength. Your religion, your beliefs in atheism, or spirituality do not matter here.”
He goes on to have you visualize feeling protective energy embracing you, offering you support. I have come to enjoy this exercise, and I end the meditation feeling energized and empowered, ready to take on the day.
In conclusion, you can see now how many different things can be accomplished in this short meditation. You are always free to adapt it to your own preferences as well.
There is barely enough time for your mind to wander off or for you to feel like you did the meditation wrong. Its nothing like silent meditation, although if you enjoy that, you can put meditation music on your youtube playlist after the 6-Phase and move seamlessly from one into the other. There are days when I do this, as well.
The 6 Phase Meditation has had a positive impact on my peace of mind, relationships, and productivity. I hope that you will try it out and see what it does for you.
Originally Published on Thrive Global October 29,2019