Learning how to meditate and practicing daily will produce immediate benefits for your mind, body and soul. Meditation can be done anywhere and anytime and may become your favorite daily activity.
Meditation is as simple as paying attention to your breathing and thoughts. Try it while sitting in your car, having coffee, taking a lunch break, or before getting out of bed in the morning. If you are busy, take just two minutes a day. Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits has outlined some key points to get you started and says there’s no reason or excuse for not meditating when you simplify the meditation habit.
There are countless benefits to practicing daily meditation. It relieves stress and creates a state of relaxation. Practicing mindfulness will extend into your everyday life activities and remind you to be present in everything you do. Meditation improves your focus, happiness, memory and school or work performance. It may also have other physical benefits including improved metabolism, heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. Perhaps the most profound benefit of meditation comes from a better understanding of your inner self and an awareness level that you have never before experienced.
In its most simplified form, sitting in meditation for a few minutes a day brings a sense of calm and relaxation that we rarely find in our hectic schedules – and that alone can be the most rewarding.
How do you get started? There are many ways to meditate, and experimenting with a few methods will be helpful in finding the one that feels the most comfortable for you. Remember, the goal is not to find the perfect form in meditation but to develop the daily habit of meditation. Keep it simple.
1. Start with committing to just 2 minutes a day. Don’t set unrealistic goals in the beginning. Starting with a simple goal of 2 minutes a day will create a habit that will stick.
2. Pick a time and trigger. Selecting a general time each day will help create a trigger. The trigger is a daily activity that will remind you that it’s time to take those few minutes to meditate. Triggers can be you’re your first cup of coffee, getting the newspaper, feeding your pets, showering or lunch time.
3. Find a quiet spot. For some, early morning before everyone awakens is ideal. If your trigger is lunch time, find a park bench, sit in your car – the place doesn’t matter as long as you won’t be disturbed during this precious time.
4. Sit comfortably. Many sit on the floor cross legged and use a zafu/zabuton cushion for support. You can meditate in a chair or sofa if sitting on the floor is uncomfortable.
5. Just 2 minutes. You are more likely to succeed in developing a lasting habit by meditating for 2 minutes. Gradually expand to 5-7 minutes if you are able to meditate for a week, then 10 minutes after two weeks, 15 minutes if you can stick to it for three weeks, and 20 minutes if you can meditate a full month.
6. Breathe. Sit straight and close your eyes. As you breathe in, follow your breath in through your nose, into your throat, your lungs and belly. As you breathe out, follow your breath out back into the world. To stay mindful in the present moment and keep your thoughts from wandering, try counting your breaths. One breath in, two breaths out, three breaths in, four breaths out … when you get to 10, begin again. If you lose track, start over. When you find your mind wandering, gently refocus on your breathing. It will be challenging at first, but with practice, you will become better.
It’s a very simple practice, but you want to do it for 2 minutes, every day, after the same trigger each day. Do this for a month and you will have a daily meditation habit.
Paying attention to your breath is a mindfulness practice and a way to train yourself to focus your attention. Once you’ve practiced a bit while sitting in a quiet space, you can expand your mindfulness practice to other situations.
When you feel stress, take a minute to pay attention to your breath, and return your mind to the present moment. Try taking a walk, and instead of thinking about things on your to- do list, focus on your breathing, your body’s sensations and what’s around you. Perform each activity of daily living mindfully. The more you incorporate mindfulness into focused activities, you will find that you naturally extend that to more activities, people and places and ultimately become more aware of your inner self and to all that surrounds you.