I’m no Buddhist…
…but here’s my take on meditation
There is a wealth of science out there that supports why meditation is a good thing. Feel free to google, or just read this for a quick flavour of the stuff that’s out there.
Meditation has a long and complicated history via a couple of religions or philosophies. Here’s a link to a great timeline for anyone who wants more history detail.
It has roots in Hinduism, Buddhism and these days it’s sometimes seen as a trendy step towards mindfulness. Hang around anyone who does yoga and you’ll have one perspective of it. The more you get into it the more you’ll hear words like transcendental mediation (TM), guided meditation, enlightenment, mantras and kundalini.
It can seem either utterly overwhelming or just a little bit wanky. But everyone from the Beatles to Ellen to Russell Brand is at it, so what’s the fuss all about?
A warm bath for your brain
Regardless of whatever kind of meditation practice you settle on (more on that below), the real purpose behind meditation is to be able to sit quietly and be able to observe your thoughts, as opposed to being controlled by them.
You know how sometimes you can be swallowed up by your mind – how you can get trapped in a loop of thoughts or dragged down some crazy rabbit-hole of day-dreams? Meditation helps you manage that stuff better. When you feel a wave of panic or overwhelm coming on, try meditating.
The upshot is that you become less reactive, it helps you focus on a single-task and basically get stuff done without your head getting in the way. It really does take you out of your head for a while, which is an incredible feeling.
Meditation is the difference between being in the washing machine or standing outside watching the washing in the washing machine. – Tim Ferriss
There have been a lot of studies done on the benefits of meditation and it has been shown to help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and resting heart rates, reduce anxiety, increase happiness by changing the chemistry of the brain, and it can help us become more creative and effective. It’s probably why some of the most ‘successful’ people out there are doing it.
Practice makes perfect – or does it?
Meditation is a practice. It’s called a practice on purpose because it’s really difficult to sit there and not think. Our mind’s were designed to think. It’s their job. But sometimes our mind’s get wrapped up in all sorts of totally unhelpful sorts of crazy.
Sometimes I suck at meditation. But let me tell you, on the odd day that I can’t meditate (read ‘fail to prioritise myself’) I am late and frazzled. Since I have been meditating in the mornings I promise you I hardly ever yell at my children to get ready for school. It all just happens better. I happen better. Then everything I try to do seems to happen better.
The trick is to show up. Every day. Just keep on practicing. I promise it really does get easier. And then somewhere along the line you really look forward to your meditation practice.
How to start meditating
In some ways this is the easy bit. Just commit. There is no magic formula, you don’t have to do anything special – you don’t need a meditation chair, incense, chanting music or your own personal buddha to guide you. Just find a comfortable chair or sit cross-legged on the floor and close your eyes.
Personally, it got a lot easier for me when I started using app’s or downloading guided meditations to use in the early days, but it really doesn’t need to get complicated. I also don’t stick to any one type of meditation practice. Sometimes I like a guided meditation, other times I just want to sit in the quiet, and sometimes if my mind is really very busy then I use a mantra – just a simple sentence or word that I repeat over and over and over. That might sound completely bonkers, but if your mind is busy doing that whole repetition thing, then it isn’t going off planning the rest of your life with all the drama that your imagination will inevitably conjure up the second you decide to sit down to meditate.
And remember practice makes perfect.
(Check out Tim Ferriss’ video HERE for a great way to get started if you want more guidance from the human guinea-pig himself.)
My Top 5 Tips:
All I can say is give it a go and see what if it works for you. But before you do, here are my top tips to meditation practice:
- Download an app (there are loads of free ones out there to choose from) and play around with different types of meditation to find what suits you.
- Start small – try for 5 minutes a day for a week and then start to build up slowly. Think of it like strength training, you have to get good at 5 minutes before you increase your rep’s.
- Find a time that works for you and show up at the same time every day. Your mind will try to tell you it’s not important if you miss a day. Or that you don’t have time. You do. Meditate anyway.
- Make it part of a ritual. Use it to reflect on your day, set you up for a great night’s sleep, or kick off your day with a bang. Ritualise your meditation practice and it will become a precious non-negotiatable part of your life.
- And when you really don’t want to do it, remember all of the benefits. It’s pretty much a no-brainer when you look at the positive effects for literally sitting on your arse doing nothing but breathing, and trying really hard not to think!