Since beginning my quest to meditate for 365 straight days, I’ve had countless conversations with friends who’ve heard about the tremendous benefits of the practice. However, many people feel they don’t have time for it, view it as unproductive, worry that it requires spirituality, or simply do not know how to start a meditation practice.
Meditation is not reserved for Buddhist monks in the Himalayan Mountains. In fact, a simple meditation practice can be worked into your daily life with ease and can benefit you regardless of your age, religion, or life ambitions.
Although it may seem like a hassle to substitute five minutes of your time with a meditation practice, the five minutes will pay for itself twenty-fold throughout the day. Harvard Business Review has a great article explaining how you’ll approach every future task with more intention, clarity and focus.
You may already practice some form of meditation without realizing it or labeling it as “meditation”. Maybe you come back from a jog feeling more “in the zone” or maybe you feel like your mind is more clear and focused after practicing guitar for thirty minutes. What if you could approach each of your daily tasks with this same level of clarity and focus? Whether you’re doing the dishes or negotiating the valuation of your business, you can.
Here are some tips for starting your own practice:
1. Sit Your Ass Down.
Find a quiet place to sit comfortably. Prop a pillow or fold a blanket to prop under your bum so that your hips can relax while sitting cross-legged. If sitting cross-legged is tough, find a comfortable chair that allows you to keep a straight spine, while keeping your feet flat on the floor.I advise against lying down, because even though we have the best intentions of staying awake, it’s easy to say, “I’ll just rest my eyes; I won’t fall asleep.” Twenty minutes later, you wake up feeling groggy and unaccomplished.
Sidenote: set a timer for how long you’d like to meditate if you’re on a tight schedule.
2. I Don’t Know What to Do With My Hands…
Place your palms face down on your thighs if you’d like to feel more grounded. Or, rest them facing up toward the sky if you’d like to cultivate a sense of openness and receptivity. You could also choose to touch the tip of your pointer finger to the tip of your thumb (like when you say “okay” in sign language). This is the most common hand gesture, or Mudra, known for boosting enthusiasm and creative thinking.
3. Just Breathe.
I’ll bet many of you overachievers out there do a kick-ass job at work or in the gym, but suck at relaxing. If you’re not doing something productive or socializing and making connections, it’s off the schedule. So, telling you to just sit in a quiet place and breathe for a few minutes probably doesn’t sound like something you’re keen on cramming into your busy schedule. What if I could convince you that observing your breath (simply monitoring the sensations of inhaling and exhaling) is productive?
4. What Do I Think About?
Don’t go into your first meditation with the notion that you will magically stop thinking. Distractions will arise and your thoughts will be loud and try to take control. This is normal and does not mean your practice has failed!The purpose of meditation is to not avoid our thoughts and anxieties; the objective is to observe them instead of reacting to them. The number of thoughts you have while you meditate is completely unrelated to how well you’re meditating.
As long as you continue to practice daily, you will improve. Imagine that your mind is the sky and your thoughts are merely clouds passing by, and then allow them to pass. It’s easy to get frustrated when something someone said in yesterday’s staff meeting comes clambering in to ruin your practice.
There are loads of internal and external distractions that we face every day. Again, these don’t simply disappear once you start meditating, but you will begin to see a difference in how you view and approach the everyday annoyances, burdens, and anxieties. Just remember, it’s okay if thoughts pop up. The best advice I ever received was from my seriously baller Buddhist instructor in Hawaii. His simple advice: “just keep practicing.”
If sitting in silence scares the crap out of you, there are tons of guided meditation resources. My favorite is the app, Omvana; it’s great for beginners and seasoned practitioners alike. If you want to read more about the awesomeness of becoming present, check out The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
If you meditate for 5 minutes a day for 30 days, your perspective on life will begin to shift and your interactions with others will change for the better. This practice has changed my life by reducing my anxiety and helping me to become a more mindful and grounded individual. I wish for all of you to reap the benefits of the practice too! I would LOVE to answer any questions, hear about your progress, hash out frustrations, and learn how meditation has affected your life! Leave a comment on our Mindful Monday page.
“Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had.” - Ray Dalio, founder of the wold's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater