You know you’re in a war… right?
Ok. So no actual guns or tanks are involved, but you are indeed in a battle.
You need to make a living, the kids have to get to school, the boss is waiting for your report, your partner wants to spend time with you, and you have early morning appointments.
The list goes on.
How do you manage it? How do you stay calm and focused with all that you have to get done in a day?
One of the most important things we can do is to exercise the power of the morning. Realizing our greatest weakness is the weakness of an undisciplined mind.
Because once you walk out that door in the morning, that’s when it all starts. The demands, the traffic, everyone fighting for a piece of your time.
Most of us wouldn’t think of starting our day without showering and washing our hair. Yet far too often we go out into the day without similarly cleansing our minds. And our minds carry more dirt than our bodies. They carry not only our own trash but that of the world as well.
We carry the fear, anxiety, stress, and pain not just of our own lives, but of our families, our kids, the country and others from all over the planet.
My family knows meditation is an important part of my life. I’ve had a consistent daily practice for many years.
The benefits of meditation keep rolling in. The latest findings from researchers at UCLA claim that meditation keeps your brain young. High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging shows that large parts of the gray matter in the brains of those who meditated seemed to be better preserved. Which is nice.
I like to wake up 30 minutes before I need to do anything and completely Zen out. It’s vital and when I don’t do this I usually feel agitated throughout the day. You know those days where you’re so touchy that someone looks at you wrong and you’re like “WHAT?!?” That’s me without meditation. It transforms my mind, relaxes me, creates balance… it keeps me be in the moment. It has helped me develop better concentration, clarity, emotional strength, and a calm view of the true nature of things in my life. I savor my meditation time because it is a way for me to step out of myself and turn everything off. And that feels really good.
So how do you practice this magical meditation?
Many people find meditation intimidating because they don’t know much about it or don’t know where to start. When you meditate, you focus your full attention in one area and the rest of whatever is going on in your mind and in your life falls away. The point is not to “try” or “work” at clearing your mind. You want to shift your attention away from the noise and over to the stillness.
Here are 5 things I like to do that may help you begin a meditation practice that works for you:
1. Keep It Short. I like to meditate for 25 minutes every morning when I wake up. I find that 20 to 30 minutes of complete stillness and “letting go” of mind chatter is sufficient for me to enter my day refreshed and positive.I don’t want my meditation to be spent stressing that I’m late for things I need to get started on. Before doing anything, I sit in a comfortable position, close my eyes, and appreciate the quiet stillness of the morning before I do anything else. I center my thoughts on that stillness and let them permeate my whole body. What happens is once you settle your mind, your relationship with time shifts. You end up not believing that you sat there for that long, because your experience of time is not what you expected it to be. This gets me to a place of deep calm that I try to carry with me and touch back on throughout the day when things get hectic or my mind drifts to the negative.
2. Let Your Thoughts Drift Away.When my mind starts firing up with thoughts of what I need to get done that day, things that might be bothering me, what to prepare for dinner or the things I’ve promised to do for others, I use a simple form of meditation called centering prayer. It is a conscious letting go of small mind and its continuous self-centered fantasies. I shift awareness away from the thoughts that I pretend are boats floating down the river of consciousness to the river itself. I don’t let myself hang on those thoughts. When beginning a meditation practice, you WILL have all sorts of thoughts come up and that’s normal. The key is letting them pass and not consume your mind.
3. Use a Sound or Mantra.If you have trouble focusing your attention on stillness without something more specific to focus on, you can use a word or sound that you repeat to yourself and give purpose to your focus. I like to think of something I need that day like “awareness “, “gratitude”, or “patience” and I repeat that word to myself. When I focus on that word and that word only, my mind does not have the time to wander.
4. Breathe.This is one of my favorite meditation tips because it is a big part of practicing yoga, which is a moving meditation. It also works well if you want to practice a walking, mindfulness meditation. Breathing deeply and focusing on that breath is a great way to let everything else in your mind drift away. I like to follow my breath with my mind by counting back from four to one on successive outbreaths. I continue this for about 3 or 4 minutes. Focusing on the breath creates feelings of peace and tranquility very quickly.
5. Relax Your Muscles.A great way to allow your meditation to permeate your body is by starting at your toes and relaxing each muscle all the way up through your body one at a time. To do this, focus on your toes and fully relax them, then the balls of your feet and fully relax them, then the arches, the heels, the ankles, the calves, and so on until you reach the crown of your head. By the end, you will have relaxed every muscle in your body while focusing your attention on that relaxation and nothing else. When you open your eyes, you will feel incredible.
A meditation practice is an extremely valuable practice in quieting the mind of internal chatter, reducing anxiety, increasing concentration, and promoting general feelings of well being . I highly recommend giving it a try, even if you only have 5 minutes. I believe everyone can benefit from stepping outside of their mind for a bit and allowing inner peace to cultivate. We are so overwhelmed in this day and age with constant connectivity – iPhones, Computers, TV, Videos, that it’s really hard to remove yourself from the chaotic pace of living. By meditating, you can flush all of that out and be still. As time goes on, you begin to carry that stillness into the rest of your life and feel more peaceful in the midst of the chaos and better equipped to handle whatever life throws your way.
If you’re a skeptic, yet intrigued by the benefits that meditation can bring, I recommend reading 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris. You may know Harris as a Nightline anchor and weekend co-host of Good Morning America, and trust me, his initial skepticism likely puts yours to shame.
Are you ready to start your own meditation practice?
If you have any questions leave them below.