Meditation has been practiced throughout the world for thousands of years. At it’s core it’s simply a form of exercise for your mind, training it to be calmer and clearer.
There are many different types and styles of meditation techniques and you should find the one which will work best for you. This site has a pretty comprehensive guide and suggestions as to which method might suit you.
Currently I am using Mindfulness meditation techniques. Mindfulness is the practice of focussing on being present in the here and the now and simply paying attention to the sensations, thoughts and emotions that arise. There is no judgement, just acceptance.
In today’s modern world, we’re continually interrupted and distracted. We’re always being asked to do more in less time. It can be overwhelming.
There have been many scientific studies done that show there are lots of benefits to meditating. These include reducing stress, improving your focus and memory, fostering creativity, and helps improve your relationships with others.
I listen to Tim Ferriss’ podcast and meditation comes up time and again as something that he and many of his guests feel has played a part in their success.
With all this evidence and when smart and successful people all agree I think it’s worth giving it a try.
For me, meditation is an attempt to be less stressed and be more focussed.
How I’m doing it
The general consensus seems to be that daily practice is key. One or two sessions might provide some initial relief but it’s the long term habit which provides the real benefits. I’m still in the relatively early stages but I can already attest to generally feeling better when I maintained it daily. If I let it slip for a few days I began to notice a dip in my focus and energy.
I have tried a few times in the past to begin meditating but sitting still and quiet on your own was surprisingly difficult. I would manage a day or two and then I’d effectively give up. With no guidance I had no idea whether I was doing it right. Thoughts would keep popping into my head so I’d double down on trying to stop it but that didn’t have a calming effect.
I found some guided meditations and they definitely helped me to have something to focus my attention on but ultimately I was doing it piecemeal, playing a session when I found a free moment so inevitably I forgot most of the time.
At the beginning of the year I decided to try and again and really work to make it a habit. I’d heard a few people talk about Headspace so I thought I would give their “Take 10” trial a try. It’s a free 10 day course to give you the foundations of meditation. They are guided meditations with some pre and post session commentary, which I’ve found very helpful in learning why we’re doing a particular exercise. Now that I’ve been doing it for a little while I’m actually able to maintain focus longer and require less guidance (see this stuff is working).
Headspace ultimately allows you to choose the length of the meditation sessions but their “Take 10” programme is ten, 10 minute sessions. Anyone can make time for 10 minutes a day, right?
My days are varied and life is always busy. At first I thought “it’s just 10 minutes” I can easily make time for that at some point during the day but it’s too easy to forget and not do it. I’m also a bit self-conscious so I didn’t want to sit and close my eyes in the middle of my work-place and hope I wasn’t going to get interrupted.
Same time, same place
You need to find a time and a place that will work for you. I’ve made it part of my morning routine, making it the first thing I do when I wake up and before the rest of my family is awake. I’ll talk more about my morning routine in a future post but I tend to wake around 5am, I’ll perhaps go and make a pot of coffee if I’m still a little sleepy to help clear the cobwebs, but then I immediately go into my home-office, sit down and put on Headspace. I don’t switch on my computer or do anything else otherwise it’s too easy to get distracted and that makes it much more likely that I won’t do it because I’ll just run out of time.
Headspace itself encourages keeping up the daily practice by rewarding you with free time to gift to someone else if you maintain a run for a certain period of time. That’s not enough to help me make it a habit. I use an app on my phone called “Way of Life” which helps you set and track activities that you want to turn into habits. It’s a very quick way to log whether you did or didn’t do something each day so it requires virtually no effort to maintain. It has a chaining feature so that you can see your streaks, much like the Seinfeld calendar idea. The simple visual cues of seeing your green streaks and an unbroken chain is just another little nudge to keep you on the path you want to be on.
I’m still very much a beginner, and I find some days harder than others to maintain my motivation but I am seeing the benefits. I feel a little less worried than I had been in the past and I am sleeping a bit more too. I feel more focussed and productive than I’ve felt in years too.
I highly recommend that you try meditating yourself and if you can make it a daily habit, like brushing your teeth, you will feel much better about yourself and your life.
Headspace has a buddy system to help motivate each other so if this post has encouraged you to give meditating a whirl, drop me a note, I’ll invite you and we can make this journey together.