If there’s one recommendation that I have to improve your life and the lives of those around you, it’s to start meditating.
I’d been trying to get a regular meditation practice going for (literally) years before this, but it was really hit and miss – one day on, three days off, four days on, one day off, two days on, three weeks off… you get the idea. Getting to five days straight would have been a major accomplishment back then.
I just couldn’t get myself to sit everyday. I think it was a combination of biting off more than I could chew and the amount of time it takes to start to see any real benefits.
Since I finally reached cruising altitude with the one minute mini habit, I’ve probably only missed 5 or 6 days. And it’s not just a minute anymore – I’m averaging 10 or so a day, with some sessions hitting as much as an hour (which is still really too much for me). When my day is completely packed or I’m having a depression flair up I’ll return to the minute, but those are few and far between. (I’m writing this on 12/9/2018)
Since I started meditating on a regular basis, I’ve noticed the following benefits:
- My memory is better.
- I’m way better able to handle stress.
- I’ve been able to let go of mental illness triggers when they come up.
- My blood pressure has never been better.
- I’m generally happier and more satisfied with my life.
- I’m taking more risks and putting myself out there.
- I like to think that, like meditation evangelist Dan Harris has said, “I’m less of an asshole.”
- My memory is better. (Get it? I didn’t say perfect, just better.)
You don’t have to get religious, move to India, go on month long retreats, or do any of the stereotypical swami stuff to see the benefits. But you do have to allow some time and be able to follow instructions.
Here’s a few of my favorite resources I’ve had experience with to get you started:
- Insight Timer
- Unified Mindfulness
- 10% Happier
- Waking Up (my current favorite – I’m on Day 36 of the 50 day course)
All of these have free stuff. Try one, try another one, but do your best not to jump around too much. If the initial guided sessions with any of the above resources seem to long, just try one minute a day on your own, following these instructions (I’m not a meditation teacher, but this is how I started my one minute adventure):
- Sit down. It can be on a chair or on the floor with a cushion, or really anywhere where you can be comfortable. A relaxed yet alert posture is best – back straight but not rigid, arms resting in your lap or on your thighs, feet flat on the floor or legs providing a solid base.
- Set a timer for one minute (Insight Timer is my personal favorite for this, but you can use the timer on your phone or any sort of alarm. Just make sure that it’s set to a fairly gentle alert.)
- Close your eyes.
- Move your attention to your breath, wherever you feel it most prominently. Let your attention rest there – feel the rise and fall of your chest or belly, the air moving through your esophagus, or the warmth/coolness of the air at your nostrils. Where doesn’t matter – just pick a spot and go with it. Don’t try to visualize the breath. Feel the physical sensations.
- Here’s the meat of it: when thoughts come up, acknowledge them, then return your attention to your breath. This is where most people decide that they “can’t meditate” – they think that they should have no thoughts, and yet those little buggers just keep coming in hot. Actually, the opposite is true. The job of your brain is to think, just like the job of your heart is to beat and the job of your lungs is to breath. When you acknowledge the thoughts and move your attention back to your breath, then acknowledge the next thought and move your attention back to your breath, again and again and again and again, you’re doing it right, and things are going as they are supposed to be going. Imagine a weightlifter, lifting and lowering, lifting and lowering. That’s what you are doing with your attention.
- When your alarm/bell goes off, open your eyes and reflect on your experience.
That’s it. Those are the basic mindfulness meditation instructions.
Plan to do it again tomorrow. Try it for 30 days. Anyone can find one minute in their day over 30 days. You can extend the time you sit if you want to, but don’t try to run a marathon when you’ve never been off the couch. For now, the only thing that’s important is that you build the habit, and capitalize on the power of the Slight Edge to improve your life and the lives of others.
I’d love to know what you think and hear about your own experiences. Hit me up in the in the comments section below or on Twitter @lymanreed.