What the heck is meditation anyway?
Wikipedia, our favorite information source, defines meditation as “a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end itself.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. The only thing I might add to that definition is a warning about how difficult it is.
There are many different kinds of meditation, if you’re interested in learning about each type, I found a great article here that goes into detail.
Here is how I meditate for about 10 minutes each morning after I wake up, drink some water, and feed the animals:
I sit in solitude, legs crossed on the couch. My back is against the cushion. I take a few deep breaths and close my eyes. I place my hands on my legs. I focus on the sensations I feel, the sounds I hear, my breath, and any smells like fresh air coming through the window. I do my best to stay present, allowing the sensations and thoughts and experiences to pass over me, not attaching myself to any of them. When I notice that I am lost in thought I simply bring my attention back to my breath, sensations, and sounds that are arising and fading away.
I do this until my timer goes off. Then I gently open my eyes and take a deep breath and smile. It feels nice.
Something I want to mention is that directly after I meditate I’ll do a couple minutes of journaling and setting my intentions for the day. That’s going to be a separate video/blog post.
So, why would anyone want to sit with their eyes closed trying to think about nothing?
For many reasons! More and more, these reasons are being backed by scientific research.
1. Meditation helps preserve the aging brain
2. It reduces activity in the part of the brain responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts
3. It can work just as well as an antidepressant for depression and anxiety
4. It changes the structure of the brain - thickening the area that is responsible for learning and memory while decreasing the area responsible for anxiety and stress
5. A few days is all you need to feel improved concentration and attention
6. It reduces anxiety and social anxiety
7. It can help with addiction
8. Short meditation breaks can help children in school
Famous People Who Meditate
1. Rivers Cuomo of Weezer
2. Oprah Winfrey
2. Dan Harris of ABC’s Good Morning America and Nightline
3. Russell Simmons, co-founder of hip hop music label Def Jam
4. Rick Ruben, other co-founder of Def Jam and extremely successful and sought after music producer
5. Anderson Cooper, journalist and host of Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN
6. Congressman Tim Ryan
7. Arianna Huffington
How You Can Start Today
To begin, I’d try guided meditation. I alternate between using guided meditation and just setting a timer for myself.
Headspace is a free app that gives you ten 10-minute guided sessions. You can purchase more sessions which get longer and longer if you want. I just reuse the 10 free ones!
Sam Harris who is a neuroscientist and philosopher, has both a short and a long guided meditation you can access on YouTube. I like to use the short one in the morning sometimes.
Even just from doing 10 minutes a day, I feel more calm, focused, centered, present, and grateful than I did before I started meditating.
I am more kind and patient.
I have seen the biggest changes in the way I work with children and in the way I act within my romantic relationship.
I have been meditating for 10 minutes each morning for about 2 years now and can only imagine that the benefits would increase if I meditated for longer each day. Although I think the benefits for me have grown since I’ve been meditating for a couple of years, I definitely felt calmer and more peaceful after my first try.
Don’t get me wrong, meditation is hard! I still struggle and have to bring my attention back to the breath many many times within that 10 minute session. However, it’s totally worth it and I reap so many benefits throughout the day.
I challenge you to try it if you haven’t before. I also challenge you to try it again if you have before but didn't stick with it for whatever reason!