Updated: Feb 23
At the end of the day, I've accomplished everything by remaining stoic and accepting the situation at hand. You see, one cannot effect change without first acknowledging the issue at hand. So, I simply observe, remain composed, and proceed to alter the situation with calculated precision. Let it be known, change is only possible through one's own initiative. The responsibility falls solely on the individual in question. In short, it is all a matter of perspective and personal fortitude.
So, there are countless benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Now the question: how the hell do you go about it? Before I start, it’s very important for you to know that it's not rocket science and it won't take up all your time. If you're new to it, start small. I did. And work your way up to longer sessions. It’s also not something to be ashamed of. One of my friends got into meditation about five years before I did, but he only told me about it after I told him that I was doing it. I’m not saying that he was embarrassed by what he was doing, I just don’t think that people knew enough about it to not question his peculiar pastime, so he just kept quiet. He also (probably rightly) expected my pre-mindful self to be harshly judgemental about it. But I urge you not to align with that stereotype. Mindfulness has recently become quite mainstream, no longer just for hippies. Not that there's anything wrong with being a hippy, but I'll let you find some inner peace before tackling that question. Anyway, try out all the different techniques, and then stick with whichever works best for you.
Start small, like a mini-mindfulness vacation. Maybe try it in the morning, as soon as you wake up. Five minutes is fine, or even two minutes if five is too long. But make it a habit and do it every morning, before anything else. Now that you’ve decided when to do this, find a comfortable place to just sit and relax. If you’re not a yogi, just sit in the most comfortable position you can find. Cross-legged on the floor, or lying on your bed, maybe on the sofa, or on a kitchen chair while your morning cuppa cools – it doesn’t matter where you do it, just as long as you are devoting time to yourself.
It will slowly become natural for you to devote that little bit of time, but until then, set alarms and write yourself notes and leave them where you will see them, to remind yourself to meditate and be mindful. It takes any time between 18 and 66 days of doing something every day for it to become habitual – everyone is different.
How do you feel right now? Check in with yourself. Shuffle around wherever you are sitting and get as comfortable as possible. Are there frantic thoughts buzzing around, or are you relaxed and content? Busy, tired or anxious? Just notice the state of your mind, but know that whatever you bring to the session is completely okay.
When I was new to this, I closed my eyes, which I think can help you to focus on the task at hand far more efficiently. So, if you haven’t ever done this before, feel free to close your eyes during your meditation sessions – but not before reading the following guide. Later on in this chapter I will give you an insight into meditating with your eyes open (so be excited. No, be calm!).
Once you are settled and your eyes are closed, slowly (anything between 3-10 seconds for each inhalation and then exhalation) breathe in and out through your nose “(unless you have a cold, in which case breath in as comfortable a way as possible). Noticeably pausing between each breath and then observing the stillness and calm. Slowly in through your nose, pause, and then out through your mouth, pause. Try to make it as relaxed and calm as possible. Pay close attention to your breath and then start to count. 1 as you breathe in, 2 as you breathe out. Do this until you reach 10 and then start again from the beginning.
Your mind will wander, this is a certainty. Everyone’s mind wanders, you’re human. Our brains are thought factories, so do not let it bother you that you forgot to put the rubbish out. The goal is not to clear your mind completely but to practise focusing on your attention, practising some more every time you notice it has wandered. When you notice it has strayed, smile and then start again, counting your breaths starting from 1. Don’t let it bother you, you are new to this game and it will improve over time. Every time you focus your attention back to your breathing, you are effectively strengthening your meditative state, so it is actually a positive transition.
When you notice thoughts and feelings that pop up, accept them as part of you, because that’s what they are. Be friendly with them and allow them time to come and go as they please.
Don’t worry that you’re doing it wrong. You’re not, so smile and concentrate on your breath. In through your nose, out through your mouth. See your breath as an anchor to the present moment, every time your mind wanders, you’re only a few breaths away from coming right back to the here and now.
If a particular thought keeps returning to you, allow it to stay for a while and give it some attention. It is not a bad thing to do and will help dampen your curiosity. When you have given it enough attention, bring your thinking back to your breath and start counting again strengthening your meditative state.
Become your own best friend. The more you continue to meditate, the more you will get to know and love yourself.
I have now explained to you the best way to get started with meditating. It’s easy and I know that you will start to benefit from its peace as soon as you begin practising. In the next blog I will show you some techniques to help stop your mind from wandering.
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