Meditation (or mindfulness as it is increasingly referred to) is the practice of being in the present moment. Meditation has proven health benefits and has been shown to reduce addictive behaviour and improve our relationships with both ourselves and others.
But many of us struggle to find the time or dedication to meditate. However this need not be the case. Meditation can be done anywhere, anytime. Here are the top ten tips from our friends at Positive Meditation that will help bring you into The Now...
1. Go to your breathing: The moment we move our attention to our breath we have started meditating. Begin to 'feel' your breathing by observing the sensations that arise in the nostrils, chest, diaphragm or abdomen as you inhale and exhale. Luckily your breathing is always available for you to use as a meditation.
2. Observe sensations: As well as observing the sensations that arise as you breathe begin to notice other sensations that arise in the body. Take a little journey around the body, making sure to cover every part. What can you feel in each area? You may feel hot or cold, tension, aches, tingling, perspiration, heaviness. The list is endless. But try not to label any sensations that you find; simply observing them is good enough.
3. Don't expect anything to happen: Meditation is the opposite of excitement. When we are excited we are anticipating something in the future. When we meditate we are simply being in the present moment, here and now. Do not expect some flash of insight or transcendental moment of enlightenment. Simply be with the sensations that are arising for you now. Stop searching for anything.
4. Do not judge the sensations: Accept every sensation that arises anywhere in your body with equanimity i.e. no sensation is good or bad. If we judge our sensations then we will begin to crave those sensations that we label 'good' or generate 'aversion' towards 'bad' or 'painful' sensations. Learn to watch each sensation dispassionately.
5. Do not react: Some sensations appear to demand us to react to them when in truth we can allow the energy behind the sensation to move through the body without needing to react. The secret to overcoming addictive patterns is to practice non-reaction to 'painful' sensations or cravings. When meditating resist the urge to react to aches and pains that arise. Allow them to be there and move your attention to observe another part of the body. You may even find that some time later that 'unbearable' sensation has completely gone.
6. Stop listening to your thoughts: This is the part of meditating that causes so much confusion for beginners. So often people say 'I can't meditate because I cant stop thinking'. Want to know a secret? Nobody can. Thinking is what our human brains do. Every time you notice that you have stopped meditating and started thinking again, immediately move your attention away from thought into feeling breathing sensations in the body. You have started meditating again. You will probably need to do this many times even in just a few minutes of meditation. That's fine!
7. Smile: This may seem like an unusual suggestion but the simple act of smiling releases endorphins into the blood stream that make you feel happier and more present. Really! Try it. Even if you don’t feel that happy, turn the corners of your mouth up. Feel the sensation of smiling in the face and especially the eyes. Even a 'forced' smile has been shown to make us feel happier. So fake it till you make it! The more you smile during meditation, the more you will start to enjoy it. And the more you enjoy it the more motivated you will be to meditate!
8. Meditate Now: You can meditate anywhere at all, at anytime. One of the myths of meditation is that you need to sit with your eyes closed to meditate. Do not wait until you are sitting on a meditation cushion to start meditating. You can meditate as you brush your teeth, walk down the stairs, drive to work, log on to your PC, sit in a meeting (you do not have to grin at your boss though!), play sport, do yoga, cook dinner, eat dinner (feel those taste buds and your tummy react), make love or as you lie in bed trying to get to sleep. Whenever you remember to meditate, do it, even if it only lasts for a few seconds. The key is to remember to meditate. Use little reminder notes around your house or in your calendar to remind you.
9. Start loving yourself: As you spend more and more time observing bodily sensations, you will begin to notice which thoughts cause you to feel negative, unpleasant sensations in the body. Start turning angry or hurtful thoughts into loving thoughts and feel the difference these new loving thoughts have in your body. Instead of needing another person to say lovely things about you. Say them to yourself! Then meditate on the way they make you feel. This is essentially what mantras are. 'I am good enough' is usually a great place to start.
10. Set a timer: Once you start to see the benefits that meditating brings to your life, start making more time to doing it. Set a timer (for ten minutes initially) and do not stop your meditation until the buzzer rings. Of course there will be times during the ten minutes when you will go off into the world of thought, but that's OK. Every time you notice you are thinking, immediately move your awareness away from thought and back into the body. The more you practice meditating, the more able you will be to resist the temptation to listen to your endless thinking.....
To find out more about how to learn meditation and mindfulness please visit www.positivemeditation.com
Mark Dunn 2013