A Meditation Trick (That Actually Works)
I struggled with meditating when I began, sitting quietly was difficult for me, but it has slowly become one of my favorite things and allows me to reflect and focus on my thoughts. The most challenging aspect of developing a consistent practice was finding a meditation method which was easy for me to do daily.
Early on, I would sit and think “Am I doing this right?” It was frustrating. I overcame that after reading a tip in a Thich Nhat Hanh book, suggesting to simply say the following as you're working into your meditative state. "Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out." I transition to only thinking about that phrase while continuing my breathing. This keeps my mind from wandering too much and has made a massive difference in my practice.
Below is the description of this method from Thich's book, "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching."
The fourth element of our body is air. The best way to experience the air element is the practice of mindful breathing. "Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out." After saying these sentences we can abbreviate them by saying "In" as we breathe in and "Out" as we breath out. We don't try to control our breathing. Whether our in-breath is long or short, deep or shallow, we just breathe naturally and shine the light of mindfulness on it. When we do this we notice that, in fact, our breathing does become slower and deeper naturally. "Breathing in, my in-breath has become deep. Breathing out, my out-breath has become slow." Now we can practice, "Deep/slow". We don't have to make an extra effort. It just becomes deeper and slower by itself, and we recognize that.
Later I was introduced to Tara Brach's guided meditations through Tim Ferriss, here's a link to Tara on Tim's podcast. You can find all of Tara's guided meditations here and she offers them at no cost. I find these very helpful, but prefer the method from Thich because I can do it at any time and without technology.
Here are some of the benefits I've noticed from my meditation practice:
Better concentration and focus
I've struggled with sitting and focusing for long periods my entire life. Meditation has drastically improved my ability to focus on a single item for a long duration. Since beginning to meditate regularly, it is easier to focus on essential tasks which require my full attention and I can solve problems more quickly.
Through meditation, I can detach from my typical thought processes and patterns which allows me to think more objectively and creatively. It has helped develop my critical thinking, so I face challenges with more confidence.
I’m less prone to anxiety when meditating daily and feel less consumed by the challenges I'm presently facing.
I’m more at ease, and it’s easier for me to be present with others when meditating regularly. Meditation triggers the body to produce hormones associated with calmness and happiness which encourage a more positive outlook on life.
Better physical health
Meditation helps my sleep pattern, assisting my body in repairing and recharging itself. There are scientific claims that meditation reduces hormones linked to stress, blood pressure, inflammation and high blood pressure.
I highly recommend beginning a meditation practice. It may be challenging initially but give it time to evolve. Start with a few minutes a day and consider using an app like Headspace or Calm. Regardless of how you start, I encourage you to begin. It has been life-changing for me.