“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” ~Blaise Pascal
[By: Martin Grunburg]
Chances are you’ve heard that meditation is good for you. Or, perhaps you are already sold on its benefits but you haven’t yet crossed over — you haven’t actually done it. You’ve been fixated on your excuses, the reasons you haven’t tried to meditate, such as, “I don’t have enough time,” or “ I don’t know how.”
So, we’ll start right here, with this: The very best way to meditate is (drum roll please) to BEGIN.
That’s right (a la Nike) — JUST DO IT.
This comes from my 15-plus years practicing the art of meditation.
Practice and Experiment
First of all, so let’s assume you’ve actually started “doing it.” Here, then, is my number-one, top meditation tip of all: EXPERIMENT!
At its essence, mediation is a private, personal practice. Therefore, the advice, at least early on, is to try NOT to become tied to any ONE way, doctrine or discipline. Stay open-minded and experiment.
PRACTICE and EXPERIMENT.
That’s it: Practice and experiment.
I’m not saying don’t study or learn from other meditation disciplines. For instance, some friends are adamant about TM (transcendental meditation), and yes, there are perhaps hundreds of different techniques being taught.
While many of these are likely to offer tremendous value, they may also, in a sense, be part of the “noise” keeping you from starting.
How To Begin Meditation
“Sitting peacefully doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows all by itself.” ~ Zen proverb
Sit quietly. Do nothing.
[Try this! Stop reading and go sit quietly for about five minutes]
How’d it go?
Were you anxious? Was it strange? Uncomfortable? Fun? Relaxing? Did you gain any clarity?
Why To Begin Meditation
Consider these words from my friend and mentor Brian Tracy:
“Clarity accounts for probably 80% of success and happiness.”
Eighty percent of success and happiness!? Is that true??? Consider that statement and reflect upon your levels of success and happiness.
Brian adds: “Lack of clarity is probably responsible for more frustration and underachievement than any other single factor. That’s why we like to say that ‘Success is goals, and all else is commentary.’ We know that people with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them. This is true everywhere and under all circumstances.”
Likewise, I’m fairly sure nobody knows if it’s 60%, 80% or 95% of “success and happiness,” but we do know it’s terribly hard (as in impossible) to hit a target that you cannot see!
So, perhaps TOP among all the other great benefits of mediation may be the clarity that arises from its practice.
“Muddied waters left to stand become clear.” ~Lao Tzu
The Unspoken Competition for “Busy-ness!”
How many times per day do you hear someone say, “I’m so busy!” or, “I’m too busy!”
Now, consider Coach Wooden’s clever insight: “Never confuse activity for accomplishment.”
The truth is most of us are very busy. We’re so busy doing things that will yield very little fruit in terms of lifetime value, and we’re frittering away our time on tasks that will mean nothing in 10 years.
Some people might actually be saying (not you of course) that they are “Too busy to take the time to meditate.”
Business consultants often share that for every one minute of planning you’re likely to gain back 10 minutes of productivity.
Well, if that is true, I’ll offer that for every one minute of meditation you’re likely to make back 60+ minutes of lifetime effectiveness (more powerful than even productivity)!
The time to stop, pause and meditate is when you don’t think you have the time.
Lin Yutang put it this way:
“The busy man is never wise and the wise man is never busy.”
At first all these quotes may appear to be meaningless clichés or platitudes; however, I’d encourage you to meditate upon them. ; )
So here are a list of insights from my personal meditation experiments.
1) Don’t set a time limit and don’t try to be efficient.
My biggest mistake was thinking that I had to meditate for 20 minutes at first. Then, I thought I was able to get the same benefit from 12 minutes, so I reduced my meditation time with the goal of being efficient. Then, before I knew it, my time was down to 10 minutes, then eight, six, and even two. The crazy thing is I actually was getting a great benefit even from a quick two-minute reset. However, I’d lost one of the key tenets: Meditation is hardly about being efficient; it’s about the process — the practice, the experience. Today, my average time is upwards of 45 minutes per day
2) Keep a log.
Any serious practice involves tracking. Feel free to track your practice in the free app or use our free habit and goal-tracking worksheet. Remember that real practice demands Intention and Effort, and tracking/keeping a log is a great way to reinforce both!
3) Guided or unguided meditation? Experiment!
Some people prefer guided meditation that walks you through the breathing and where to put your focus and how to practice mindfulness. You might try this yourself or may even try an app that will guide you, such as Headspace.
4) To empty the mind or not?
Some experts on meditation suggest one of the main objectives is to quiet and/or empty the mind. Others will say it’s to be mindful. Do not be confused. It doesn’t have to be an either/or. I have recently started to keep a journal (in fact two) with me during the meditation. I have my old moleskin and my new HabitXP planner with me. The HabitXP has been a powerful tool for further clarity as it devotes space to both mantras as well as vision, mission and values.
The crazy thing about this to me is I’d meditated for years without ever having a journal with me. The thought never occurred to me, nor had it ever been recommended. Then, one day in a meditation, I was reflecting upon a quote by David Allen, “The mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” To empty the mind and stay more mindful, I now jot things down as they arise.
5) Eyes open or closed? Experiment!
6) Breathing and stretching: Yes and yes. I’ve found that naturally, out of my meditation practice, I’ll spend a good deal of time stretching. As for breathing, there are too many variations to mention here and so many great ways that you can use breathing and visualization together. In fact, in many meditation practices, breathing is the centerpiece to drive mindfulness and relaxation.
7) Silence, mantras and music? Experiment!
First of all, silence is absolutely golden and I LOVE silence. But recently, after years of total silence in my mediation, I began experimenting with different background music using Pandora channels along the lines of #meditation and #zen. Then one day (perhaps on the Zen channel) I heard an amazing sound emerging from my laptop. I jumped up to have a look at what it was. It was captivating…the powerful, magical sound that was emanating from my computer turned out to be the sitar, and I immediately began searching for more music like that. It sounds pretty cliché, I’m sure, but it couldn’t have been more unplanned and organic. Above all, it all came from begin open and willing to experiment.
Consequently, today, my meditation practice involves sitar music, two journals, stretching, and sitting quietly doing nothing.
Finally, Remember that meditation is a practice. True practice is never a one-time thing, or even a two-time or yearlong effort. True practice means practicing for years… perhaps even a lifetime!