Meditation for Those that Can't Stop Thinking
The benefits of meditation are now widely known, but the very same reasons why we should find time to take it up are often the same reasons that stop us. Yes folks, technology (iPhone, ipad, laptop) has affected our ability to commit to even a few minutes away from our devices.
Yet the very simple practice of mindfulness meditation has been proven to benefit a number of areas of our lives, including learning, memory, emotional control, stress response, and empathy to name but a few.
So if it helps you become smarter, calmer and nicer, are you still sure you can't spare a few minutes a day? I know that I can't afford not to! With a bit of practice and consistency you will start to see benefits in all areas of your life - mind, body, and spirit.
Which type of meditation should I try?
I have tried a lot of different techniques, and they all have their merits. I find it works well for most people to start off with a mindfulness meditation, where you focus on quietening down all that chatter in your head, even the upbeat, self-congratulatory patter.
Don't worry if it feels like you're not doing it right, or someone next to you is doing it better (if you're in a class). The whole value of meditation is to rise above judgements; it's not about being 'good' at it. Just trying to meditate has benefits.
I mix it up. Some days I meditate just concentrating on my breath, other times I focus on the sensations in my body, or I choose a guided meditation if I am feeling more distracted than normal.
Simply notice your feelings or other distractions, and in a gentle way, say 'thank you for visiting' and go back to concentrating on your breath or chosen sensory focus. Don't worry if you continue to get distracted, persist and overtime you will start seeing benefits in every area of your life.
How to meditate?
It's best to meditate sitting down with your back and neck straight, but relaxed. This helps your spine find it's natural position. Sitting in an upright position also helps keep you focused.
You can try meditating with your eyes open - the Dalai Lama, one of my meditation heroes, does this - but closing your eyes can help bring your other sense into play.
If you're prone to drowsiness like me (for a while I meditated last thing at night, laying down in my bed, and well let's just say the meditation practice didn't last very long!) do it before meal times and not to close to bedtime.
When you find yourself getting distracted, acknowledge the fact, then return to concentrating on your breathing. It's just a matter of noticing it and bringing it back, not fighting the thought.
When the mind's judging, that's what you're trying to actively let go of.
When to meditate?
Ideally set aside an allotted time each day, preferably somewhere quiet where you won't be interrupted. Before breakfast and dinner are good times to meditate because the metabolism slows down after eating and sleep can occur more easily then.
I meditate in the morning, first thing, and before I get the kids get ready for school. It is my time of uninterrupted solitude - well, on the days the kids are being good - and it gets my day off to a really positive and peaceful start.
Turn off your phone. I know this is hard - even after 17 years of meditating, on and off, it is still tempting for me to check my friends' updates from the latest wild party on Facebook.
If you instead use your mobile to take you through a quick guided meditation like the Buddhify app, or provide soothing background music, you can suddenly be transported somewhere else that is worth staying.
Meditation is just about revisiting yourself and shutting off all the endless chatter. Simple. Easier said than done, but the fact that it makes you feel more happy and more peaceful, don't you think you're worth it? I do. So no excuses guys!