I’ve always done this ever since I was little. I would lose myself into the pages of Harry Potter for hours as I watch my inhales and exhales, witnessing how the story affects them from moment to moment. I guess it’s a way to remind myself that I’m still living in a muggle world. Otherwise, it soothes me to whiff the smell of fresh print and feel the grainy textures of paperback. I never knew until recently that this is considered meditation.
Like most folks, I’ve always had this notion that meditation is what only Buddhist monks, yogis, and new age hipsters do. Unless you’re still living in the cavemen era, you’ll realize there’s a mindfulness movement going on on a global scale. Everyone from Bill Gates, Hugh Jackman, Keanu Reeves, Gisele Bundchen, Hillary Clinton, Ariana Huffington to the hedge-funders of Wall Street practices meditation as part of their daily lives, not to mention how the body of research on the health and brain-boosting benefits of meditation just keeps growing – you fear less, stressed far less easily, happier overall, focus better, become more resilient, can better tame the demons in your head, and best of all: You grow a thicker and bigger brain1.
Thing is, you don’t have to find a specific place of total quietness to start meditating. Heck, you might already be doing it without knowing it.
Meditation is simply a state of consciousness where you place your attention onto something. While you’re at it, you consciously shift from the immediate and random thoughts that arise, observe how they fleet, and come back to that something. This usually involves focusing on your breath – inhaling slowly, belly rise, exhaling even more slowly, belly falls. Don’t think about your muffin top – just breathe like you don’t exist and it’s just you, your breath, and your spirit.
Another way to meditate is just walking. It’s something I love to do everyday while I was living in SF. You just sync your footsteps with the rhythm of your breaths and, if it makes you feel better, take pleasure in visualizing yourself catwalking on a VS runway.
For me, the easiest way to meditate is to let yourself feel the brief tingles, gentle rubs, and other little sensations of things that are presently around you. It’s convenient because you can sense things anytime, anywhere, if only you truly attend yourself to the present moment. Even in the most humid forest your skin can feel where the tiniest winds is blowing, and buried in the sandiest beach you can still sense the cool air each time you lift your feet.
As a Christian, I know that that inner calm in me is actually the Holy Spirit2, so to me meditation isn’t about “emptying the mind”. In fact, it’s the opposite: You let things come as they are and learn to become compassionate about it. Out of surrendering and letting the spirit overflow you you become more open, more accepting, and less judgmental. Out of contemplating its presence as a lifestyle you just get better at keeping calm and carrying on, because you know there’s always someone who has your back.
But I digress. Back to the point: Meditation is really that simple, so simple that it’s almost unbelievable to see that it can transform well beyond your daily habits – it changes your very being.
To get into that Zen-like state right now, there are a few places to start:
- Focus on your breath. Count it, watch it from afar, realize that it’s deep within you. Judgment comes, criticism comes, let them be. Observe them without your own judgment or criticism. Gently return to your breaths again and count. Keep on it for as long as thoughts arise – watch the thoughts in the air and always come back to your breath. Inhale … exhale. Distractions will always be around, but you don’t have to be consumed by them.
- Walk steady, perhaps slower than usual; pace yourself and absorb your surroundings. Listen to the faint, clacking sound of your heels in the midst of the bustling city. You smell the onions of a Subway sandwich somewhere, you overhear someone’s getting a divorce near a cafe, you see a kid coming toward your direction that’s about to fall, and you’ll instinctively know how many footsteps it takes to hold the boy’s hand so he doesn’t fall. #truestory
- While driving, turn off the radio/music player. If the road is clear, drive at a steady speed and at every turn, feel the engine pulling your body from side to side. If the road is congested, come back to your breathing and watch the surrounding cars, trucks, buses, and motorbikes passing each other by. Even if you get angry about it, you’re still stuck in that position. Accept the emotion inside, detach yourself from the voice that says it’s a wrong emotion, and realize that you don’t have to express that anger. Thoughts can only be things if you allow the substance of it to take shape.
- While in the shower, breathe in and breathe out as you lather your featherlike soap against your skin. Exhale long and deeply under the warm rush of water. Feel it, get lost in it, let it run all over your body and soothe you.
- While you’re about to eat, take a few deep belly breaths. Then eat. How fortunate you are to be able to eat such nice things. Savor every bite, let every taste you can sense titillate your buds, and swallow. A new Facebook notification pinged your phone, and all that taste from your food vanishes the instant you’re about to check your phone. Don’t. It’s most likely not the end of the world, and you’re having a serious foodgasm. Notice your default reflex to check your phone every time there’s a new notification, realize how easy it is now for things steal your attention like this, come back to the delightful taste of your food, and continue chewing its colorful textures.
- Mantras. Recite them in your heart, repeat, match the syllables of the words with your strides. Keep running.
via NaplesKnight on Tumblr