Meditation has become a hot topic in the past five years after many celebrities, CEOs, and athletes have popularised the practice after doting on it to improve their performance. Create a lasting meditation habit as a healthy resolution this new year.
With many benefits including stress reduction, increasing self-awareness, improving self-esteem, increased tolerance to chronic pain leading to better performance, meditation has been on the rise. Among this pop science, celebrity endorsed, podcast fuelled craze the original message of meditation has been buried and can feel like another item on your dutiful ‘I should do this because it’s good for my health’ list. Which everyone who adds ‘exercise more’ to their new years resolutions each year knows, rarely gets done.
Douglas M. Burns wrote: “When asked, ‘What have you gained from meditation?’, the answer should be: ‘It is not what I have gained that is important but rather what I have diminished, namely, greed, hatred, and delusion.’” This quote is famously varied throughout texts on meditation and sets up one of the biggest pieces of advice about beginning a meditation habit, leave behind any former ideas of meditation or how meditation will benefit your life. If you want to commit to a consistent meditation habit then do it because you wish to observe your mind, not out of a forceful sense of obligation or in hope of miraculous transformation.
When you begin meditating you may want to start small with only 10 minutes or less per day since this is a new experience for you. Every moment counts so even if you only start with a one-minute meditation you will be building your habit. If you’re struggling to insert meditation into your day, try keeping the practice short and attach it to something you already do regularly, this could mean you meditate after brushing your teeth, after you’ve had dinner, or after getting out the shower.
During a meditation practice you frequently focus your attention on a particular sensation, most frequently the breath or the body, this is called an anchor. By keeping your focus on the anchor, when the mind starts to wander (and it will) you can bring it back to your anchor. Remember, you are not trying to clear your mind, this may happen for moments at a time, but when distracted as long as you gently return your attention to the anchor you have not ‘stopped meditating’ or ‘failed to achieve the goal of the practice’.
Choose your path
Find a meditation inspiration or resource which resonates with you. If you want beginner daily guided meditations where you can try many different types of meditation in one place, a meditation app such as Calm or Headspace is a great option to consider. Or if you want simplicity with just you and a timer on your phone, you may wish to read about meditation first. Many leading meditation teachers have books in which they describe their approach to meditation and mindfulness. Great starter books include Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe. There are a number of local meditation centres you can visit too here in Leeds.
Check out Calm.com and Headspace.com