- Set an alarm for five minutes
- Go to a place where you won’t be disturbed
- Pay attention to your breathing — the sensation of the air as it makes it’s way through your mouth, down your throat and into your lungs. Put all other thoughts from your mind.
- But of course, other thoughts will scream for your attention. When you notice that you’ve stopped paying attention to your breathing, start paying attention to your breathing again.
That’s it, go do it. I’ll wait five minutes.
Well actually I don’t need to wait because writing and reading happen at different times.
The key part is step four — that’s the exercise.
I think of the state of quiet focus as holding a weight off the ground. When a thought pops into my head, that’s the weight dropping to the ground. Returning to focus is lifting the weight again. It’s not meant to be easy, but it gets easier over time. And soon you’ll be really good at putting the unwanted thoughts that make you unhappy to one side.
Unfortunately, a lot of “how to meditate” advice skips over step four, which can leave you feeling like a failure because you only manage to focus on your breathing for about five seconds before you think about that person at your work who made a decision that fails to take into account an important factor, even though you have pointed out that important factor to them.
The result might be that you feel meditation is something you can’t do; that it’s for other people, that you have failed. Well if you ask me, that’s hogwash. You can do it, I have faith in you.
The bullshit I am not mentioning
If I was more popular on the internet and thousands of people read this, I would have a comments section full of bullshit, people pointing out the complexities I’m neglecting and the myriad ways in which I’m wrong wrong wrong.
Alas I have not been visited by the popularity fairy, so I will attempt to dissuade you of these distractions…
I assume that if you’ve found this article, it’s because you’re looking for advice on how to meditate, and so two things are probably true:
- you are interested in meditation
- you are not an expert at meditation
If my assumptions have not made an ass out of me, then you don’t need to know or care about the different types of meditation (I will only say that ‘mindfulness’ is a type of meditation so that if you’ve come looking for information on mindfulness you’ll know you’re in the right spot).
You don’t need to know anything about Buddha or the ‘religion’ and fanaticism he would be appalled to learn he spawned.
I went down this path of learning all about Buddhism and soon realised it’s just a bunch of complexity created over thousands of years by people trying to get out of doing their meditation. I made this mind map (probably™) to wrap my head around it (and this just touches the surface):
So, you don’t need to know Buddhism, you don’t need to light candles, you don’t need to sit with your legs crossed. The straightness of your back is nothing to concern yourself with. You don’t need to hum or balance your hands on your knees with your thumb and index finger touching. The only reason you even have this image in your mind is because it’s in every stock photo ever for ‘meditation’. (A prime example of bullshit: “[arranging your fingers like a fool] is said to generate knowledge, wisdom, receptivity and calmness” — I mean come on. No wonder meditation is having trouble breaking into the mainstream).
You could be forgiven for thinking that meditation is only for skinny girls in skimpy clothing facing the water sitting like a gooses.
It seems that even when it comes to pursuits of the soul, sex sells.
The reality is less glamorous: sitting on a chair facing plants.
That’s right, you do not need to travel to your nearest body of water in order to meditate.
But maybe you’re interested in the accoutrements and the stereotypical contortions. You’re a hipster, that’s cool, I don’t deny your existence. But here’s a suggestion: consider all that stuff bonus material, and treat it as a, um treat. A gift to yourself which you have earned only once you have sat quietly for 5 minutes, 14 days in a row.
But right now, stop procrastinating, stop reading about how to meditate, get off the internet. Just go and sit quietly focusing on your breath for five minutes, returning your focus to your breath as your mind wanders, and do that for two weeks. Then you have earned your sandalwood incense sticks and a really uncomfortable seating position.
Here’s my prediction: in two weeks you will have realised that mediation is all about the mind and none of that other bullshit matters. It’s 100% all up in your noggin’.
It’s not easy, it requires effort and most of all, requires that you actually just go and do it.
Off you trot.