I’m a huge believer in “quiet time.” That is, sitting in a chair and taking in the universe without contributing my two cents.
It can be hard to get started with meditation, so let me recommend three easy “starter” meditation ideas. I call it Shut Up, Relax, and Pay Attention.
This is the first step in any meditation. It consists of sitting quietly, closing your eyes, and simply quieting your mind. Do this for 30-60 seconds. With you eyes closed, notice the subtle sounds of your environment. The clock ticking. A bird outside. A distant car horn. Your heart.
Just listen. Take note of the sounds, but don’t focus on them. When thoughts enter your mind, gently pick them up and set them aside.
It’s quite amazing how three deep breaths can help you clear your mind (and lower your blood pressure).
A great beginning meditation is a relaxation exercise. I love audio meditations for this. You can buy CDs or download MP3s. There are hundreds of options out there. You’ll probably need to try a few before you find one that really works for you.
Relaxation exercises are great because you have a voice to focus on and a task to perform. Generally, you’re going to do a body scan from head to toe and relax your whole body. In longer exercises, you will then have a period of silence to just relax and feel your body relaxed. This might be three minutes, ten minutes, or even longer.
The best audio programs have relaxation exercises of various lengths. They are great for beginners – and you’ll come back to them from time to time even years after you start meditation.
3. Pay Attention
You’ve probably heard of “Mindfulness” meditation. It simply means to be aware – mindful – of what’s going on around you. Mindfulness can be as simple as the two exercises above or go very deeply into a complete awareness of your mind, your body, and your emotions.
We filter everything in our lives. Everything we see. Everything we hear. Everything we experience. Everything we touch.
Filtering our world is a kind of defense mechanism. You can’t focus on everything. You can’t take in all the sensory input or your brain would be overwhelmed. We don’t even pay attention to 1/1000th of what is in front of us. We can’t.
Mindfulness exercises are intended to help your brain to look at things just a little differently. For many people, the exercises consist in stepping out of yourself and trying to understand a different perspective about what’s going on.
Mindfulness exercises ask the question, “What’s actually going on here?” When you open your senses just a tiny bit, there’s a whole new world of experience. You’ll probably never achieve the ability to pay attention to 2/1000ths of what goes on in your world. But the journey from 1/1000 to 2/1000 is amazing.
Many people who meditate do mindfulness exercises every day for decades.
Adding even a little perspective to your world can be a very calming influence on your life.
Remember: You can’t meditate wrong. Relax. Enjoy. Keep at it.