Just Ten Minutes a Day.
It’s one of those things we all know we should be doing. Some of us have done courses and read up on it. Others think someday we’ll do a course and read up on it. A lot of us don’t actually do it even though we know it will be good for us. Meditation. Just ten minutes a day. Maybe just three minutes a day. Maybe just three breaths.
There are numerous benefits to meditation, in fact, it’s such a hot topic in modern science that new studies are emerging all the time confirming what practitioners have always known. In a nutshell it calms us down. A regular meditation practice teaches us the ability to connect at will with the part of us that functions optimally, the head space we operate from when we are quiet, grounded, relaxed and clear-thinking, our best selves. In developing the skills to meditate we are also learning to notice ourselves getting caught up, getting anxious or stressed or depressed and we learn to revert, in a breath, back to our place of optimal function.
So much to gain, so little required, then why aren’t we all doing it? Establishing a daily practice of anything requires discipline, attention, patience and a huge degree of self-compassion. As humans we can find this stuff difficult. That’s why we have teachers to guide us, to encourage us, to reward us and to keep us motivated. And that’s where I come in to help you.
Step 1. The hardest one … conquer this and you’re 90% there … schedule ten minutes a day. I set my alarm 15 minutes before my usual waking up time. I do the minimum, drink a glass of water, and in the half-light and the sleepiness of my yet to be woken household I get comfortable and log onto my Insights Timer App. Having a app really helps me; it’s where the teacher enters the picture to assist with the discipline and the patience part of the process. If using an app appeals to you I suggest downloading Insights Timer. If you like to be talked through the ten-minute period, an app like Headspace can help you. If ten minutes a day sounds long, and it can be!, start with three. If three minutes a day sounds long start with three breaths. Yes, pausing to take your attention to just three breaths during your day is a mini meditation practice and it can have profound effects on your life.
Step 2. Accept you’re going to feel like you’re not doing it ‘right’. There is no such thing as a perfect meditation practice. Many people, often in hushed, guilty tones, tell me they can’t ‘do it’… they can’t clear their heads and blank their thoughts. My first reaction, always, is “me too!!” I can’t just sit there, at will, and think of nothing. I can however, turn my attention at will to the sensation of breath entering and leaving my body because I’ve practiced it. We all experience meditative moments in normal life without necessarily recognising or labelling the moment as such. Imagine for a moment being in a new place or in a beautiful place in nature and finding yourself struck by beauty and pausing to really notice the joy in that moment. Or pausing in a moment of contentment, maybe at the end of a delicious meal or during relaxed times spend with family or friends. Or that moment on your holidays when you take a deep sigh and think ‘this is the life’. That feeling of utter contentment is the state of bliss we can reach in meditation. The thinking, worrying, planning mind is inactive. In the absence of incessant busy thought we revert to our natural state, as humans our natural state is one of happiness. Practicing yoga is one way to help quieten the busy thoughts but even very proficient, very practiced yogis will often confess to me they can’t ‘do it’. I know, I get it, me too. But in the trying, in the patiently giving it another little go, sitting in stillness and taking our attention to breath we are doing the practice.
Step 3. Don’t give up! That incessant, annoying, busy thinking mind is always lurking right there!! You’ve made the effort, set up your area, congratulated yourself on getting this far and then you sit and all you can think about is how it’s not happening and you’re wasting your time. And then you turn your thoughts to breath and the situation calms right down and then off it goes again. And again and again and again. And each time you patiently try just one more time to turn your thoughts to breathing you are doing it. That’s the practice! I’ve had mornings when I’ve nearly cried with frustration and despair at the endless chatter of my anxious, hasty, impatient mind and tried, almost in vain it seems, to come back to the breath. And then, later that day, in some surprising moment when I find myself getting stressed or wound up I automatically turn my attention to my breath and peace is restored. It’s often on the days I feel I’ve done a ‘bad’ practice that it comes back to me without any effort at all, it just happens, calm takes over as I notice my breath.
Try it now. Three breaths. Maybe make them bigger like a sigh or maybe just stay with your natural breath and notice where in the body you are feeling, or sensing it. Maybe you can feel it in your belly, your chest, your throat or your nose. Just three breaths and your nervous system will quieten, your blood pressure will drop and physically your body will calm down. When your body calms down the mind automatically calms down to. It’s science and it works.
Stay connected with me for a short video coming soon to help you set yourself up so you can sit comfortably without holding tension in your body in order to observe your breath.