Now is a great opportunity to start meditating. You’re stuck at home so don’t make up excuses and begin practicing. Let’s dive in!
The First 3 Phases in Meditation
Now is a great opportunity to start meditating. You’re stuck at home and there’s a limit to what you can do. Don’t make up excuses (so really you don’t have 10 minutes in your 24/7 quarantine?) and let’s get on with it!
Clarification: I’m thinking about the most simple meditation technique out there. Which is: You’re in a sitting position (don’t lay down because you will MOST CERTAINLY fall asleep), with your eyes closed and you’re focused just on observing how you BREATHE IN and BREATHE OUT. Nothing more, nothing less.
So in this initial process what will certainly happen to you can be divided into the following three things:
You are definitely not HERE and NOW
Don’t lie to yourself. You suck at being in the present (disclaimer: as the rest of us too). Your mind is constantly moving from one thought to the next. Or even going in circles! You might also be thinking “Why am I doing THIS in the first place?”. All valid thoughts and most importantly they are all TRANSIENT! They will come and go. And it’s okay. It really is. Just remember to come back to the breathing part once in a while 🙂
In this first phase the GOALS are:
- Come back and observe your breathing cycle each time your mind wonders.
- Detach from your thoughts, slowly but steadily.
So what I mean by the above is that once you accept the fact that your mind is a speaker on high volume at an inch distance from your ear, you just have to work with what you got. “Okay I’m mess, it’s okay, and I’ll try to suck a little bit less each time I do this”. Baby steps and you’ll get through it.
“Come back” is what Rose said on that raft in order to be saved. And that’s what YOU have to do to your consciousness to save you from yourself. You start thinking something. Come back. Another thought and so the game continues. At first, it will take more time to return to your focus of attention. Then, a little bit less. Then interestingly enough, less than before. And that’s the first great win!
Detachment. Think of it as a shallow stream of water and each time you think something, you get on a different canoe that’s passing by. When you stop following that line of thought, what you’re doing is getting out of that boat and letting your feet feel that nice crystal-clear current. The stream is your breathing. It looks like it’s the same water but it’s always new. Just like inhaling and exhaling. It’s “constantly different” (weird how those two make sense in a sentence right?).
You’re sometimes HERE and NOW but you’re playing with your breathing
So the mind is a bit calmer than before. Not so many thoughts passing by. It doesn’t take you long to return to your breathing. Getting off that canoe ;). But darn! Each time you focus you are altering your breathing. You can’t help it!
Ironically, you want to be an observer but you’re also the one doing the breathing. How can you be both at the same time? Every time you start observing your inhaling, you awkwardly inhale much more (or less) than you’ve been doing before. So your breathing seems unnatural. It’s like when you are self-conscious when you have to walk into a stage while a crowd is staring at you. This simple act of walking becomes a complex series of highly coordinated movements! It’s tought, I know.
But that too will pass. There’s no magic solution. You just keep observing and this control over your respiratory system fades away. Trust me. It’ll pass.
I’m more or less HERE and NOW and I can finally observe my breathing naturally
Congratulations! You’ve passed that awkward phase and now you can get into serious business.
And hey, your mind seems quieter. I know there are some thoughts here and there, but overall I mean it’s not so bad, isn’t it? And it feels good. It’s nice to have some calm inside yourself. There’s not much noise as before.
This “gap” between one thought and the other one is filled with silence and this “gap” is becoming larger with time. It’s quite a relief! There’s litteraly some peace of mind in your life, and all thanks to you! Pat yourself in the back.
As you practice you get more used to this sensation. Just like any other muscle, your mind muscle becomes more fit. It works in your favor and you just need to keep practicing. Make your mind an ally. The rewards will truly be impressive.
A Harvard study showed that just after 8 weeks of meditation practice you could actually see changes in your brain structure! For example they found out that there was a significant reduction in gray-matter density in the amygdala, a brain region key to anxiety and stress regulation. People felt considerably less stressed than before (McGreevey, 2011). And this is just one example of all the benefits you can acquire with this practice!
So you’re stuck at home. What can you do? Start meditating! We have a great opportunity to start a new positive habit in our lives. But it will take time to get your mind and body accustomed to it. I wrote about the initial challenges you face when you start this practice. And now I realize I’ve focused from the chin up (breathing and thoughts). The body is a challenge in itself!
So what will you most probably go through is the following:
1. Your mind is noisy and you are not aware of the HERE and NOW. Your awareness comes back occasionally to the act of breathing. It’s okay, try coming back more often.
2. Your mind is still a mess (although a little less) and you’re trying not to alter your breathing but it’s just too damn hard. Don’t despair and keep practicing! You’ll get there, I promise.
3. Your mind is much more quiet and you can start observing your breathing without altering it. You start feeling some benefits. Don’t stop and keep practicing 😉
So this is just the beginning (that’s why the article is called the FIRST 3 Phases) and you have a long way ahead. It will take time, but you’ll get better at it, and you’ll feel how your life slowly changes.
It’s worth it, trust me…or even better, trust yourself 🙂
McGreevey, S. (2011). Eight weeks to a better brain. Harvard Gazette.
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