I’ve been meditating for over 20 years. I came to the practice because I was looking for something more. What does that mean? I didn’t know, but inside I felt like there was something more to life, more to this journey we’re all on, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I began to seek, some might call it a spiritual quest. I started reading books, browsing magazines, and I even found a few sites on this new thing called the world wide web. It was the mid 90’s after all. Back then, I had such a difficult time meditating. I definitely couldn’t sit in some weird cross legged position, roll my eyes behind my head, and look like I was in a state of bliss. I could barely sit still, let alone sit quietly. I was a fidgety kid and a more restless adult.
I remember days I would come home from a 12 hour shift at UCLA Medical Center, dim the lights, put on some super chill music, and lie quietly on my bed. That was my way of meditating. It worked for me and to this day it’s a very useful technique for anyone with a desire to relax. It doesn’t have to look like a crazed guru covered in ashes.
I did begin to feel a slight tug for more. There was a lure from this so called quiet space. I think it was because my mind was so busy and as a troubled young man in my early 20’s I was afraid of that silence. What was my mind going to think? What truths would come up that might scare the shit out of me? I didn’t know and I wasn’t willing to find out. Then one day I took the leap.
I decided to sit upright, in a chair, in total silence, for 10 minutes. I lit a candle and set a timer. I closed my eyes and began to meditate. I would follow my inhales and follow my exhales, then I’d start thinking about how stupid I must look from the outside (no one could see my, by the way). And I started to think about how useless this whole thing was. Why should I meditate, it’s a waste of time. I’m perfectly okay and my super chill music is the perfect form of meditation. Well, I just couldn’t handle it anymore. My jaw was clenched, my fists were tight, and I finally cracked! I opened my eyes at 9 minutes and 43 seconds. I know what you’re saying to yourself, “Noooooooo!” I know, a lousy 17 seconds. But the shell was cracked, I opened the door to a new journey that would transform my life.
After that day, I was able to build a consistent meditation practice from 3 minutes to 10 minutes to 20 and sometimes even 30 minutes twice each day. I began to crave the silence. It became nurturing to my mind, my body, and my soul. I’ve been meditating ever since and while I’m not perfect everyday, there aren’t many days I’ll miss. And by the way, not all of my meditations are perfect or pretty for that matter. But the fact that I get back to the cushion as often as possible has truly made me a happier, calmer, more compassionate, and generous man.
Here are the basic basics of meditation:
Connect to your breath. If you’ve ever driven a car and almost got into an accident, or if you’ve ever been anywhere and had a close call, what’s the first thing you do? Correct, you take a deep breath. Welcome to the world of meditation. All you’re going to do in step 1 is take a deep breath. Then take another and another and another. After one and even more so, after a few, you’ll begin to relax. It’s our human response and it’s the beginning of learning about our inner world.
Follow your breath. Once you’ve connected with your breathing, now it’s time to see where that can take you. So while you sit or lie down, follow your inhales and exhales. Notice the air, your ribs expand, the diaphragm rise and fall. All these things will help you stay present. This is the point of all meditation, to stay in the present moment and not think about 17 things at once. You can tell when you’re talking to a regular meditator because they are super focused. It’s that inner peace and that calmness that we all seek.
Follow your mind, but not too far. The next step, and arguably the most crucial, is understanding your mind. Your thought patterns really do have an effect on our life. If we tend to be more negative and critical, it shows up in our lives. While if we’re more positive and optimistic, it shows. A not so recent article from Harvard Health shows that a positive outlook early in life may improve your quality of life for the following 15-40 years! I’m sure the stats are even better today.
There it is, your basic basics. This is the most simple meditation gets, no chanting, no mantras, just simple, easy, practical and yet profound. I’ve created a free 3 part video series to accompany this post if you’re interested find it here. And as always, feel free to reach out anytime @teddymcdonald I know how busy our lives can be. I’ve been able to find a solution and I’m happy to help you find one too.
Originally published on the author’s website.