Life can be challenging and work is stressful at times. Large, successful companies such as Apple, Google and Nike provide meditation sessions for their employees during the work day, citing benefits such as increased productivity, creativity and employee satisfaction. Meditation also helps us to cope better with emotions, improving relationships with ourselves and the people around us. We have all heard of the many benefits that meditation bring, but where and how should we start?
Which mindfulness meditation technique to start with?
There are many great mindfulness meditation techniques and the trick to improving your life through meditation is to choose one technique and simply start doing it. For beginners, an easy one is the “Ten Breaths” meditation technique. In this technique, the breath is your sole object of concentration.
Count “one” after the first round of inhale and exhale, “two” after the next round, keep repeating this until you arrive at “ten”. (i.e. inhale-exhale “one”, inhale-exhale “two”, inhale-exhale “three”… inhale-exhale “ten”, inhale-exhale “one”, inhale-exhale “two”…) Upon completing of ten breaths, go back to one.
There are three ways that each cycle of counting could turn out:
1) You count from one to ten breaths
2) You get distracted along the way and do not make it to “ten”
3) You make it to “ten” and continue to go beyond that because you got distracted
Regardless which scenario happens, always go back to “one” and start over. Distractions will happen as our minds are so used to being pulled in many directions all the time. In this practice, your job is to keep bringing your mind back to counting your breath. If you find yourself getting distracted, be patient and compassionate with yourself and simply come back to your breath. Dealing with distractions is part of the practice.
How long should you meditate for?
Set your alarm for three minutes for a start – even this might be challenging for many of us who have busy lives and buzzing minds. If you find three minutes of quiet sitting impossible, start with a conservative one minute, or even one breath first. Make this practice completely doable and set yourself up for success.
How often to practice meditation?
Every day. Meditation is like exercise – the more you do it, the stronger your mind gets. Yet it takes time to see lasting results. However, the good is that you will feel a difference in your body and mind almost immediately.
The problem is that the feeling of calmness derived from meditation will get disrupted as we go about our days. Thus, we need to consistently go back to our meditation practice to maintain that feeling of calmness. If we make meditation a habit, it becomes part of us and it will be much easier for us to maintain the sense of calmness despite of what happens around us.
Where is an ideal place to meditate?
Find a quiet place indoors where you will not be interrupted. Keep potential distractions to a minimum to make your practice more fruitful. This place could be a room at home or a quiet space at work. If there is absolutely no available conducive place, make do with the best that you can find.
There are several free apps such as Headspace, Daily Meditation and Prana Breath that provide guided meditation. If you prefer to be around other people and want to connect with other practitioners, Nithya Priyan School of Yoga and Kadampa Meditation Centre have weekly classes at centralised and easily accessible locations in Singapore.
When to practice meditation?
Make sure that you are not feeling sleepy. Meditation is not shutting your mind off. Instead, it is full focus of the mind on one single object. Meditating while you are sleepy is the same as trying to work on an important project when you are tired – sometimes necessary, but preferably not!
Wake up, wash up, drink a cup of water then sit down for your daily meditation. If the early morning does not work for you, find a way to work meditation into your schedule, just as how you would schedule a meeting or workout session – it is a time to feed your soul and clear your headspace.
Meditation clears your mind – the endless thoughts in our head are like pebbles, while our mind is like the water in a lake. Just as how the lake becomes clear when we stop throwing pebbles into the water, our minds become clear when we stop agitating it with endless thoughts. The lake becomes clear, and so do our minds. Building a meditation practice can change your life.