How To Meditate

Robert Piper: America’s New Workout for the Brain

Half of America exercises at least three or more times a week. I’m not sure why at least half of Americans don’t do meditation, considering the benefits. America is one of the most resilient countries in the world; the DNA of this country is made up of people that took risks and came from all over the world. I think Americans need to adopt a practice that’s been shown to increase resilience and compassion.

Why is everyone in America not using a tool that may make you more compassionate, resilient, kind, and happy?

One thing I noticed enormously from the time I started meditation is that the practice has made me a happier and more compassionate person. I’m not perfect, and I’m sure there are people out there who think I’m not compassionate at all, and they are entitled to their opinion. But the reality is it’s something I consciously work on because of meditation.

I grew up in a culture where most of my guy friends are alpha males who love sports, and work in corporate America. They like to joke around and greet each other with a series of insults. Anyone who observes this would think that it is a comedy show. Now this is not good or bad, this is just a part of the subculture. If you ever go into a locker room of football players in the NFL, you might see a similar subculture.

If you would have heard the jokes that were made about me doing meditation, then you would understand where I’m coming from. Outside of the mindfulness and yoga communities in America, meditation is still not mainstream.

I admire Dr. Richard Davidson for his pioneering research in the area of meditation. I think programs like the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin-Madison are causing a ripple effect on bringing meditation to the masses. Or the work that Congressman Tim Ryan is doing with promoting the positive effects of meditation.

I think the millions of Americans who exercise should be meditating before and after they jump on the treadmill. Why is this not possible? They adopted an iPod into their workout. They should be meditating before work, and they should be doing some meditation during their lunch break to stay focused.

Ten years from now, this practice is going to be seen as just like doing a push-up.

Here are four ways to make the practice a part of your life:

1. At Work

Come up with various ways to incorporate meditation into your work schedule, whether it’s before, during, or after work. Try to bring your attention to your breathing whenever you feel stressed out, this can be done at any time throughout the day. Another option would be do it at your lunch break.

2. Before You Exercise

I find meditation to be immensely beneficial to be used before exercising. If you’re a runner, try to do at least 10 to 15 minutes of meditation right before you run. Then you can make your run a moving meditation.

3. Right When You Wake Up

If you do meditation right when you wake up in the morning, it will impact every area of your life. Try to do a few minutes of meditation every morning before you start your day.

4. Schedule a Five-Day Challenge

Make a commitment today that you are going to do meditation every day for the next five days straight. Meditation is like anything else — once you get over the initial difficulties, like trying to focus your mind, it becomes easy.

For more by Robert Piper, click here.

For more on meditation, click here.

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via Robert Piper: America’s New Workout for the Brain.

 

How I Meditate | Mindful Parenting

Let me be clear about this. I am not the “meditating type,” if such a type actually exists. I don’t wear long flowery skirts, I’m not into mystical rituals, and chanting has always creeped me out. To be perfectly honest, I always thought that meditation was for weirdos who would be better served by a little self-discipline and a well-crafted to-do list.

via How I Meditate | Mindful Parenting.

Until I had kids, and realized that perhaps I had become one of those weirdos, and that self-discipline and to-do lists weren’t the answer. I put on my research brain, determined to find a way to get myself back on track. Virtually every article I read about dealing with the challenges of parenting and balancing multiple roles came back to one idea: mindfulness practice, both formal and informal. (Formal practice includes meditation and yoga. Informal practice refers to those random moments during the day when you decide to purposefully pay attention—I’ll talk more about that later.) Once I started looking into it, I realized that there’s nothing woo-woo about all of it. It’s just about paying attention to whatever is happening, and accepting it without judgment. I found an entire body of research outlining the benefits of mindfulness meditation, including improved memory and concentration, stress reduction, and decreased emotional reactivity. It sounded like exactly what I was looking for.

I found an 8-week mindfulness meditation course, which taught me the basics of meditation, including different types (such as the body scan and focused breathing) and how to sit properly. Now, most days of the week, I sit for 20 minutes or so and just breathe. I don’t have a specific meditation space (we have a small house) or a fancy set-up, just a meditation cushion to help with my posture and a yoga mat that I fold over and sit on to cushion my knees. From there, I close my eyes and simply pay attention to my inhalations and exhalations. I don’t change my breathing, I am just aware of it. Every time I notice my mind wandering (which happens approximately every 8 seconds, or perhaps every 6), I bring my attention back to my breathing. And then I do it again, and again, until the timer on my iPhone goes off.

 

Am I a calmer, better person since I’ve started meditating? Some days I start to think so, but most days, well, I’m not so sure. Meditating is a bit like training for a sport—the more time you spend on the practice field, the better you’ll be able to perform during the big game, which in my case happens when I’m exhausted, my daughters are nagging me, and I can’t find a single piece of chocolate in the house. I’m definitely still a newbie. I do know that my brain is no unlike my young daughters: easily distracted, moody, and in need of a serious time out every once in awhile. So, I’ll keep sitting and breathing. I don’t expect to turn into the Dalai Mama any time soon, but hopefully I’ll feel a little more grounded than I might have otherwise.

If you’re interested in meditating, here are some resources to get you started:

Here is a list of MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction, the program started by Jon Kabat-Zinn) trainers throughout the country.

– There are many books on getting started with mindfulness practice, but I particularly like Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness, The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program, as well as Dr. Ronald Siegel’s The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems. Both books come with audio recordings of guided meditations.

– Wildmind.org has a great section on good postures for meditation.

– This is the meditation cushion I use. It is filled with buckwheat hulls, and feels a lot like a bean bag. However, there are other ones that feel more like pillows. Ideally, you should find a store where you could try them out and see what is most comfortable for you.

– I shelled out $1.99 for the Insight Timer app on my iPhone, because I like the (fake) sound of the Tibetan Singing Bowl for starting and ending my meditation. There’s also a version for Android phones. In the event that you are looking for a real singing bowl (which I don’t own), you should probably find a store and check them out for yourself. They come in many different tones, and you should find one that really resonates with you.

So, what do you all think? What do you use for meditation? What has worked for you? I’d love to hear your questions and thoughts.

 

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HuffPost: The Best Friend You Will Ever Have: Meditation

Ed and Deb Shapiro: The Best Friend You Will Ever Have: Meditation.

Honestly speaking, we cannot imagine how our lives would be without meditation. As soon as we become still and quiet we enter a calm spaciousness within which our questions are answered while difference and dramas dissolve. Such stillness always comes as a great relief from the madness each day can contain.

Some years ago we were attending a silent meditation retreat. Each day we were asked if we were feeling happier than we were the day before. The inquiring monk had a contagious smile, knowing that we were each confronting numerous obstacles to our happiness, primarily the ones in our own heads.

Yet despite his humor, the monk’s question was sincere. If we were not beginning to feel happier from practicing meditation, then what was the point of doing it?

We were asked the same question each day. To begin with this emphasized how preoccupied we were with inner confusion, doubts, conflicts, and discomfort, even how difficulties could actually feel more familiar than joy. Yet, why be there if we were struggling so much that we weren’t enjoying it?

Our smiley monk was teaching us that it is vital to make friends with meditation, that it is not your adversary. Rather, meditation is a companion to have throughout life, like a best friend we turn to when things get hard to deal with and we are in need of inspiration, clarity, and even inner happiness.

Admittedly, meditation can sometimes appear insurmountable, but it is our own mind that contains the obstacles, not the practice of sitting quietly, as the chattering mind can create endless dramas. Practicing meditation means slowly and gently training the mind to do something it may not have done before: be quiet and still.

One way to overcome resistance and make meditation your friend is to start by just sitting for a few minutes at a time, instead of feeling you have to meditate and then feeling guilty if you miss the allotted time or only do 10 minutes when you had said you would do 30. It’s far more important to practice for just a few minutes and to enjoy what you are doing than to sit there, teeth gritted, because you have been told that only 30 minutes will have any affect.

If your purpose is to try to achieve a quiet mind then the trying itself will create tension and failure. Instead, you are just with whatever is happening in the moment, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. No judgment, no right or wrong. Watching whatever arises and letting it go is all that is required. It is more of an undoing than a doing.

During meditation we gently let go of distractions so we can genuinely be present. Like a child watching an ant walking down the sidewalk carrying a crumb, that is all that exists in their world at that moment. They are not thinking about what they had for breakfast, or what they will do with their best friend at their next play date. They are only watching the ant.

Meditation enables us to stop trying, to let go of the story, the dramas, our stressed mind, and to discover an inner easefulness. Some people describe this as a sense of coming home, as if they had been away or out of touch with themselves without even realizing it; others experience it as a huge relief as there is a release of anxiety and self-centeredness and they enter into a more peaceful state of being. And many feel as if they are simply hanging out with a good old friend, always there when needed.

Can you see meditation as your BFF (best friend forever)? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs every Thursday by checking Become a Fan at the top.

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