The two biggest mistakes we make when trying to start a meditation practice: Saying we cannot clear our mind of thoughts, so why try?; and saying we don’t have enough time.
First, let’s dispel of the notion that in order to “meditate” we must clear our minds of thoughts. Our brains are wired to simply pulse thoughts and emotions in a continual flow, sleeping or awake. I have often quipped to students in yoga classes that if your brain were cleared of all thoughts you’d be dead, which I would prefer not to have in my class, no matter how dedicated the student.
Instead, the foundation of your practice is to allow the thoughts rather than fight them, to cultivate a clear and present mindfulness to them, without attachment, as they come and go. This awareness is a fundamental part of why meditation is so healing and carries with it a long list of medically proven health benefits. It activates the Relaxation Response, which helps:
- Improve Immune Response;
- Lower Blood Pressure;
- Improve Digestion (to name just a few)
Sure, in time you will begin to realize that there is a space between one thought and then the next, and that over time we can begin to “hang out” in that space between the thoughts. But we can all cut ourselves some slack, and just give ourselves the space to sit down each day and breathe and relax, and reap many mental and physical health benefits.
Second, let go of the notion that you need to sit for hours on end to be a serious meditator. While that works for advanced practitioners, my guess is that you just want to feel better now. The breath that I am about to share with you can give you an almost instant impact. You can be an active meditator in just 3 minutes a day.
Try this 3-minute mindfulness breath right now, even at the office. Why wait to feel better?
Start Today: The Left Nostril Breath.
NOTE: Breathing through the left nostril in yoga is said to engage the “Ida” or calming/parasympathetic nervous system. Breathing through the right nostril is said to engage the “pingala” or activating/sympathetic nervous system. Breathing through both balances.
Here’s How: Sit comfortably in easy pose, or in a chair, with your feet flat on the ground, sitting up with a straight and comfortable spine, hands resting on lap. Close your eyes and take a deep, slow and full breath through the nose. Then, with the thumb of your right hand, close off your right nostril. Begin to breathe slowly and deeply through the left nostril, sending the breath down to the lower abdomen. Shoulders stay relaxed. No need to force or hyperventilate. Breathe naturally for 3 to 5 minutes, and then open your eyes and notice how you feel.
Start with the end in mind, and savor it. Bring a sense of possibility and joy to the start of your practice each day. If you feel like you “have” to do it, then you won’t return to it -and you’ll have missed the whole point. Start with an easy 3 minutes and commit to just 7 days to begin. If you like it, keep going and see if you can build to 5 minutes, then 11, then 20 each day, for total of 40 days.
Meditation is profoundly useful and necessary, regardless of religious affiliation or personal belief systems. You’ll golf better. You’ll run your company better. You’ll make love better. You’ll simply be happier and more peaceful and alert.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes in the comments below - and I know others will enjoy hearing from you, too!