“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” - Zen proverb
Meditation helps improve your focus by practicing redirecting your mind away from distractions. My quest today is to make a practice in meditation feel approachable - like jogging for the mind. Decision-makers like you should be conversant in meditation to help you make good decisions.
How to meditate
Once you have decided to meditate comes the how. Is it with a teacher? Or an app? Which style? Today’s blog will cover all these questions and explain to you a basic practice that you can do right now and then discuss some of the most common variations.
Meditation - the basic theme
Meditation of whichever form has one common element, a focus. The aim is to concentrate on that focus and when you feel distracted, bring your mind back to that focus. The aim of the practice is to achieve calm awareness.
Basic Practice - Mindful Meditation
Here is a really simple practice to decrease distraction by reducing external stimuli. Mindful meditation involves the following steps:
Sit comfortably on a chair so you can breathe easily
Adjust yourself until you are comfortable
Close your eyes
Focus on your breath by observing your inhale and exhale. Do not try and control your breath, just observe.
Allow thoughts to naturally pop into your head, but do not engage with the thought. Observe it and let it melt away.
Keep doing that until you wish to finish your practice for at least 90 seconds (set a timer if it's your first time).
If you are a beginner meditator please set your timer for 90 seconds and perform the steps above right now.
I started my practice at a length of 90 seconds and increased it by a bit each day. There is always a temptation to try and up the volume quickly, but I would always recommend small increments with consistency - preferably every day. In this meditation the focus was the inhale and exhale of the breath, but the focus you choose can vary.
Guided or non-guided
If you work with a teacher or an app, you will be guided by prompts or commands for example 'now it's time to close your eyes'. Some people find this a good way to keep on task, whereas others prefer complete silence.
Looking inwards or outwards
If you are looking to get distracted less, the mere act of closing your eyes, reduces a huge amount of stimulation around you can focus inwards to benefit from clearer thinking. If you add to that silence, being still and alone, many of the natural distractions have been removed. This is practice for reducing the background ‘noise’.
If your intention is to quiet the constant stream of thoughts in your mind, you can explore the practice of external focus. For instance, you may choose to listen to soothing music or gaze at a flickering flame. These external focal points can aid in managing stress, anxiety, and transitioning into a state of relaxation after periods of overstimulation.
What are examples of things to focus on?
I have put examples of these at the end of the blog.
Not all meditation is done sitting down. Movement meditation is a thing too. The most obvious example is a walking meditation where the focus becomes either the sensations of your feet, or observing things around you.
Slow stretchy yoga, like yin yoga where the focus is staying in position or slow graceful movement of qi gong or tai chi are also great ways to experience focused movement.
The use of meditation apps
I have at various points used meditation apps and have good things to say about Calm, Headspace and the Waking Up app. I also know the people behind the app flown. I think apps are a great way to build structure around your practice and reluctantly recommend them, but do not want to put you off your practice by the hassle of sign up admin and expense. For me now, meditation requires no apps and no kit.
Other meditative activities
If the idea of meditation seem too forced and unnatural, that does not count you out. Much of the same calm can be achieved through everyday meditative experiences that have elements of relaxed focus. These tend to be gentle activities with an external focus and use of your senses. Examples below.
How is this relevant to decision-making? Here are three take-aways before we pick it up next week:
1) Meditation helps train your mind to improve focus by redirecting your mind away from distraction.
2) A basic practice can be done by yourself, with no kit in under two minutes. If you have never meditated before, complete the basic practice above right now (don't overthink it).
3) Meditators can vary their focus and incorporate movement to find one that works best for them. There are also lots of meditative everyday activities
Thank you for joining. Next week - 'Your breath impacts your state of mind'. Don't forget to sign up to the subscription list.
Other blogs in the meditation series:
Examples of some forms of meditation
Flame guided meditation: 5 Minute Candle Meditation - YouTube
Visualisation guided meditation: Guided Meditation "5 Minutes Off" by PeacefulPause.com - YouTube