28 May How I meditate
There is a lot of good stuff out there about how to meditate, but since people have been asking me how I do it and how they should start, I decided to sum up some of what I have learned so far. Hope this helps and you feel as good as I do.
MY FIRST REASON, NOT MY LAST
Before I get into the “how”, I want to explain the “why” I got into this. I work with career coaching and performance booster programs helping people have more clarity and results. I learned that many of the best world performers meditate, no matter what they do, musicians, bankers, investors or writers. When I came across this conclusion I got surprised, curious and left with the only option of trying it myself. So I started meditating. Best way to get my people to do it, was sharing my own results, right? Later I learned that the performance is only a small part of it. There are so many reasons I have been discovering along the journey. Stress relief, weight loss, creativity, clarity, compassion, etc.
BOOKS AND APPS THAT HELP YOU START
I first started by reading a book called “Instinct to Heal” by David Servan, a young and brilliant french neuroscientist who practiced medicine in the US and ended up coming to Asia where he became fascinated by the results of alternative treatments and developed ways of taking some of these practices to the west in a more practical, less spiritual, form, so it was more easily accepted. He developed a course teaching business executives how to “breathe with their hearts” for 30 minutes per day and bring their heart rates back to a more productive level that became really popular in the US. He helped many of his patients cure emotional and mental diseases substituting traditional practices such as medication or therapy with meditation. This got me really curious.
I’m later going to talk about two other books that were really important for me. “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change” and “Wherever you go, there you are”.
Then I downloaded an audio guided meditation from another american neuroscientist called Sam Harris. I heard an interview he gave for Tim Ferriss’ podcast where he talked about the power of meditation and his life journey learning about it. I thought it was really interesting to see meditation from the perspective of a smart neuroscientist. He talked about the impact that meditation has on one’s brain. That got me curious so I wanted to listen to his guided meditation. He has two of them out there. One that is 9 minutes long and another one that is 26 minutes long. It is by far, the best guided meditation I have heard, because he goes into some simple, yet deep observations. In this same interview he talked about how a meditation retreat can really bring your meditation practice to another level, that’s why I went to Thailand a few months later to do my first one.
Then, I heard of an app called “Headspace” that gives you a 10 day exercise called “Take 10”. It requires you stay 10 minutes each day, ten days, with your eyes closed listening and experimenting to what this British guy says. For beginners, it’s fun. They guide you through the process and tell you exactly what to do. Of course I got too anxious and did more than one session per day, sometimes three, so I finished it in three days. They have some very cute animations and the process teaches or reminds you of the basic principles of meditation. I totally recommend it. Headspace also has a few free podcast episodes that talk about how to meditate while you walk, eat, love, etc that are quite nice.
The book and these two tools got me excited and I added a third app called “Calm” to my list. I like the nice sounds of nature that you can listen to there with your headphone, when meditating in a noisy place. When I don’t have the silence I need, to focus on my breath, I use it to relax. They also have a 7 day free guided meditation program. This one has a soft woman’s voice.
After you hear the guided meditations for a while you know what you need to do already and you can just close your eyes and do it yourself.
WHERE TO MEDITATE
Since I’m always traveling, I don’t usually have a yoga mat, so I sit on my bed, cross legged, in a comfortable position, put my hands over my knees, move around swinging from side to side a bit just to find my most comfortable spot. If you don’t feel comfortable crossing your legs, you can just sit on the bed or on a chair and put your hands on your legs. It works the same way. I like to sit in an honorable, leader like position so I feel I am the leader of my own thoughts and therefore, the leader of my own life. This reminds me of the best book that I have read specifically on meditation, that is called “Wherever you go, there you are”. It really improved the quality of my meditation and I totally recommend you read it after a few months of practice. It will make more sense then.
HOW MUCH TIME
So right before you close your eyes, don’t forget to set your alarm clock for 5 or 10 minutes. If you feel like you can do 10 minutes, set it for 5 minutes. And when it rings, if you decide doing some extra time on your own, what a bonus! That will feel great! You won! After a year meditating, I set my alarm for 20 minutes and sometimes, specially when I have more free time, I just continue for as long as I want, sometimes for up to an hour.
READY TO START
So now you have your eyes closed, your alarm clock is set, you’re sitting in a comfortable place where no one will disturb you, with or without your headphone on, in case you are in a noisy place or you are still using the guided meditation. Remember that this place could be anywhere, even inside your office’s bathroom if that’s where you will get some privacy.
WHAT TO IMAGINE WHEN YOU INHALE AND EXHALE
When I started meditating, I heard we should think of what we wanted in our lives coming in while we inhale and what we didn’t want going out while we exhaled. But later I read a book called “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change” where I learned that it wasn’t the best way to do it. Pema Chodron talked about the power we have to change the world we live in by meditating non-selfishly. We can do that by imagining the good things we dream for ourselves coming in while we inhale and those same things going out, multiplied by ten times while we exhale, going to the world we live in and to those we share our time with. This way, we are working as filters for a better world. I love this exercise! So I normally start my meditation practice by doing this for a few minutes. I like to picture the ones I love and when I exhale the air filled with all those goodies, it goes straight to them. But I also include a bit of “Hoponopono*” into this exercise and also exhale good things to those I might be having some kind of conflict with. And don’t forget to also send those goodies to the physical place you are living and working at the moment. Then I think of family, friends, clients, neighbors and the entire globe. I specially think of abandoned kids and I’m sure you will find your special groups you want to send good vibes to. After I finish cleaning a bit of the world I live in, I feel more excited to go out there and do my thing!
HOW TO BREATHE
The next important step is how you breathe. I only really learned to breathe when I did my first meditation retreat and read a manual they offered with some practical techniques. It was the first time I saw this. I am a very practical person so it served me really well. I will share it with you. This book talked about the points A and B, usually your nose and your belly. So the air comes in through point A, your nose and it reaches point B, your belly. You should imagine that path, back and forth. And feel the air coming in, tickling your nostril and your belly moving up and down as the air gets there.
THE MAGIC POINT OF BREATHING
But it specially talked abut how you should pause after you exhale for a few seconds before you inhale again. That is actually the most important and magical places of all, for concentration. This is where it all happens. The moment you finish exhaling, you should just stay there, with your cool, calm mind, just thinking “ this is it”, “I am alive”. This magical point is so powerful that my “teacher” in the meditation retreat told me to observe it but not attach to it. I didn’t quite understand what he meant the first time we spoke. But I kept observing that place, after I finished exhaling, before I started inhaling again. I can normally stay there from 5 to 10 seconds but sometimes I get so relaxed that I think I stay there for almost a minute, not breathing, just totally relaxed and awake. That’s where I feel complete relaxation and have experienced the “cool calm mind” the monks talk about. It only lasts a few minutes or less but it feels like eternity and it reminds me that place exists in me. I just need to visit it every once in a while.
WRITING AFTER MEDITATING
One important thing I started doing is writing down all the thoughts that visited me during meditation. So right after I meditate, I sit for 10 minutes and write my thoughts. The ones that showed up during my meditation. I don’t do it every day but whenever possible. This encourages me to pay attention to them, but not let them take over. Just notice they are there so I can write about them later. This has been a life changing exercise for me. Because after I write, I notice what is bothering me the most and i put those things in my top priority “ to do list”. I want to get rid of them, as soon as possible, to free my mind.
BEING IN CONTROL
This opened up another huge discovery in my life. The power of writing. It beats any therapist I’ve had and it’s for free. I just write whatever is in my mind. The first step to controlling something is observing it, closely. By observing your thoughts you actually start taking control of your mind again. It’s amazing how some small, stupid thoughts sometimes take complete control of our lives. We can filter what stays in our mind and therefore become who we want to become. We are what we think about.
Well, I think I’ve given you more than you needed for a good start. To finish, I will share an example of how I meditate below. Hope you like it! And if you do, please send me a short note with how it worked for you!
“Instinct to Heal” by David Servan http://mentalhealth.about.com/…/special…/fr/instinctheal.htm
9 minute sam harris guided meditation: https://itunes.apple.com/br/podcast/exploring-the-mind/id733163012?l=en&mt=2&i=169482420
26 minute sam harris guided meditation: https://itunes.apple.com/br/podcast/exploring-the-mind/id733163012?l=en&mt=2&i=169482419
Tim Ferris interviews sam harris : http://fourhourworkweek.com/2014/06/18/sam-harris/
‘Wherever you go, there you are” free audio book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tH1_agS2P5k
“Where you go, there you are” of Jon Kabat-zinn amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Wherever-You-Go-There-Are/dp/1401307787
“Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change” http://www.amazon.com/Living-Beautifully-Uncertainty-Pema-Chodron/dp/1611800765