NOTE: I’m reposting this from a previous blog post at my personal site. Enjoy!
Everybody’s Doin’ It
We’ve had quite a few guests on the show that when asked “What is the one thing a guy can do TODAY to start positively changing his life?” the answer is invariably “meditate.” Bill Harris, Ken Wilber, Jun Po Dennis Kelly, Kute Blackson, Brian Johnson and the Authentic Man Program Women are all on board.
Even the ultimate badass, Darth Vader was a meditator. (Which also proves that you can meditate and still be kind of a dick, but that’s for another post altogether…)
I’m not a meditation expert nor am I a meditation teacher. In fact, my practice is a bit shotty. However, I have been going at it for almost ten years, and my cushion dutifully waits just a few feet from my office chair everyday. It reminds me that, yes, this is the single best practice a person can do. Now take your seat!
It’s pretty simple. Most everything we want in life — more love, freedom, success or chocolate requires that we have clarity. Specifically clarity about what we want. Meditation provides tons of benefits, but for this context let’s just say it strengthens our integrity and the ability to be present.
So what? If I’m not *here* I can’t get *there.* — If I’m not here in this moment, I can’t respond to the challenges or opportunities that are actually here. If my mind is constantly wandering in the past or fantasy-future, then I’m unable to take action in the current moment — the only one we’ve really got — to create the life that I want. Meditation is a bicep-curl for our inner resolve and strength.
How’s that for a reason to give it a shot? Great.
So Let’s Get Started.
Step 1: Get a Kickass Timer. If you’re on a Mac, click here to download this nifty free Meditation Timer Widget or use any timer you may have. This is relevant to the integrity arena — just sitting for a “while” leaves the door open for our saboteur to get us off the cushion. “Did I leave the iron on? I better check…” Nope. Pick a time and stick to it. Your ass doesn’t move until the timer goes “ding” or the fire department shows up.
Step 2: Find a comfortable place to sit. It’s important that your back is straight and upright. Many sit on a special cushion or a bench. For now, I’d recommend the forward part of a chair so you’re not slouching or leaning into the back.
Option two would be a few cushions on the ground — enough so that your hips are higher than your knees when sitting cross legged. Imagine your spine is a stack of blocks each resting on the other. There’s no need to “muscle” it when sitting. Let the structure of your body actually hold you up.
Either way, find a method for sitting with your spine upright so that your attention can be on your practice and not the pain in your back. When I started out, I sat on some cushions with my back straight up against the wall.
Step 3: Set a time period. I would suggest twenty minutes. If this is too much, start at 5 and add a minute each day. Make it impossible not to follow through, but continue to push your edge. At one point I was sitting two hours a day. I feel confident you can do 20 minutes. 🙂
Step 4: Eliminate distractions. Turn off the phones, computer, facebook, twitter, your girl (I wish some of my ex-girlfriends had an on/off switch) — anything that will ask for your attention. Again, make it impossible to fail. The world waited 4 billion years for you to arrive, it can stand another 20 minutes without you.
Step 5: Set your timer and take your seat. In the Meditation Timer Widget mentioned above I created a function to delay the start time of the session so you could get settled.
Step 6: Set Your Focus. It’s important to have a solid focus point — your breath, the sensations in different areas of your body, a count of some sort. Having this “rock” gives your mind something solid to return to when it gets hijacked — and you WILL get hijacked. No worries, just come back to your focus point. Again and again and again.
I’m going to list a couple of methods here. The point is to pick ONE and stick to it for the duration of the session. Don’t bounce around through various techniques. Take a few sessions to find the one that works best for you and commit to stick.
- Follow Your Breath — If your breath goes away, you’re dead. So this is a great rock to focus on. Specifically, find an area of your body like the inside of your nose or where the breath moves in and out of your torso to focus. In this method, it is about focusing on the sensations. Get curious and just observe the sensations.
- Count Your Breaths — There are various ways, but I’ve enjoyed saying “In” on the inhale and counting “One” on the exhale silently in my mind. This is very helpful for quieting my monkey brain.
- Explore Body Sensations — Same principle as above except pick a spot on your body that offers a sensation. For me, my hands are very noticeable when I’m quiet. I may just sit and feel the tingly energy moving around my palms and fingers.
There are a ton of techniques, but these are ones that I’ve found the most easy to use in the beginning.
Step 7: Start Your Session. You’ve closed your eyes. The timer has sounded and you’re off. You’ve picked a focus method above and you’re rolling. You remember you need to call so-and-so about that thing and, Shit! Stay cool. You got hijacked. Come back to your focus point. This will happen A LOT.
Our brain is an organ who’s function is to create thoughts and all kinds of crazy shit. Don’t try to go “head to head” with it. Accept it. This practice helps you with how you respond. Do you get sucked right in to the fantasy of the moment? Do you witness it and choose to stay on your focus point? When things go to hell, do you pitch a fit and quit? Or do you remain calm and trusting — calmly and confidently returning to your focus?
It’s like life. Life is going to challenge you and work really hard to pull you off of your path or commitment. How will you respond? When you falter, recommit and keep moving forward.
This is where the big life training benefits of meditation come in. Inside our mind is a special ops training ground for doing our thing in the world. Use it for good, Young Jedi.
Commit to meditating 30 days straight without interruption. If you miss a day or two, start the 30 day count again. Why? Give yourself a real chance to see the positive changes and benefits associated with this practice. And if you’re serious about stepping up your practice, meditate with someone else or a group. This will do wonders for your progress and peace of mind.
One session won’t do it, but a little each day can do a lot. Good luck.