In other blog posts I've mentioned that I think meditation can be a great tool for improving your concentration, so I thought I'd take a few moments here to explain how to meditate. It comes very naturally to me these days, but if you've never meditated before you may not know how to get started, so I thought I'd share this very simple technique here.
How to meditate
This is the very simple technique I learned when I first started meditating. Even in Zen schools, meditation is very simple. The secret is in the daily practice, the repetition that builds the new neural connections in your brain.
Here are my steps to getting started:
- Go to a quiet room where you can be alone, and have privacy.
- Sit in a relatively comfortable position, but in a way where you can keep your back straight. Cross-legged on a cushion is great, but sitting on the end of a folding chair and just looking at the ground in front of you is also fine.
- Sit still, close your eyelids about half way, and focus your eyes on a spot on the floor in front of you. Ideally your eyes will be looking down at roughly a 45 degree angle.
- Keep your back straight, tuck in your chin so the back of your neck is comfortably straight, and just focus on the spot in front of you.
- Breathe in quietly through your nose, and inwardly say the word "one" as you breathe in.
- As you breathe in, breathe in through your belly, down in the navel area, not in the area of your ribs.
- When you're ready, breathe out slowly through your mouth, and in your mind say the word "two" as your breathe out.
To meditate, just continue this process until you get to the number 10. At that point just start back at the number one again.
Just try meditating for a few minutes at first, just five minutes, or ten minutes tops. As you continue your meditation you can increase your time, but at first there is absolutely no benefit in extending this time. It may also help to know that in Zen center you never meditate for more than 30 minutes at a stretch anyway, so why try to do more than they do?
Things you'll run into
As you meditate, you'll find that several things occur, and they all have to do with your mind wandering.
One common problem is that your mind wanders, and you forget what number you were on. Don't worry about, just laugh at yourself for your inability to control your mind, and start over again at one. Don't get frustrated -- this is extremely common, and is, in fact, the normal human condition.
Another common problem is that even though you remember what number you were on, thoughts come into your brain. It goes something like this: "Three ... darn, I can't believe I did that today. What a dufus. Two ... oh, mom's birthday is in a few weeks, I need to remember that. Hmm, what's for dinner tonight? What should we do this weekend?"
When this happens, again, just laugh at yourself, and let these thoughts go, and start over again, counting from one to ten.
I'll be glad to write more on the practice of meditation, but for now, I'd just like to share this with you to help you get started on the path of learning to control your mind. Again, the mantra is "Meditation leads to concentration."
I first read this phrase in the book "Dojo Wisdom for Writers", and I believe in it strongly.