The first thing a lot of us do when we wake up is reach for our phones, checking our Facebook or emails before we have even got of bed. We don’t take the time to set ourselves up for the day, to compose the state we want to approach the world in.
It is really important that we create some space for ourselves first thing in the morning, and the best practice to give you this is meditation. Meditation has been a key daily practice for millions of people from all walks of life for thousands of years. It hasn’t been replaced by a better version in all that time for a reason. It works, and it works on many levels.
A quick search for ‘the health benefits of meditation’ will bring up hundreds of studies from very well-known and respected doctors, medical facilities and universities. These studies show that meditation is proven to help with a huge number of health issues from high blood pressure and stress relief to depression and immune-system health. In addition meditation will help us be more productive, more focussed, more accepting and ultimately happier.
By taking the time to be still before approaching your day you will be able to use the mind more effectively when you need it. The mind is just like any other muscle and through the training of meditation it can become stronger and more efficient. These days mindfulness has become such an overused term. Somehow we are just expected to know how to be mindful, which is like asking someone to run 10km who’s never run around the block before. If you first learn to be fully mindful of something simple like the breath, then you can really apply it to anything else you do.
To meditate on the breath, first adopt a seated position, whether on a cushion or on the edge of a chair. Keep your back straight and unsupported unless you have health issues, in which case sit however is comfortable, but avoid lying down. Take some slow deep breaths in and out releasing any tension you have in your body. On the in-breath you might like to think ‘relax’, and on the out-breath, you might like to feel the tension leaving your body with the breath. If you have time you can run through the whole body from top to bottom like this, relaxing and releasing tension as you go.
Once you have relaxed the body, simply put all your attention on the breath You can think ‘in’ as you breathe in and ‘out’ as you breathe out or you might like to count the breaths from 1-10. Your mind will always try to lure you away with all manner of distractions, thoughts and doubts, but you just gently bring your attention back to the breath, bringing your focus back to counting or saying in and out as you breathe.
Now I want to give you a tool that was given to me by my meditation teacher Ajahn Jayasaro, a senior Buddhist monk and meditation master from the Thai Forest tradition. This simple addition to your meditation will give you a depth to your practice and unlock some of the amazing benefits that meditation has to offer.
When you are doing your meditation practice imagine that you are a Village Doctor in a remote part of a poor country. You have a huge line of patients waiting to see you that have come from miles around all with different illnesses and ailments, all requiring your full attention as you see one after the other. This is exactly the same level of concentration you want to give every breath as you meditate, giving each one your total and undivided attention. By giving your complete attention to your breath in this way you will be completely focussed on the present moment. You won’t be lost in worry about what has already happened or what might happen in the future, and it will really increase the benefits from your meditation practice. Most of all remember to enjoy it. Just enjoy the feeling of breathing of just being, not trying to do or achieve anything.
Start off with 10 minutes meditation first thing in the morning and build up to 20-30 minutes over time. I really think this is the most important practice you could add your life.
Jez Stephenson – Head Coach JPDV
If you would like to have a free 15-minute coaching call to discuss meditation and any areas of your life you are looking to work on, or if you would like a copy of my book ‘Elements of Balance’ where this blog was taken from then please get in touch – [email protected]