I’ve said it a number of times: meditation is the fundamental habit.
Why? Because it helps you develop an awareness of your urges & rationalizations that will help you develop or quit any other habits you want to create.
Meditation takes a lot of practice, but in my experience, there’s no more useful habit you can build if you want to create a number of good habits (or quit bad ones).
I know, meditation can be intimidating or confusing to many of us. I was confused when I first started: How do you do it? Do you need a special mat or clothes or incense or anything? Is it difficult to do? How do you control your mind? (you don’t) Does it take a lot of discipline? Do I need to do it with a class? Where and how do I do it? Why should I do it? Will it take hours? Is it for people who are into Eastern spirituality?
Let’s take a look at what meditation is, why it’s a good thing (whether you’re spiritual or not), how to get started and other beginner questions, and what to expect during this month’s Meditation Habit module.
What It Is and Why It’s Super Important
What is meditation? That’s actually a very complicated question, as the word could have lots of different meanings and it’s practiced in many different ways. We’ll keep it simple, and pick one definition and type of practice: it’s practicing mindfulness.
Meditation as we’ll practice here in Sea Change is sitting meditation. Though you can meditate while walking or doing the dishes or taking a shower, I find it best to start with simply sitting. That eliminates a lot of complicated distractions, so you can start as simply as possible. Once you get good at sitting meditation, you should expand it to other things like walking and running and doing everyday activities.
When we do sitting meditation, the form doesn’t matter very much. To form the habit, we’re simplifying and trying to get to the essential practice. So we sit, and we practice mindfulness.
How do we practice mindfulness while sitting? There are different ways, but this month we’ll mostly focus on our breath. For those who have been practicing for awhile, I’ll offer some more advanced versions. But for everyone else, focus on your breathing, as it goes in or out. We’ll go into more detail soon.
Why practice mindfulness through meditation? Actually, there are lots of great reasons. Here are a few (read about research on meditation for more):
- It relieves stress and helps you to relax.
- When you practice mindfulness, you can carry it out to everyday life.
- Mindfulness helps you to savor life, change habits, live simply and slowly, be present in everything you do.
- Meditation has been shown to have mental benefits, such as improved focus, happiness, memory, self-control, academic performance and more.
- Some research on meditation has indicated that it may have other health benefits, including improved metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and more.
Those are just the highlights. Actually, some of the best benefits of meditation are hard to define — you begin to understand yourself better, for example, and form a self-awareness level you’ve never had before.
Most simply, sitting for just a few minutes of meditation is an oasis of calm and relaxation that we rarely find in our lives these days. And that, in itself, is enough.
So what should you start practicing?
I’d like you to meditate in the morning, by sitting (anywhere is fine) and focusing on your breath for two minutes. Return to the breath when your mind wanders.
This is the most basic practice. More will be shared in other lessons.