HOW TO MEDITATE: A PRIMER
@ChrisK wants me to hold forth on my favorite subject? Not a problem.
- •Mandatory preparatory step: stop assuming that meditation is either: a. bullshit or b. impossible.A. There is now a considerable body of science suggesting meditation can lower your blood pressure, boost your immune system, and literally rewire your brain. B. People often tell me, "My mind is too busy to meditate." Here's the good news and bad news: you're not special. Everybody's mind is busy. That's why we need to meditate. Don't expect it to be easy. It's kind of like going to the gym. If it's easy (especially at the beginning) you're probably cheating.
- •Step #1: sit comfortablyYou don't have to be in a funny position, unless you want to, of course. You can sit in a chair. You can also stand or lie down. Often, people close their eyes – I do – but some people keep them open just a little bit.
- •Step #2: focus on your breathBring your full attention to the feeling of your breath coming in and going out. Pick one spot where you feel it most prominently: your chest, your belly, or your nose. Try to really focus on the sensations of the in-breath and the out-breath.
- •Step #3: (this is the biggie!) when you get distracted, just start againThe whole game in meditation is getting lost and starting again. You're not trying to reach some special state where the mind stops thinking. (Although that might happen when you get really good... I hear.) You're just trying to muster the grit to notice when you've become distracted, and then get back in the game. You will get lost approx 1 million times a second. And that's completely fine.
- •That's it?I mean, kinda. The cliche is that meditation is "simple, but not easy." It can be helpful to read a book (I recommend "Real Happiness," by Sharon Salzberg), take a class (Insight LA or NY Insight), or download an app (blatant self-promotion alert: I have a new one, called "10% Happier: meditation for fidgety skeptics"). Bottom line: I recommend meditation. I've been doing it for six years, and while it hasn't made my life a nonstop parade of unicorns and rainbows, it has made a real difference.