How to meditate? 10 minutes a day can make all the difference

I have been practising meditation for the past few years religiously. This journey started with multiple curious questions like the one below.

“How to meditate?”

“How long to meditate?”

“Any specific sitting postures to get max benefit of meditation?”

“Will I be anger free & all of my emotions will be in control?”

“What if I sleep during meditation:-) ?”

“Do I need to control my thoughts and have an empty mind to meditate?”

“Is it ok if I get distracted during the meditation practice?”

With all these curious questions, I stumbled upon an app called Headspace, founded by Andy Puddicombe, which provides guided meditation. Intrigued by the app features and kept on researching Andy, a monk and found his amazing book, The Headspace Guide to Meditation & Mindfulness.

This book contains a step-by-step guide to meditating and answers the above questions comprehensively.

Before we proceed further, it is essential to understand the difference between mindfulness and meditation.

Mindfulness means to be present. It means being in the moment, experiencing life directly as it unfolds, rather than being distracted and caught up by thought. Example:- Experiencing the sip of water that you drink or a delicious meal without being distracted by some thought or fear or upcoming daunting task or fear of failure.

It is not a temporary state of mind that we need to create and maintain. Instead, it is a way to step back and rest the mind in its natural state, free from chaos and experience the things we do.

This needs the right kind of training and conditions to step back to rest the mind in its natural state.

Meditation is a technique to provide the best training and conditions for practising the skill of Mindfulness. Even without practising meditation, we experience being in the moment or fully present with activities like skiing, paragliding, listening to a favourite song, playing with your child, etc. This is kind of hit and miss. We don’t get to experience it all that often. But by sitting down to meditate each day, even if it’s for a short time, that feeling of being in the moment becomes increasingly familiar. It is then much easier to apply for the rest of your life.

Andy, the author, says just 10 minutes of resting the mind each day can remarkably change the way we lead and experience life.

The mind is a complex piece where it can work on autopilot, sometimes creating great pleasure and sometimes creating significant pressure. Hence to take control of the autopilot mode of mind and learn the skill of mindfulness (i.e. being in the present moment) is first to experience it in less chaotic conditions.

The less chaotic condition is to sit down in meditation, i.e., give your mind some time to rest and experience or observe the thoughts/emotions etc. Once you pick up the expertise of mindfulness during meditation, it will be easy to apply to everyday life.

The book continues to explain the

  • Approach(understanding of if and buts of meditation)
  • Practice ( the 10-minute step-by-step guide to meditating)
  • Integration(how can we integrate meditation into everyday life activities like walking, jogging, eating, drinking, sleeping)
  • Research outcomes of meditation

Before I jump into the step-by-step exercise, I would like to share an eye-opener from the book on how to perceive meditation.

Many people think that meditation means stopping thoughts or diverting their minds to a different context when there is an unpleasant thought. Kind of controlling the mind!! — Absolutely Not!!

But it is actually to step back, observing the mind as the thoughts come and go, be it pleasant or unpleasant. Resisting the thoughts will cause more thoughts to pop up and drain a lot of mental energy.

So meditation is a practice of stepping back and observing the mind. Resting it in its natural state.

  • Sometimes you get carried with some thought while meditating, which is ok. Once you realise you come back and again continue doing the exercise.
  • Also, once you sit down for meditation, you might feel overwhelmed with all the thoughts running in your mind. You start feeling that meditation is causing this, which is not valid. As you begin meditating, you have opened the door to shed light on your mind to see what’s going on and hence you might feel so, which is also entirely ok.

Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person or even a better version. It is about understanding why we think and feel how we do things to experience life more mindfully.

Neuroscientists discovered that the brain’s structure would change with the continued meditation practice. It is observed that the area of the brain associated with happiness and well-being becomes stronger. This book encapsulates many such types of research and findings on the benefits of meditation.

Now, it is time to share Andy Pudicombe’s Take-10 meditation exercise (just 10 minutes a day ), which can make a remarkable difference in one’s life.

Take 10 meditation exercise

Take 10 meditation exercise

Getting ready:

  1. Find a place to sit down comfortably, keeping a straight back. (You can choose a comfortable chair to sit on, no need to criss-cross)
  2. Ensure you’ll be left undistributed during your meditation (switch off your phone)
  3. Set the timer for 10 minutes

Checking in:

  1. Take 5 deep breathes, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth and then gently close your eyes.
  2. Focus on the physical sensation of the body on the chair and the feet on the floor.
  3. Scan down through the body and notice which parts feel comfortable and relaxed and which parts feel uncomfortable and tense.
  4. Notice how you’re feeling — i.e. what sort of mood you’re in right now.

Focusing the mind:

  1. Observe your breath, notice where you feel the rising and falling sensation of the breath most strongly
  2. Notice how each breath feels, the rhythm of it — whether it's long or short, deep or shallow, rough or smooth.
  3. Gently count the breaths as you focus on the rising and falling sensation — 1 with the rise and 2 with the fall, upwards to a count of 10.
  4. Repeat this cycle between 5 and 10 times, or for as long as you have time available

Finishing-off:

  1. Let go of any focus at all, allowing the mind to be as busy or as still it wants to be for about 20 seconds.
  2. Bring the mind back to the sensation of the body on the chair and the feet on the floor.
  3. Gently open your eyes and stand up when you feel ready.

Meditation is a skill. Give it some time. Make this part of your daily routine irrespective of whether you are anxious or calm in your mind. These 10 minutes a day will improve your experience of life and bring mindfulness to every aspect of life.

Book link

Thanks to Andy puddicombe for compiling this great book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to make meditation and mindfulness part of their life routine.

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