Ever heard of the phrase "Keep it Stupid Simple"?
"The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design, and that unnecessary complexity should be avoided." Wikipedia.org
Let's just start by saying that the Art of Meditation and ultimately Mindfulness is WAY Easier than it may appear at first... once you figure out what the heck you are doing, of course.
Up until fairly recently the practice of regular Meditation has been an elusive unicorn in my life. I will admit it has taken me a long while to really get a grasp around it but once I started, WOW.
Let's rewind for a quick moment. Once upon a time, wayyyy back in '88, the CUTEST little munchkin with white blonde hair and big blue eyes (Me) was born to two wonderful, amazing, and fairly open-minded humans, in Lethbridge AB, Canada. My parents parted ways when I was very young and shortly after that my dad moved to B.C. My first few years saw me going back and forth between provinces and living for many months at a time with either parent. This rotation continued up until starting pre-school, at which point they decided it was best for me to settle down and attend school in B.C. my Dad.
Fast forward to at me 14 years old, camping in a field (a field with literally ALL of the slugs slugging about) up some forest service road near Pemberton, B.C., with my Dad and 250 other folks ages 14 to 90. My pops enrolled us both in all sorts of these "interesting evolutionary experiences".... lol. People seeking growth, enlightenment, success & guidance came from all over the world to participate in an event called the Enlightened Warrior Training Camp, a Peak Potentials Training course by T. Harv Eker. This was the first of many of these kinds of adventures with my Dad; Week long personal growth camps, Millionaire Mind School courses, meditation retreats (fake it till you make it right?!) and a month long Excursion through Egypt, Kenya & Tanzania shortly after my 19th birthday to name a few.
("Interesting Evolutionary Experience" also happens to be a GREAT phrase I picked up from a teacher by the name of Satyen Raja of Warrior Sage, used for describing/labelling/talking about Anything life may be presenting you with, without labelling it as a positive or negative, aka without Judgement.)
I remember attending one 10 Day Meditation retreat back in 2005 that was in Complete Silence at ALL Times outside of the daily (and intense) meditation schedule. I participated in all 10 days of the Sri Ramana Maharshi's styled "Who Am I" dyads, but I never felt like I was really connecting or getting what I was supposed to get out of it. One would THINK that things might start to click just a wee bit for me in that lengthy amount of practice time but Nope, they did not.
Over the last decade and a half, every few months (or years) I find myself getting inspired and for varying periods of time I get into the habit of trying to practice the whole meditating thing again. I'd keep it going for a few days, a few weeks even sometimes but, I inevitably always ended up abandoning the focus and life goes on.
I once was perusing a magazine and I came across an article talking about how just 5 minutes a day of practice can start to REGROW the grey matter in your BRAIN in less than a week! I thought to myself "DAMMMMMN that's CRAZY. 5 min a day is all it takes eh?" I have watched people younger than my parents being diagnosed with Alzheimers and told there is no known cure, this kind of information was pretty ground-breaking stuff to me to say the least. It really seemed as though there were a million reasons to meditate and zero reasons not to... alas, I could never manage to stick with it long enough to crack the code or feel the feels they say come with the practice.
Well, well, wellllllllll, let me tell you something Cool11 Over the last 3-6 months the clouds of the unknown have FINALLY parted for me. I GET IT !! Yay.
I will say that it certainly looks and feels different than I expected but Oh My Gosh is it ever an Amazing feeling to hold once you get connected. It doesn't matter whether you are alone in a quiet space, driving along on your daily commute, walking to class, eating, you can practice Mindfulness anywhere!! Heck, depending on what you do for work you can probably even practice there too!!
Now remember, there is no right or wrong here, there is only doing.
How To Meditate Anywhere in 5 Easy Steps
Take a nice deep breath, wherever you are right now.
Now Exhale slowly, like take a good 5 seconds, longer if you can handle it !
Continue to inhale and exhale, nice and slow. Inhale. Keep your focus on the air coming into your lungs, on them expanding while they fill all the way up. Exhale. Hold your focus on a slow and controlled exhale, using your diaphragm to squeeze all the air up and out of your lungs. Carry on like this, staying focused on the air being inhaled and exhaled, for as long as you have or as long as you like, whether that's 30 seconds, 3 minutes or 30 minutes.
** CODE ALERT ** CODE ALERT ** (This is the plug yall) Take note of when your mind begins to wander away from your breath. You might not catch it right away. It's very easy to quickly end up in some corner of your mind or another, thinking thoughts that are far far away from the presence of the air flowing in and out of your chest, expanding and contracting your lungs. That's perfectly OK. This is why it is called a Practice.
Now, as soon as you become aware that your mind has trailed off on you, simply pause your thoughts where they are and gently bring them back to your breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. . . .
And That, my friends, that IS the Practice. Meditation. Mindfulness at its core. Simple.
Practice makes perfect. Remember these steps often. Be proactive, set reminders throughout the day on your phone, or find other ways to cue yourself to slip into the presence of your breath, as often and as much as you can. We all hold a deep peace within us, this is how you can tune in to yours. Take yourself out of yesterday, tomorrow, next month, and bring yourself to this present moment right here and right now. This is possible to you with each and every breathe you take.
Eyes open, eyes closed, honestly whatever floats your boat will work here. Don't get hung up on the technical stuff. Remember to KISS... (Keep It Stupid Simple) If you are able and choose to close your eyes, try mentally looking in at your nose and then up towards eyebrows.
You can do this Anywhere. I actually figured it out when I finally threw the rule books out the window and just started practicing the 5 steps at work all day. It even works while driving, just make sure to definitely NOT close your eyes behind the wheel... Literally hope to Gawd I didn't Need to say that but I'm throwing it in anyways just to be safe!
Using your breathe is the quickest, most accessible, and tangible way I know to immediately bring your mind to the present moment. Just focus all your thoughts on your Inhale & your Exhale. Simple.
Some people like to breathe in through their nose, and out through their mouth. If that's not too complicated for you to remember, do it. If not, No Big Deal don't Even stress about it!!
If for some reason you do get bored of using your breathe, another go-to that seems to work super fast for me is to tune in to all the different sounds I can hear going around me. Listening in to all the noises in the room, from the house, maybe from outside, whatever you can pick up on, just holding all those noises in your awareness. Note when your mind starts to wander (or in my case when you are wayyy lost in one thought storm or another), pause, bring it back to the noises you can hear around you in the present moment. Voila.
Alrighty !! First Blog Post down ! Feeling pretty good about it ! Thanks for sticking with me till the bittersweet end <3
I hope this has given you some clarity on the whole meditation & mindfulness thing, and that perhaps you may find the tips useful in developing your own mindfulness practice. Until next time,
With Love, Astin <3