Updated: Apr 3, 2020
“When it comes to meditation, [...] the goal and the journey are the same thing.” - Andy Puddicombe (2011)
This is #9.
The experiment of writing a daily blog went well for the last couple of days. I found inspiration in things that happened around me but I also managed to revive thoughts and ideas that I had a couple of weeks and months ago to write about.
However, today was a little bit different. I didn't find the inspiration to write, I didn't know what to write about. Usually I start to write about 0830 in the morning. Sometimes it takes me a bit longer to get going. But today it just didn't click. You have to understand, I don't have a list of unlimited items that I want to write about. Writing daily took a huge chunk of the idea-list that I had composed over the last few months. It's not empty but there's just nothing on it that would fit the situation and that I feel inspired to write about.
After thinking about what I could post for roughly an hour I started doing other things, since what I've learned about the brain taught me that the harder I push the conscious part of my brain, the less likely it becomes to create a solution for a problem - I only get frustrated. Instead of consciously trying to find a solution I started doing things that triggered other parts of my brain as well as my unconscious. I did my daily workout earlier than usual, I actually - finally - managed to create a sourdough starter (after watching several YouTube videos), I cleaned the bathroom and did some other random stuff... and I meditated.
And since you are now able to read this article, it obviously helped. I can't tell you exactly which part helped the most and at what exact point in time I decided to write about meditation, but I want to share at least the meditation-part since I found a quite simple way to get started. And even if I'm not 100% sure that I really meditate according to the "rules", at least this methods helps a lot to calm the mind and find some peace and inspiration to do whatever you have to do.
The method I want to describe is called "Take 10" - because it only takes 10 minutes. It's a breathing exercise separated in four parts: getting ready, checking-in, focusing the mind, finishing-off. I've read about this method in Andy Puddicombe's book "Meditation & Mindfulness".
I've taken the next passage almost completely from the book and added some comments - so here's how it works:
Part I - Getting ready
1. Find a place to sit down comfortably, keeping a straight back.
2. Ensure you'll be left undisturbed during your meditation - switch off your phone.
3. Set the timer for 10 minutes.
Although it might be counter intuitive to sit down with a straight back while trying to relax, but it helps a lot to find balance, focus and relaxation and you avoid the risk of falling asleep in case you'd prefer to lay down. But if you do, lay down on a hard surface.
It's important to not skip this part of the meditation mainly because you shouldn't just try to sit down after having a busy meeting or an unnerving phone call and go from 0 to 100 with your meditation. It probably won't work. If you can, get into the mood for your meditation at least 5 minutes prior to starting, the chances are much higher that you begin your exercise in the right frame of mind.
Part II - Checking-in
1. Take 5 deep breaths, 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 or if you experience any pain.
Usually the mind and the body are doing different things. Think about it: when you walk down the street to get a cup of coffee or to get to work, you usually think about something else than walking, probably what kind of coffee you want to get or how you start your day at work. Part II is necessary to bring body and mind together, settle into your environment and be consciously aware of what you're doing and where you are.
This section should take about 5 minutes at the start but as you get more familiar with it, it will work faster and faster. Begin with your eyes open and take 5 deep breaths, try to get a sense of the lungs filling with air and the chest expanding. While breathing out, you don't need to forcefully exhale, just let it go. Become aware of your peripherals as you look out straight with a soft gaze. With your fifth exhale, gently close your eyes. Continue to breath naturally through your nose.
Now you should become aware of your physical sensations, how you sit, the position of your hands on your lap, how your shoulders are positioned, if your arms are fully supported by your legs. Adjust as necessary to feel the most comfortable while maintaining a straight position. The next thing you might experience is the physical sensation of the chair beneath you, the feeling of contact between the body and the chair and if the weight falls evenly through the middle of the body or whether you feel it pressing down a little more to one side or the other. Try to become aware of these details as well as the way your feet tough the ground and every other point of contact you might experience.
Now scan your body for the next 10 seconds and roughly try to find out if there is any tension or relaxation in your body. Don't try to change those feelings, just try to find them. It's all about building up the full picture of physical sensations. For the next 30 seconds or so scan your insides for these areas of tension more specifically. Do it systematically, e.g. by going from head to toes and consciously identify comfort and discomfort without zooming in too much and getting stuck with one specific area.
While this happens, there will probably a million thoughts popping up inside your mind. Let them come and go. Don't stop them, don't follow them. Pay attention only to the physical sensations you are experiencing right now.
Now take a moment to notice any sounds. Are they close or distant? Loud or quiet? Acknowledge them, don't shut them out. Do the same with the scents and aromas you smell. Briefly notice them but don't try to resists them. Remember, the goal is to connect mind and body - therefor, the mind should be fully engaged with the physical senses and you should be able to create a complete picture of how the body feels.
Finally, I found it very helpful to acknowledge any particular issue that I have going on in my life for a brief moment - maybe 5-10 seconds. Don't think about it too hard, acknowledge it and be aware that it's around so that it won't pop up in the next step of the meditation.
Part III - Focusing the mind
1. 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.
The next step is to focus on your breath for about 30 seconds. Ideally during this period you will be able to follow your breath and the sensation of rising and falling and notice where in the body you feel that sensation most strongly.
Since breath and mind are intimately connected, it might be unsatisfying at first to notice the location of the breath since we usually associate certain moments of relaxation with a deep breath from the stomach and stressful moments with a rather short and shallow breath in the chest region. If you feel the breath being similar to the anxious and stressful type, it's fine. Try not to change anything about it for this exercise. There is no right or wrong, no good or bad breathing, just aware and unaware, distracted and undistracted.
Just be aware of this: if you've made it to this point in your life and you're reading this article, you have probably been breathing perfectly well in the past. And you've probably not even been aware of how you've breathed for most of the time. So - allow your body to do it's own thing!
Now that you've focused on the sensation of the breath, where you feel it most, if it's shallow or deep, etc. you should try to keep the focus. The best way to do so is by counting your breath as it comes and goes each time. As you feel the rising sensation count 1, and as you feel the falling count 2. Keep doing so to the count of 10. When you get there, count down to 1 again. It sounds easier than it is, so don't lose your focus and let your mind wonder off. Each time you realize that your mind has wandered off, gently return the attention to the physical sensation of breathing and continue counting.
Continue to do so until the timer lets you know that the exercise is over.
Part IV - Finishing off
1. Let go of any focus at all, allowing the mind to be as busy or as still as 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.
When you've come to the end of counting, let your mind be completely free. Don't try to steer it in any particular direction, stop focusing on the breath, counting or anything else for that matter. If your mind wants to be busy, let it be busy. If the opposite is the case, let it rest. No matter if this sounds wonderful or frightening, it's important to not censor or control your thoughts at this moment.
After doing this for a short while, bring your attention back to the physical sensations of the body - bring the mind into the physical senses. Notice again the contact between you and the chair, the position of your arms and shoulders, the feeling of your feet on the floor. Notice sounds and smells and make each sense aware of what it's experiencing.
By doing so, you are returning to the present moment. Open your eyes and readjust to your environment, refocus on your surroundings. Slowly get up from the chair and be clear about where you're going and what you're doing next.
Be mindful about each and every step you take for the rest of the day and continue to experience every moment, one after the next, with your full awareness.
If you want to find out more about the authors approach to meditation and mindfulness, please visit the website https://www.headspace.com/ ...
... and consider buying his book here (Amazon Affiliate Link: https://amzn.to/2UvM2JQ)