Meditation for Dumbasses (and a few smart ones!)
So who am I anyway?
Like most of you, I'm not a professional, and I'm certainly not a guru. One thing that I am, is a real person who struggles from day to day, just like you. I've had problems and stress in my life, just like you. I've had doubts about my own abilities and also self-confidence issues. I've lost many hours of sleep, staying up at night with thoughts running through my head and no way to control them. I was born with OCD and Tourette Syndrome which dominated and almost destroyed the first 20 years of my life.
When I stumbled upon meditation in my mid 20's, my life changed forever. Not instantly (of course) but gradually, inch by inch, I have been healing my body, mind and heart. I believe that I have a unique perspective on meditation because I have spent years testing and tweaking my techniques and started with no formal training. In saying all of this, I am still learning. I know it's said so often, but we never stop learning and this is the first thing that you have to really understand if you want to harness the power of meditation and change your life.
Recommended Reading: Using Music to increase your Memory
What are some of the benefits of Meditation?
These are just my personal favourites, there were actually 100's of things that changed in my life such as my general well being and relationships with others. It's also useful for Stopping Smoking, So please give meditation a go, stick at it for just 2 weeks and you'll notice the changes.. in fact, you'll notice them after your first session. After that, you'll go crazy for it!... well maybe crazy is the wrong word.
- Increased Happiness
- Higher Tolerance for various physical and mental situations
- Decreased tendency to worry about things
- Real Compassion for others
- Improved learning abilities
- Fears and Phobias decreased significantly
- Depression dissolved completely
- Stronger sense of direction in life
Meditation MP3 Downloads
Here are a few MP3 downloads (only 99c each) that I found on amazon. Good place to start if you're finding it hard to get the ball rolling.
Before anything else
Have a drink of water, change into comfortable clothing; remove socks, rings and jewellery if it's appropriate to do so. Go to the toilet, wash your hands and face. Turn off your phone, keep all technology out of reach, turn your computer off, and even go outside if weather permits.
There's no point sitting down for meditation if your body is stiff, I always spend between 5 and 10 minutes stretching all my muscles before starting. I'll expand on stretching sometime, but the main thing is to stretch until your body feels warm and relaxed.
Take a deep breath in and hold it, now tense all of your muscles... every last one of them. Hands, feet, stomach, buttocks, legs, face etc.. hold it for about 10 seconds while still holding your breath, then RELEASE!
Relax your face
We hold a lot of tension and strain in our forehead and eyes so even though you've stretched your body and muscles, it's a good idea to allow your face to relax as well. Start with the forehead, imagine that it has become a handful of rubber bands (this is a really useful visualisation). Next, relax your eyes by half closing them, focus your attention on them and let your eyelids relax. Move to your cheeks and the rest of your face now, just let your face droop and let your jaw open slightly (if this feels comfortable).
These books will give you a good understanding of meditation in a western context. There are so many books out there and it's hard to know which ones are useful. These are all hand-picked from amazon. Straight forward, simple and to the point.
Time to Meditate
Start with the most basic of all types of meditation - focus on the breath. Meditation should always be simple; if it's not then it's not really meditation. Meditation is ALWAYS a focus on one single thing. Start by sitting down (do not lie down because you might fall asleep) then close your eyes gently and observe your breathing, don't control it, just observe. Notice the in and out, notice the sensation that the air creates when it fills your lungs with air. At first you might find yourself trying to control your breathing, don't worry, this is normal. Over time you will be able to observe without controlling.
IMPORTANT TIP: As soon as any unwanted thoughts enter your mind, don't let it worry you, this is a very important part of the meditation. Just gently bring the attention back to your breathing. Every time you bring your attention back you are becoming stronger and more focused. Most beginners worry about distracting thoughts or physical sensations when this is exactly what you should expect, this is the whole point to practicing meditation.
If you start to become restless or can't relax anymore then slowly bring your meditation session to an end by counting backwards from 10 to 1. As you practice, you will be able to last for longer durations. Start with 5 minute long meditation sessions and then gradually move up to 20 minutes.
Try to meditate 2 times per day, make sure you can find a quiet place to go where you won't be disturbed.
Mindfulness is by far, the most effective type of meditation. It's incredibly simple and it has profound and lasting effects on a person's every day life.
Basically, get comfortable wherever you usually meditate and just notice everything without judging it. Especially notice your thoughts, watch them disintegrate. Hear the noises around you, and just be an observer. If you get anxious for any reason.... just observe the anxiety. There isn't much to say about this except that it can be done anywhere, while walking down the road, waiting at a bus stop, or even in line at the supermarket.
Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment - by Deepak Chopra
Deepak Chopra tells the inspiring story of Buddha as if he were really there. One of the best books I've read in a long time, Chopra also shows how Buddha's message is a timeless one and how it can be applied to our lives today. My rating: 9.5/10
Meditation using Inspirational Quotes - Choose a simple, inspirational mantra and use it as the focus for meditation.
Choose a quote that speaks to you, one that you don't have to try and understand... this is a good way to start, always keep it simple! They don't have to be ancient quotes from Buddha or Jesus, they can be modern quotes or even an idea that you've been pondering yourself.
Here are a few that you might like to try.
1. Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.
2. In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.
3. It is a man's own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways.
4. The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.
5. There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.
6. You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.
7. An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.
8. Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into.
9. This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.
10. Peace is its own reward.
Now that you've chosen your quote you can begin. Put a huge smile on your face and walk around repeating the quote, over and over for about 5 minutes. Once it's on repeat inside your head, sit down and close your eyes. Continue to repeat the mantra (quote) for about 1 more minute. You should be able to let this mantra marinade in your mind while you begin to think about its meaning.
Gradually start to slow right down, saying each word of the quote very slowly in your mind (it doesn't matter if you can't remember every word of the quote, or even if it changes a bit during repetition). Examine the mantra, think about what its implications are and how it applies to you. After practicing, you will begin to freestyle your meditation sessions depending on how you feel at the time. Spend about 15 minutes focusing on the mantra and its meaning, making sure that when you are distracted, the focus it brought back to the mantra, gently, with no worries. Remember, this gentle back and forth is the main part of the meditation.
Morning Gratitude - Grateful People are Happy People
IMAGE: My son climbing a tree at Lake Waihola not far from our house - 2 things I'm extremely grateful for!
If you've reached this far in the lens, you'll realise why this lens is called "MEDITATION FOR DUMBASSES" - Firstly to grab the readers' attention, but most importantly, to highlight the fact that being happy is simpler than most people think, much more simple. If you are ever confused about Meditation or by someone's explanation of it, then move on: all good meditation instruction should be simple. Sure, there are several levels of understanding, so always make sure you're reading something that isn't too advanced for you. In saying all of this, even expert instruction should be simple; this is the essence of meditation because by definition, it is the act of focusing on ONE thing.
In this section, I will cover one of the most useful and simple exercises for happiness that I have found so far. It's complimentary to the meditation exercises and is the perfect way to start the day. It can be also practiced throughout the day whenever you have a few minutes.
Most people would give 5 minutes of their time in the morning if it meant that they would receive happiness in return, right? I bet you waste at least 15 minutes every morning, sitting down or worrying about something because your mind is clouded and fuzzy, and you can't think straight.
If you have a family, get up 15 minutes before everyone else and do this exercise.
EXERCISE IN GRATITUDE
- Grab a notebook or a piece of paper and a pen and write down 5 things that you are, or should be thankful for. On the first day, you can just note down the things that are most obvious to you: Family, Job, Being alive, Food, Drink etc... You might not think that all of these things should be appreciated and that they are your right to have as a human being. In a way, it should be everyone's right to have these things, but people living in Western Society quite often take the simple things for granted and this is the first cause of their suffering. We all know that there are people worse off than ourselves so when we are making this list, we should also remind ourselves of the people who have much less than us.
- Write a sentence about each of the 5 things and say why you are grateful for them.
- Read over your list several times and continue to revisit it throughout the day to keep you topped up with inspiration.
- If you have time, spend 15 - 20 minutes with your eyes closed, meditating on gratitude and the things that you are grateful for. Use emotion to increase the intensity, this speeds up the process and strengthens the useful pathways in the brain, which will allow a stronger flow of gratitude when you decide to throw an emergency tantrum!
- Add to the gratitude list every morning , following the same steps, and also revisit the ones you've already written down, you can never have enough positive self-reinforcement.
REASONS TO BE GRATEFUL FOR EVERYTHING
Being grateful for these basic things change our attitude towards life in general, so when we go to have a whinge about something, we realise that these things are petty compared to the problems that others face and that we should be grateful. Yes, it's something we hear all the time, but we don't spend enough time thinking about it.
PUT SOME GRATITUDE IN YOUR ATTITUDE!
...for lack of a much better phrase