Meditation will help you realize just how far, and how fast, your mind can wander from what you’re supposed to be doing at the moment. In an age of multitasking, hyper-scheduling, and instant internet distraction, that alone can be a huge help.

Beyond just anecdotes, it’s also been suggested that meditation can actually exercise your brain’s “muscles” to increase focus, and has been shown to lower stress and increase forgiveness among college students who take up the practice.

Following Your Breath

Following and steadying the breath is the most universal of meditation techniques.

In The Miracle of Mindfulness, a classic text that introduces the thinking and practice behind meditation, Thich Nhat Hanh lays out a thoughtful case for how the breath is connected to the mind, which controls the body. By actively watching one’s breath, and evening it out, one can bring their entire being to what some call the still point.

The instant you sit down to meditate, begin watching your breath. At first breathe normally, gradually letting your breathing slow down until it is quiet, even, and the lengths of the breaths are fairly long. From the moment you sit down to the moment your breathing has become deep and silent, be conscious of everything that is happening in yourself. – Thich Nhat Hanh

For some of us, that’s easier said than done. You start focusing on your breath, and after a brief victory, in comes the growing wave of random brain chatterWhat should I eat for lunch today? Did Marissa say she would drop the bike off this weekend or the next?.

Hanh offers the simple, straight-ahead counter to distractions of the mind:

If following the breath seems hard at first, you can substitute the method of counting your breath.

As you breathe in, count 1 in your mind, and as you breathe out, count 1.

Breathe in, count 2. Breathe out, count 2.

Continue through 10, then return to 1 again.

This counting is like a string which attaches your mindfulness to your breath. This exercise is the beginning point in the process of becoming continuously conscious of your breath.

Without mindfulness, however, you will quickly lose count. When the count is lost, simply return to 1 and keep trying until you can keep the count correctly.

Hanh goes on to suggest that controlling the breath is useful in many situations beyond the quiet moments of meditation.


Focus Points for Meditation

Seek inspiration: If you are inspired by Eastern spiritual traditions, you might reflect upon an image or icon of the Buddha. You can also use the flower of life, a crystal, or other object that has meaning for you. Lightly allow your attention to sit there, quietly and peacefully.

Recite a mantra: A mantra literally means “that which protects the mind.” So reciting a mantra protects you with spiritual power. It is also said that when you chant a mantra, you are charging your breath and energy with the energy of the mantra. Again, choose something with meaning for you within your spiritual tradition. Tibetan Buddhists use a mantra for peace, healing, transformation and healing.

Do a Guided Meditation: Guided meditation is akin to guided imagery, a powerful technique that focuses and directs the imagination toward a conscious goal. (Think of a diver imagining a “perfect dive” before he leaves the platform.)

> A Guide to Meditation for the Rest of Us | LifeHacker



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