When I decided I wanted to bring meditation into my life I thought “This is going to be easy.” I can usually turn my hand to anything and meditation was just going to be another thing that I would learn how to do and boom, life transformed.
It didn’t turn out that way, not by a long shot. At first, during my exploratory searches for how to actually start meditating, I was getting frustrated with the lack of clarity and direction for someone like me that needs steps, instructions, maybe a run-through.
Then, when I actually started meditating I was not getting anything out of it because I just couldn’t clear my head from all the competing thoughts and ideas popping up. I was getting frustrated which seemed the opposite to what I was supposed to get out of it.
Meditation is hard. I needed a way to make it easier otherwise I just wasn’t going to do it at all and I would miss out on all the great benefits everyone talks about.
My brain obviously needed to think of meditation from a different angle. It was always a bit of a mystical thing for me. I wanted it to be a plug-and-play tool that I didn’t need to fully understand but still get the benefits from. It’s a bit more complicated than that. But complicated wasn’t going to work for me.
I did, however, realise that I needed to know why I should do meditation and what it would do to me before I could practice it effectively.
So, what is meditation? There is a multitude of information explaining what meditation is, but I don’t think it’s actually useful to go too deep. For me, meditation is simply a period of time to sit and be with your own mind. Whether that means you have any thoughts or not, it doesn’t really matter.
Meditation, I found, isn’t actually about clearing your head of thoughts. Sometimes it is useful be able to do this, but it’s not something to be desperate to achieve. It will often just happen as you practice meditation.
Practice is an important word with meditation. It’s important in a lot of things we talk about at Better Work Heroes, but particularly with meditation. If you can view meditation as a long term practice, that you will never be a master of, but will be constantly improving at then you will get a lot out of it.
The first step in making meditation easy, then, is to understand it in a simple way.
Meditation is simply a period of time to sit and be with your own mind.
What You Can Get From Meditation
Once again, there is a lot of information out there about the benefits of meditation. I sought to simplify this too. What was the single biggest thing that meditation was going to do for me that would mean I should make sure I do it every day?
At Better Work Heroes we regularly see people finding their progress in career or life blocked by limiting beliefs. This can present itself as perfectionism, fear of failure, imposter syndrome and many more. One thing that practicing meditation can do is allowing us to examine our own thoughts without judgement. When you can start to do that, it is a powerful tool to break down limiting beliefs.
In my opinion, the single biggest thing you can get out of meditation is to gain the ability to examine your own thoughts without judgement. By practicing meditation you will start to intentionally consider any thought that comes into your head and as you do this regularly, consistently, you will realise that you have power over your thoughts. When you have power over your thoughts, you can start to impact your feelings and actions positively.
The single biggest thing you can get out of meditation is gaining the ability to examine your own thoughts without judgement.
When you have power over your thoughts, feelings and actions then you truly have control over your future. You can shape it into whatever you want it look like. Because the only thing holding us back from the future we want are our own limiting thoughts.
Starting a Meditation Practice
There are so many different types of meditation, with different purposes in mind. This makes it seem a little daunting to get into. So I wanted to simplify this aspect too, of course!
What was going to be the easiest way to start a meditation practice? Not necessarily what would be the best meditation practice for me to do every day, but what would actually get me started?
I have tried many guided meditation apps in the hope of finding just the right thing for this purpose and thankfully, I found it in the free Oak meditation app (iOS only, sadly).
They have a lot of the standard things you get with a lot of other meditation apps, but what they also had, that is hard to come by anywhere else, is a brilliant mantra meditation 10-day course.
Mantra meditation is very simple. It is sometimes made to look complicated, but it isn’t. Mantra meditation involves choosing a nonsensical word or phrase (traditionally a Sanskrit word or phrase) and repeating this over and over while you meditate in order to gain that ability to control your thoughts that we talked about earlier.
You can say it out loud or you can silently think it. The great thing about the Oak app is that it introduces the practice gradually and gently until you start to see an improvement in your ability to control your thoughts. After just the 10-day course I was able to sit and think of absolutely nothing for a few minutes at a time. A big thing for a person like me, who usually has a mind racing at a hundred miles an hour.
If you don’t have an iPhone or iPad you can still practice mantra meditation by yourself. Simply choose a short Sanskrit mantra, sit somewhere comfortable, close your eyes and repeat your mantra.
If you lose track and start thinking of something else, that is perfectly normal, just come back to your mantra.
Eventually, you can try letting your mantra go and experiencing meditation without it. You can always go back to it if you need it.
From experience, most people can get the hang of meditation this way. There are always going to be exceptions though and within our team, we’ve seen people struggle still. Of course, we tried everything under the sun to find what would work even for the ones that still struggled after trying mantra meditation.
The one thing that worked every time, the guaranteed success tool for meditation was the Muse 2 headband. Now, we always look for the simplest, least costly method at Better Work Heroes, but sometimes there are tools out there that are simply fantastic and the Muse headband is one of these, from our experience.
The Muse gives instant feedback on the activity in your brain and your body, allowing you to make the minute adjustments necessary to keep yourself in a meditative state. It’s a bit like Pavlov’s dog in the sense that you are training your brain to avoid too much activity while meditating.
If meditation didn’t give so much of a benefit to everyone we have seen try it, then we wouldn’t recommend the cost, but in this instance, it is totally worth it!
Maintaining a Meditation Practice
With the Oak app, getting started is relatively easy, just follow the course. Maintaining the practice of meditation is trickier. I’ve had to work on this myself, even after getting all of the above right.
There are a couple of principles that I always go back to when I want to do something regularly.
The Law of Perpetual Practice
At the end of the day, we are always only practicing anything. Even if we put in the thousands of hours to become a true master at something, we can never stop practicing it if we want to keep benefiting from it.
If you practice anything long enough, you will get good at it. There is no alternative ending. You will get good at it.
To practice well, you really need to be doing something everyday to reinforce what you learnt the day before and maintain momentum.
Perpetual practice is my own term that I remind myself of when I need encouragement to keep going with something.
When things are tough, I tell myself:
“Remember: Perpetual Practice. You will get good at this eventually, but you can only get good at it with practice.”
That’s all well and good, but we are human, and every single day for an indeterminate amount of time is a difficult concept, so you need a little leeway.
The One-Day-Leeway Law
In combination with the perpetual practice reminder, the one-day-leeway law can be a lifesaver. Simply put: you can have a day off from what you are trying to do, but never more than one day in a row.
Give yourself a break, but only a little break. If you took two days off, then you’re on the slippery slope to three, four and five days. One day is short enough to get back on the wagon.
Eventually it will become a habit, an automatic part of your day. Eventually, you’ll get to a point when, if you don’t do it, you’ll miss it.
Meditation can be complex, but it can be easy too. Perhaps if you want to delve more deeply into the subject later, you can find out more of the complexities. But I recommend making it as easy as possible to begin with so that you have no excuses to give up on it.
Here’s how to start a meditation practice easily:
- Understand what it is: a period of time to sit and be with your own mind.
- Understand the biggest thing you can get out of it: gaining the ability to examine your own thoughts without judgement.
- Simplify getting started: choose a sanskrit mantra and repeat it out loud or in your head while you sit. Or follow the mantra meditation course on Oak.
- Maintain your practice: remember the laws of perpetual practice and one-day-leeway.
There is more to meditation than I’ve talked about here, I know that. But given the choice of simplifying meditation to a really basic level or not doing it at all, I choose my simplification and I like it a lot.
This is your easy way into a life of meditative bliss.
Let us know how you get on!