According to Harvard researchers, just 12 minutes of daily meditation can reduce stress, fight aging and ease depression and anxiety. Yet less than 10 percent of us meditate regularly. Why is this? Common reasons cited include these: not enough time, don’t know how, can’t sit without pain, too stressed, can’t calm the mind and many more.
But what if we could prove you are already a master meditator? Because you are – anytime you concentrate your mind on anything at all, you are actually meditating. In fact, the Latin root of today’s “meditation” translates directly to mean “a thinking over.” If you begin to think of meditation as a particularly focused form of thinking, it becomes less of a stretch to envision yourself actually doing it. The truth is, if you can concentrate while preparing a presentation for work or listening to Siri give you directions, you can concentrate while meditating as well.
Oh yes, but there is still the matter of time. With work presentations to prepare, directions to follow and so many sundry to-do list items (not to mention sleep!), who has time left over to meditate? As it turns out, we can give you a helping hand here too!
Meditate in bed.
Shavasana (corpse pose) is a bonafide yogic meditation position. In many yogic traditions, it is the single most important pose in any series of postures and is often used to end a yoga class.
How to perform Shavasana correctly:
-Lie down on your back with your arms straight down by your sides and your legs flat.
-If this is not comfortable, you can put a little pillow under your knees for extra support.
-Close your eyes and breathe in and out evenly.
-Concentrate on feeling the weight of your body pressing down on the mattress.
-Working from head to toe, focus on relaxing each area of your body.
-Continue breathing in and out evenly.
-If you have a mantra (a word or short phrase that is soothing or comforting) repeat that.
-Continue focusing on total relaxation and breathing in and out as you slide into sleep.
Bonus: you will have less trouble falling asleep when you develop a regular nightly practice of meditating your way into your zzzzs. You can also use your practice to fall back to sleep if you tend to wake up in the middle of the night.
Meditate while exercising.
If you have ever visited a church and walked through a Labyrinth – a sculptured garden maze designed to encourage active prayer and contemplation – you have already experienced the power of meditation + movement.
Of course, chances are good your doctor wants you to elevate your blood pressure a little bit beyond Labyrinth-level when you exercise! Happily, you already meditate somewhat while working out just by watching your posture, your foot placement, your breathing. Now just take this one step further. If you have a mantra you like, you can repeat it in sync with your in-breath and out-breath. Or you can just use counting to regulate your breathing (as in, in-breath “1,2,3,4,5” pause, out-breath “1,2,3,4,5” and so forth).
By calming your mind in this way while you are exercising, you can experience deeper benefits from your workout, reduce your risk of injury, re-oxygenate your whole body to flush out toxins and emerge feeling refreshed and refocused.
Meditate when you can’t do anything else.
No one escapes from life’s inevitable moments of down time such as waiting in line, getting stuck in rush hour traffic or waiting on hold on the phone. Here, we only really have two choices: a) let our blood pressure rise and infuriate us, or b) use this otherwise useless time to meditate (okay, yes, we could also check our email or play Angry Birds on our phone, but meditation is still a better option).
If you are thinking, “but I can’t close my eyes in rush hour traffic!,” you’ve never met a Buddhist meditator. Many meditators in this rich tradition and others prefer keeping their eyes half-open or fully open to avoid the tendency to fall asleep. The key here is to keep the gaze even and soft while focusing on your breathing. The goal is to attain steadiness in the midst of the ceaseless distractions of the average day.
Meditate in the shower.
If you have ever had a great creative idea or solution to a problem just come to you while you were in the bath or shower, you already know this is a great time to focus and meditate! You probably were meditating but just didn’t know it. Otherwise how could your mind have become quiet enough for you to go beyond its typical surface chatter to unearth a deeper insight?
Take your breathing, your mantra or any other centering practice you prefer into the shower with you. Or simply focus on cleaning each part of your body with total concentration, similar to how you focus totally on relaxing each part of the body in Shavasana. In this way, meditation will come naturally to you at a time when you are already in a frame of mind to pursue cleansing, detoxification and healing.
Meditate while doing repetitive tasks.
Repetitive chores such as cleaning and cooking are forms of meditation in their own right. Your body is active, which requires your conscious mind to assist by focusing on mundane repetitive details. This leaves your higher awareness free to wander, kick out awesome insights, solve complex problems or simply rest for a moment or two in your breath.