November 15, 2012
(Please watch the above video where I expand upon what is written below).
Five minutes of daily meditation is a great way to create a habit that can give you many benefits, including reduced stress, clearer thinking, increased creativity and better sleep.
Before I explain a simple technique of meditation, I want to talk about habit creation.
Meditation is something that needs to be done regularly to be effective. I know from my own personal experience that when I am meditating regularly, my life is much better. I don’t get frustrated. I am more centered, clear-minded and efficient. And the world around me seems to work for me, as opposed to against me.
So, at first you should meditate for only five minutes a day. Why five minutes? Well, even the busiest person can find five minutes during the day.
To create a habit, it is important to start with an easily attainable goal. If I told you to meditate an hour a day, you might try it a once or twice, then you would probably find something else to do. By this time next week, you would not be meditating.
Five minutes. You can do that. Easy peasy. Even when your inner procrastinator tries to get you to delay, you can easily override that thought by telling yourself: “It only takes five minutes.“
I suggest you choose to meditate at the same time every day. Morning is excellent, but find a time that works best for you. Remember, consistency is the key.
Find a quiet place where you can have privacy. I suggest sitting in a chair, although you can sit cross-legged on the floor if you like. Don’t lay down, because your five minute meditation might quickly turn into a half hour nap. Use a timer of some sort. I use the timer on my cell phone. Make sure to set the alarm sound is something gentle. You don’t want to be startled when it goes off.
Sit up right in your chair with your feet on the floor. Keep your back straight. Have the intention that you are going to connect with yourself. Close your eyes and gently put your hands on your lap. Start out by taking three deep breaths, then let your breaths become more and more gentle. Breathe through your nose.
Observe the breath going in, and coming out of your nostrils. That is all that you are doing.
Thoughts will still be buzzing in your head, especially at first. That is ok. Just keep going back to observing your breath. Be quiet. You don’t have to be anywhere or do anything -- you just have to where you are, be quiet and watch your breath.
Don’t get caught up in your thoughts. Simply observe them as if you were a third person. The simple act of observation will cause your thoughts to slow down. Again, when you catch yourself in your thoughts, bring your attention back to the feeling of your breath going in and out of your nose.
When you are meditating, you are not zoning out. It is quite the opposite: you are very much in the present. Just observe what is happening and don’t react.
After five minutes, the alarm will sound. Turn it off and open up your eyes. Take three more deep breaths, and then go about your day.
That is it.
You might say: “Paul, my mind never calmed down.”
That might be the case. Five minutes is not a lot of time to calm down your mind.
But the main purpose at first is to create the habit of meditating. As you move forward, you will increase the time of your daily meditations, and then you will see the difference.
Sustainable change in one’s life begins by creating a strong and simple foundation, and building upon it. If you don’t create a strong habit now, will you still be meditating in one week? One month? One year? Ten years?
For the first week, I suggest that you meditate for five minutes a day. For the second week, ten minutes a day. For the third week, 15 minutes. By the fourth week, your goal will be 20 minutes. I think that is a realistic goal for most people. Of course, you can decide what works best for you, but 20 minutes a day is a very good length of time to start to noticing changes within yourself.
So, your homework is to meditate for five minutes a day for one week. See how you feel. If you miss a day, be kind to yourself and start again the next day. I suggest keeping track of your meditations by them marking down in a calendar or by keeping a journal. Both are good ways to overcome procrastination. Remember to keep it simple and easy, because then you are more likely to do it.
In a future post, I will write about the challenges to meditation, and how to overcome them.
Also, you can read more about new habit creation at Leo Babauta’s excellent blog Zen Habits.