“Meditation trains the mind the way physical exercise strengthens the body.” Sharon Salzberg
Mindfulness gives us an anchor to living in the present moment, all day, everyday, when we practice it enough. Meditation is one key way to practice mindfulness.
If you’ve read this mindfulness series, we first stepped into the practice of mindfulness with breath and body awareness. Next, we moved on to some of the benefits of meditation and a simple place to start by taking 5–10 minutes to focus on our breath and give our mind an opportunity to be in the “place between our thoughts,” as Ekchart Tolle teaches. Now, let’s look at the scientific evidence of how meditation can benefit your mind, body and spirit and present a variety of suggestions of different meditation techniques that may appeal to you.
If you’re a skeptic to the proven effectiveness of meditation, consider the following scientific support by the Harvard Business Review:
Recent research provides strong evidence that practicing non-judgmental, present-moment awareness (a.k.a. mindfulness) changes the brain, and it does so in ways that anyone working in today’s complex business environment, and certainly every leader, should know about.
These findings are just the beginning of the story. Neuroscientists have also shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking, and sense of self. While more research is needed to document these changes over time and to understand underlying mechanisms, the converging evidence is compelling.
Mindfulness should no longer be considered a “nice-to-have” for executives. It’s a “must-have”: a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress. It can be integrated into one’s religious or spiritual life, or practiced as a form of secular mental training. When we take a seat, take a breath, and commit to being mindful, particularly when we gather with others who are doing the same, we have the potential to be changed.
On a more personal level, it’s reported at the Chopra Center, people who practice meditation report the following benefits: more focused attention, relaxation, positive shifts in mood, enhanced self-awareness, improved health, and well-being.
Anytime you stop moving, relax, get comfortable, and do what works for you to quiet the mind, this is meditation. For some people it’s repeating a phrase or mantra. Music works for some along with the peaceful sounds of nature.
If sitting still is not your cup of tea, try Walking Meditation as suggested by TheMindfulWord.org. As we commence this kind of meditation, start walking and count each breath, either the ”in” or “out” breath, only until reaching 5, and then begin again. After you’ve gotten comfortable focusing on your breath, begin to focus on how your body feels as it moves, starting with your feet, and then moving upward. This also benefits your balance by paying close attention to your body movement, which in turns keeps you present in the moment. Additionally, it walks off any excess sugar in your bloodstream, which reportedly can cause you to feel anxious.
For certain, there are many safe moments throughout the day where it is safe for you to practice Walking Meditation. If a walk outside through nature is possible, the calming affect will only be amplified, as truly communing with nature can be relaxing without meditating at all.
If none of these ideas appeal to you, please check out Tiny Buddha, which offers simple meditation solutions with ideas as simple as counting 100 breathes. If you’re thinking you don’t have time, start small with 10 breathes. Who doesn’t have time for 10 breathes, right? Or visit Chopra Center to download a guided meditation audio file, which is growing in popularity, primarily due to ease of learning by being guided through your meditation. There are several guided meditations to choose from varying from healing, to letting go of control, to awakening your creativity.
Try ones that appeal to you or just do what we’ve already explored, such as the Walking Meditation. Or merely sit, get comfortable, and just breathe. It’s not a major effort. Just pay attention. You’ll be surprised at the changes you will feel within yourself by just breathing. At the very least, you’ll feel more relaxed which is priceless. What do you have to lose? Ultimately, do whatever feels comfortable for you to quiet your mind and feel a sense of peace.
Keep it simple,