We’ll be posting a new challenge every day leading up to summer! Follow along here on the blog, or using this calendar.
We’ve written before about working out being a good way to de-stress. But for times when you can’t fit in a full workout, then what? We turned to author Jenny Blake with this question, and her answer is today’s challenge: Try meditating for 5 minutes!
Meditation, schmeditation. Many of us have read the rapidly-growing number of articles touting its benefits (Improved sleep! Health! Gratitude! Focus! Productivity!) but for the longest time, even as an avid yogi and lover of Buddhist books, I JUST. COULDN’T. GET. INTO. IT. I got bored, restless, and I never “had the time.” (Pfft! What a load of hooey—even 5 minutes goes a long way.)
“Does walking count? Running? Biking? What about Journaling?” When I asked my friend Adam, who studied meditation while living in a monastery in Thailand, the answer was a resounding NO, NO, NO and NO. “Get quiet,” he said. “Those other activities may just be more forms of doing.”
It wasn’t until my entire life flipped upside down last year that I turned to the final frontier of what might soothe my deep sense of discomfort: meditation.
So I committed to a daily practice of 10-20 minutes, and made it fun by tracking my progress and holding myself accountable to getting 10, then 20, then 30 days in a row. Pretty soon I felt an enormous sense of relief: that even for just 10 minutes a day, I could calm down, get quiet, and even let all of my emotions wash over and flush themselves out of my system.
I’ve been meditating daily for a year and half now, and even though sometimes I only do 5 minutes, it feels like re-charging the battery of my brain back up to 100 percent.
Do you consider yourself “meditation curious”?
Since that early conversation, Adam and I partnered with a team and created our own meditation app to bring this amazing practice to the masses in an accessible, “non-granola” way, through emotional analytics and shared accountability with friends (similar to your Fitbit dashboard).
After polling over 200 people about what gets in the way of starting a practice, we found that many beginners get overwhelmed by some very practical (and understandable!) questions: How should I physically sit? And what the heck do I do once I close my eyes?
We’ve got you covered! If you’re feeling motivated to experiment with your own sitting practice but you aren’t exactly sure where to begin, below are a few pointers from Casey Gramaglia, Lucent’s meditation advisor (or download the handy Beginner’s Meditation Guide as a PDF). Born and raised in NYC and Connecticut, Casey Gramaglia moved to Thailand in 1999, where he became involved with Vipassana Meditation and established the Thai Hermit Yoga School.
Without further ado . . . here’s Casey!
A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation
Tips for your Physical Posture: How to Set Yourself Up
- Clear a space in your home and designate that your space for meditation.
- Keep it clean, put a small carpet down, or bamboo mat, with a cushion available to elevate your hips above your knees a bit to help with comfort and circulation.
- Sit cross-legged or however you feel comfortable in sitting or kneeling positions.
- Straighten the spine, reaching the crown of the head up, rest the palms in the lap, right hand on top of the left, thumb tips gently touching, shoulders relaxed.
- Make sure once you choose your seat you stay put. Commit to your seat for the duration of time, don’t move.
- It’s important to remain completely still for the sake of accessing the mind; if you feel the need to move, scratch, fidget, simply note it as “feeling, feeling, feeling,” and do your best to stay put and return to your practice. Remember meditation is a checking-in, a seeing what’s going on with the mind and body. Sometimes the need to fidget is a good indication of just how unsettled we are in our lives, but the more you practice the more comfortable you’ll become taking your seat and staying put.
- Remember not to judge yourself. Just keep coming back to the practice, and your focus point of concentration.
Tips for your Meditation: A Basic Practice to Start With
- Start by observing the solar plexus area: take the attention to the belly. Note when the breath moves in, “rising”, and when the breath moves out “falling.”
- Keep the attention on the naval area, aware of this expansion of the belly. When the breath moves in, belly rises; when the breath moves out, belly falls.
- The mind will naturally wander—there will be moments when you get distracted by one of the six senses of perception: hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and thinking.
- When any of the senses break your concentration, taking you away from the rising and falling, note it, such as “thinking, thinking, thinking.” If it’s a sound, note it “hearing, hearing, hearing,” then immediately bring the attention back the rising and falling.
- The more often you practice this method, the better you will get, and the quicker you will be able to bring the mind back to attention, cultivating a refined state of concentration and peace.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice! Will you commit to experimenting with 5-minutes of meditation a day for the next 4 days? If so, report back in the comments or using #30DaysToSummerFit and let us know how it goes! (Check out Lucent if you’re looking for an app to help facilitate this process, and download the Beginner’s Guide to Meditation for handy reference.)
We’d love to hear from you in the comments:
Do you already have a regular meditation practice?
What helped make it “sticky” when you were first starting out?
If not, try the 4-day experiment and report back!
About Casey Gramaglia
While living in northern Thailand, Casey Gramaglia deepened his meditation studies at Wat Phradhatu Sri Chom Tong under the auspices of Phra Dhammamangalajarn Tong Sirimangalo. He is currently working towards MA in International Education, with the intention of bridging the gaps between Mindfulness-based practices, yoga, and traditional academics in International Schools. He is known for his approachable teaching style, and believes meditation is about simplicity: on and off the cushion. In his meditation teacher’s own words, “You can’t fail at this work.” (Chindaporn, 2009)
About Jenny Blake
Jenny Blake is an author, speaker, and career and business strategist who loves helping people move beyond burnout. She loves exploring and creating simple, accessible systems at the intersection of mind, body and business. She’s the co-founder of a new app called Lucent for people who are “meditation-curious” and for fun, Jenny teaches a Geek Yoga class in New York City for entrepreneurs. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.