Before I started meditating, I’d open my eyes in the morning and my mind was already going 150 mph. I’d check my email and start the day feeling miles behind. Now, I wake up each day with gratitude because none of us are guaranteed another day. As an aside, research shows that if you spend just 21-days writing down three new things you’re grateful for, you can increase your level of happiness. So, to the extent I have any morning rituals, it’s just that — start with gratitude and commit to fully living each moment.
Meditation allows me to reflect on what my priorities are for the day so that I can focus on it instead of getting bogged down with busy work.
How to Meditate
There are many different types of meditation — insight, mantra, counting, body scan, centering prayer, and Metta or Loving Kindness. In each meditation, you’re intentionally focusing your mind to the object of attention (for example, the breath, mantra, sensations, etc.) This is why meditation increases focus and concentration, because you’re literally training your brain to continually focus on one thing.
Steps for Meditation
1. Set a timer.
Any timer will do — your iPhone, kitchen timer, or any of the dozens of meditation apps. I recommend starting with 5 – 10 minutes.
2. Find a comfortable seated position.
You can sit on a chair, on a meditation cushion, or practice laying down. If you’re sitting, place both feet firmly on the floor and take a moment to check your posture, making sure that your head, neck, spine, and hips are in alignment.
3. Close your eyes.
Once you’ve found a comfortable posture that you can hold for the duration of the practice, allow your eyes to soften. You can also gaze softly at a spot in front of you.
4. Bring your attention to the breath.
Gently bring your attention to the sensation of breathing. You can notice the cool air as it enters your nostrils and the warm air as you exhale. You can also notice your belly as it rises and falls as you breathe.
5. Continually return your attention to the breath.
When you’re sitting with your eyes closed with nothing to do except notice your breath, you’ll start to notice how noisy your mind is. You’ll notice different thoughts, emotions, and sensations. This is perfectly normal. When you notice your mind has wandered away from the breath, simply return your attention back to the breath. This is the practice — this is where the good stuff happens.
6. Continue to practice until the bell rings.
I like to jot down 2 – 3 sentences after each meditation session.
Those are the basics of how to meditate. As you can see, the practice of meditation is simple — that’s the beauty of this practice. It’s simplicity. However, just because it’s simple does not mean it’s easy.
It takes courage to be with yourself without the constant distractions, noise, or busyness of life. The practice of meditation is the practice of non-doing and non-striving. Think about that. When’s the last time you spent truly unplugged where you practiced the art of not doing?
As our lives become increasingly busy, it feels critical to carve out time for ourselves to notice our internal state, and to listen to ourselves.
If you like structure and more guidance, there are many places where you can register for classes. Check your local community center, hospital, and universities for a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class, which teaches a research-based, secular meditation practice. There are also dozens of apps you can use. One of my favorites is Headspace.
I also offer an online course which is specifically designed for lawyers. The entire curriculum is built in 0.1 hour modules. You can find out more over at Resilient Lawyer.
Ready to give meditation a try?
This article first appeared on Above the Law.